Mood Swings

What are mood swings?

Moods swings refer to rapid changes in mood and they can occur in the context of numerous conditions. This usually involves a rapid change from an elevated mood state such as happiness to one of sadness and despair.  Mood swings are a prominent feature of bipolar disorder, however in this case the extremes of mood are so severe that this can affect work, study, social and family life.  More rapid fluctuations in mood may be due to less severe forms of bipolar disorder, premenstrual symptoms in women, illicit drug use, certain personality disorders and prescribed medication.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

Bi polar disorder is characterised by mania and depression.  One manic episode is sufficient to be diagnosed with the disorder.  Those who suffer from bipolar disorder may or may not have experienced a depressive phase before.  The symptoms of both mania and depression are severe enough to interfere with daily activities such as work, relationships and family life.  There are many forms of bipolar and they are categorised based on the severity of symptoms, frequency of mood swings and the cause of the disorder.  The main symptoms include:

  • Manic symptoms manifesting as excessive happiness, lack of sleep, increased energy, racing thoughts, too many ideas in a short period of time, restlessness and making unrealistic plans
  • Depressive symptoms such as low mood for long periods, reduced appetite, lack of concentration, increased need for sleep, unprovoked crying episodes, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and suicidal thoughts and plans.

How common are mood swings?

Mood swings can occur as part of the normal human range of emotions and can be triggered by external events or occur spontaneously.  Mood swings and bipolar disorder affect 4 percent of the global population and the incidence has been steadily increasing over the years.

What are the causes of mood swings and bipolar disorder?

Mood swings and bipolar disorder could be cause by a number of factors.  Genetics is known to play a role in the development of bipolar disorder, especially when there is a significant family history of mood disorders.  Certain personality types are also at an increased risk of mood swings and bipolar disorder.  Drugs, prescribed medication and head injury can cause a bipolar like syndrome. Severe mood swings can also be caused by certain medical conditions. Triggers such as stress, insomnia and emotional distress can lead to the condition in those who are genetically vulnerable.

What is the treatment for mood swings/ bipolar disorder?

The treatment will depend on the nature and severity of the symptoms.  Psychotherapeutic approaches are beneficial in relieving symptoms of mood swings which do meet the criteria for a manic episode and do not affect the daily functioning of the individual.  Your doctor may prescribe medications known as mood stabilisers for more severe forms.  Some patients may require hospitalisation if symptoms are severe and risk issues are present.  It is important that your doctor rules out medical causes for mood swings before devising a treatment plan

How can I reduce my risk of developing bipolar disorder?

A significant family history of mood disorders could suggest that one may be genetically vulnerable.  Stress management, adequate sleep and dealing appropriately with emotional distress can be beneficial.  Abstaining from using illicit drug substances and avoiding certain prescribed medication will help reduce the risk of developing the condition.  Generally speaking, optimal nutrition, regular exercise and meaningful relationships are beneficial.

Please click here to view therapists that specialise in mood swings and bipolar disorder.