ZocdocAnswersWhat causes powerful mood swings?

Question

What causes powerful mood swings?

Why is it that I have such unbelievable moods? It can literally be that I'm happy this minute and one minute later I'll want to cry over something stupid. I also cry over little things like movies. I'm female, in my mid 20s. Is this a hormonal thing? I've always been this way.

Answer

The first question in dealing with mood swings is to answer whether or not they cause social impairment. In other words, do you have successful relationships, are you able to hold down a job, and the like? If the answer is yes, then the mood swings are unlikely to be part of a very serious psychiatric disorder. Although mood swings are often associated popularly with bipolar disorder, the diagnostic criteria for this disorder require the mood swings to cause serious social impairment. If the answer is no, then there are still several possibilities. One possibility would be to investigate whether the swings in mood are associated with your periods at all. There is a clinical disorder that involves heightened moods swings that go with the menstrual cycle, and treatments for this are available, including taking an antidepressant to help smooth out and lessen the swings. Lifestyle efforts, such as exercise and healthy diet and sleep are also very helpful with menstrual-associated mood swings. Finally, adult attention deficit disorder is often associated with mood swings and impulsivity, as well as difficulty concentrating. Most people with adult ADD have a history of attention or mood problems as a child or teenager, so this would be unlikely if you do not have this history. Talking about your mood symptoms with your primary care doctor or your psychiatrist is the best way to sort out whether you need further workup or treatment.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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