Mood fluctuations are a normal part of life: people have good days and bad days and experiences that provoke different emotions, which make moods a fluid aspect of humanity. Experiencing changing feelings of sadness, happiness, anger, excitement and everything in between is a natural part of being human, but there is a difference between what are considered normal mood changes and extreme fluctuations that may indicate a health issue. The only concrete way to determine whether your mood swings are associated with a health problem is to talk to your doctor, but here are some things that may be able to provide a bit more insight into the possible causes of mood swings.
How to Tell if Your Mood Swings Might Be a Problem
Mood swings can be labeled “normal” or “abnormal” based on several factors. Dr. Nadja N. Reilly, director of the Swensrud Depression Prevention Initiative at Children's Hospital Boston, says that the main elements to consider when pinpointing a mood disorder or other health concern are duration, severity and domain, or the location or situation where the mood changes occur.
First try to think about whether your mood swings are occurring frequently. Do you go from feeling happy and content to sad and despondent quickly, on a regular basis of at least two weeks or longer? This might also occur with other feelings, such as anger or mania. The severity of a mood also plays a paramount part in determining the root of the problem. Would you consider your mood swings mild—with only slight bouts of sadness, anger or irritability—or do these changes seem deeper and more serious, inciting feelings of hopelessness or even suicidal thinking? Another aspect to consider is whether your mood changes are being provoked by specific situations and specific people. Stress buildup from relationship problems and other personal issues may manifest in mood swings. If your mood swings are dramatic, rapidly-occurring and extreme—impairing your ability to function normally in your everyday activities—this likely indicates that there is a deeper issue going on that you should address with your health care practitioner.
Possible Causes of Mood Swings
Intense mood swings that don't feel normal to you can have various causes. Here are some reasons your emotions might be out of whack:
Stress and anxiety can have a major involvement in your mood fluctuations. Being constantly bogged down by stress can negatively impact many aspects of your health, and your mood and emotional stability are susceptible. In addition, psychological conditions like depression and bipolar disorder can play a part in your changing moods. Hormonal imbalances which can occur with PMS and menopause, and for other reasons, can also contribute to mood changes. Likewise, an under- or over-active thyroid can make you feel irritable, anxious, depressed and even fatigued. Certain drugs might cause side effects that can throw your moods off kilter, and genetics are often responsible as well.
The most important thing to realize is that if you are experiencing any mood changes that seem out of the ordinary to you, or mirror any of the aforementioned descriptions, you should talk to your doctor about possible causes and come up with a plan to remedy the problem. This will likely entail a detailed medical workup and possibly medications, psychotherapy, supplements or lifestyle changes, depending on the cause. A changing mood is a normal part of life, but severe mood swings can be roused by underlying health issues, which are typically manageable and able to be improved or even erased. Your mindset, mood and general perspective on life can be influenced by many health conditions, so therefore it's crucial to take note of the whole picture, or your overall wellbeing.
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