Mood changes are something we all have to deal with in our lives, with a range of factors contributing to make us feel different things. In any given week, a person might experience a wide variety of different emotions, and in many cases, this is nothing to be concerned about. So what is the difference between mood swings and normal changes in mood?
Keep reading to learn more.
What are mood swings?
Mood swings are generally defined as sudden or extreme changes in mood. Usually these will occur with no apparent cause, i.e. the mood swing isn’t immediately preceded by something that could reasonably cause a drastic change of emotion. For example, sudden feelings of sadness would be considered normal if you’d just had some upsetting news. However, those same feelings could be considered a mood swing if you haven’t had any reason to be upset.
When trying to find out if your symptoms class as mood swings, you should consider as many forms of stimulus as possible. For example, some people experience low mood when tired, hungry or dehydrated - these wouldn’t usually be considered mood swings. Moreover, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can cause low mood at specific times in the year. While it is often stereotyped as ‘winter depression’, some people with SAD feel fine in winter and experience low mood in the summer.
It’s also worth considering whether your mood swings might actually be something more serious. If you continuously feel down, sad, or apathetic, and rarely feel happy (especially when engaging in your hobbies or interests) that could be a symptom of depression. Depression usually lasts for a longer period of time than low mood or mood swings - weeks or months - and is often accompanied by low energy, insomnia and fatigue. If you think you may have depression or are concerned about your mood you should discuss your symptoms with your doctor who may be able to offer help or direct you to further information.
How does your mood change during your period?
Some women who experience mood swings notice a pattern linking their mood to their menstrual cycle. There are many reasons why this might occur - some of which aren’t directly linked to the reproductive system.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle may cause mood swings. Often, PMS symptoms vary from month to month, so you might not experience mood swings every cycle. Other symptoms of PMS may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Tender breasts
- Changes in appetite or sex drive
Moderate to severe PMS is estimated to affect around 30% of women. Between five and eight percent of women experience a more impactful form of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). The symptoms of PMDD are similar to PMS but generally have a greater effect on your day-to-day life.
As previously mentioned, some people find that fatigue can cause low mood. Fatigue is a common symptom of PMS and can also occur during and after your period. You may also experience physical or mental fatigue while taking the pill.
Discomfort or lack of confidence
If your period causes you to feel less confident or less comfortable, that may build up to feelings of low mood.
How to control mood swings
If you’ve identified your mood swings, are caused by fatigue, then you might help them by trying to get more sleep. Techniques to do this could include:
- Making the right conditions (e.g. dark, quiet, cool) in your bedroom
- Creating a bedtime routine to signal to yourself that it’s time to sleep
- Exercising during the day
Sometimes, mood swings may be reduced or managed with self care. This may be the best first option if you’re unsure of what is causing your mood swings. Try self care techniques first, and then if the problem persists, you can tell your pharmacist or doctor what you’ve already tried, which may help to narrow down the cause.
Acts of self care which may help with mood swings include:
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Drinking enough water
- Cutting down on certain substances such as caffeine, alcohol, or sugar
- Getting enough sleep
- Mindfulness or meditation
- Exercising to reduce stress
Using a mood tracker can be helpful when trying to determine the cause of your mood swings. It can also make it easier to notice when your mood swings are reduced and can be useful when explaining your experiences to a medical professional.
If self care doesn’t alleviate your mood swings, there may be an underlying cause such as those we’ve outlined above. In this case, speaking to a pharmacist or doctor may help, as they may be able to recommend a course of treatment to tackle the problem. For example, they may suggest cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) if they feel your mood swings may be a sign of depression or another mood disorder.