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Common causes of mood swings and how you can reduce them

Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby on November 25, 2019. Written by Kathryn Wall. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Experiencing mood swings every now and then is completely normal. They can happen when you’re feeling stressed, hungry, or tired. However, experiencing mood swings frequently and consistently may indicate that you have an underlying health problem.

Mood swings in men and mood swings in women can have a major impact on your quality of life, mental health, and overall well-being, but identifying their root cause can empower you to make healthy lifestyle changes or seek the treatment you need to start feeling better.


Here are 5 Everlywell at-home tests related to mood swings that may be a helpful place to start.

Vitamin D Test: This at-home test can be used to ensure you have adequate levels of vitamin D.

B Vitamins Test: This at-home test is an easy way to evaluate your levels of three different B vitamins in your body.

Perimenopause Test: Wondering if those symptoms and menstrual changes indicate that menopause may be near? Our perimenopause test will let you know if you are transitioning towards menopause.

Thyroid Test: Easily measure your levels for the 3 main thyroid hormones (TSH, T3, and T4) plus thyroid antibodies with this comprehensive test—all from the comfort of your own home.

Sleep & Stress Test: This at-home test evaluates fluctuations of three vital hormones needed for a restful night's sleep and can help you determine why you’ve been struggling with sleep lately.


Common causes

Nutritional deficiency

The foods you eat play a major role not only in your physical health, but also in your mental health. Certain vitamins and minerals are required for proper brain functioning and can influence memory, cognition, and mood. Deficiencies in certain nutrients including vitamin D, B vitamins, iron, and magnesium have been linked to depression and other mood disorders [1].

Common symptoms of nutritional deficiencies include irritability, mood swings, fatigue, brain fog, and depression. To help prevent diet-related mood swings, start eating less sugar and fewer processed foods, and eat a higher amount of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and lean protein. If you’re not sure whether your diet is contributing to mood swings, consider taking an at-home Vitamin D Test or B Vitamins Test to determine whether you need nutritional supplementation or a healthier diet.

Perimenopause and menopause

Perimenopause is the transition to menopause, or the time leading up to a woman’s last menstrual period. Perimenopause usually begins in a woman’s mid- to late 40s, and can last for several years. Common symptoms of perimenopause include irregular menstrual periods, depression, mood swings, hot flashes, and weight gain [2].

Mood swings during perimenopause occur on behalf of fluctuations in estrogen, progesterone, and serotonin—a brain neurotransmitter that regulates mood [3]. If you suspect your menopause mood swings are being caused by perimenopause, take an at-home Perimenopause Test to measure levels of hormones being affected by this transitioning period and to determine whether hormone changes could be related to your symptoms.

Thyroid conditions

Thyroid imbalances can lead to mood swings due to the way high or low amounts of these hormones affect the production of other hormones in the body. Hyperthyroidism affects 1.2% of people in the U.S. and is a condition that involves an overactive thyroid, meaning the thyroid gland is producing more hormones than the body needs [4]. Hypothyroidism is more common and affects 4.6% of people in the U.S. [5]. This condition involves an underactive thyroid, meaning the thyroid gland is producing less hormones than the body needs.

Common symptoms of thyroid disorders include fatigue, depression, mental fog, and constipation, among many others. When left untreated, thyroid disorders can increase the risk for osteoporosis, stroke, and heart failure. Before seeing your healthcare provider, take an at-home Thyroid Test to determine whether a thyroid condition is the root cause of your mood swings.

Chronic stress

Stress is common and is the body’s way of responding to threats, danger, and difficult situations [6]. When you’re stressed, your body releases higher amounts of cortisol and adrenaline to help you deal with the stressful event. At the same time, your body suppresses the release of other hormones that regulate mood, hunger, and reproduction. After the stressful event is over, cortisol levels typically decrease and hormones regain a normal, healthy balance.

In chronic stress, the body’s cortisol levels remain high indefinitely to cause overall hormonal imbalance that can trigger extreme mood swings. When left untreated, chronic stress increases the risk for mental health disorders, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, sleep disturbances, and more [7]. If you think chronic stress may be the source of your mood swings and sleep problems, take an at-home Sleep & Stress Test to measure your body’s cortisol levels and find out whether it’s time to visit your healthcare provider.

Medications

Depression mood swings are a side effect of several types of medications. Medications that have been associated with mood swings in men and women include [8]:

  • Antibiotics
  • Opioids
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Corticosteroids
  • Beta-blockers
  • Statins
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Anticholinergic drugs
  • Antipsychotics

Some of these medications, such as opioids and antipsychotics, work on many of the same brain receptors that regulate mood and can make hormones fluctuate to result in mood swings [9, 10]. If you’ve recently started using any of the above medications, consider starting a journal to track the severity and frequency of mood swings, should any occur. Speak with your healthcare provider about treatment options if you’re experiencing moods swings.

Low blood sugar

Skipping meals or eating small food portions can make you feel irritable, short-tempered, and moody due to low blood sugar, or glucose. Fluctuations in glucose can upset the balance of other hormones to cause rapid mood swings and other symptoms including fatigue, anxiety, shakiness, and mental confusion.

If your mood swings tend to occur after long periods of going without food, make a conscious effort to eat more regularly throughout the day. Keep healthy snacks on-hand such as nuts, apples, or carrots to help you maintain your blood glucose and energy levels until your next meal.

Numerous other health conditions have also been associated with fluctuations in mood—the majority of which are related to mood disorders and hormone imbalances.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a condition similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that affects women before menstruation. However, compared with PMS, PMDD is often more severe and debilitating and includes at least one mood-related symptom [11]. PMS and PMDD share many of the same symptoms, though PMDD may also cause period mood swings with bouts of crying, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts.

Symptoms of PMDD usually begin during the week before menstruation, and resolve on their own within a few days after the start of menstruation. If you think you’re suffering from PMDD, you may be able to improve symptoms with regular exercise, quality sleep, and a healthy diet. See your healthcare provider immediately if symptoms of PMDD don’t improve with self-treatment or are greatly interfering with your daily life.

Bipolar spectrum disorders

Bipolar spectrum disorders are mental health disorders associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs [12]. There are 4 types of bipolar disorder: bipolar 1, bipolar 2, cyclothymic disorder, and other bipolar and related disorders, which typically include cases of bipolar disorder that don’t fit into the first 3 types. Manic and depressive phases of bipolar spectrum disorders can last anywhere between several weeks or months, and may cause symptoms including extreme mood swings, euphoria, and depression.

Some people with bipolar disorder experience frequent, rapid mood swings and episodes that occur 4 or more times per year. This is known as rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. If you are experiencing similar symptoms, speak to your healthcare provider about treatment options.

Seeking medical care

Your healthcare provider can perform an evaluation, review your medical history, and run lab tests to properly diagnose the root cause of your mood swings.

Ways to help reduce mood swings

In addition to eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep, self-treatment for mood swings involves knowing what triggers them in the first place. Identifying the factors that trigger mood swings can empower you to eliminate these triggers altogether or learn new coping methods that reduce stress and irritability.

Start keeping a journal of when your mood swings occur, along with any events that may be associated with the mood swings. For example, take note of the foods you’re eating and the days you’re lacking sleep, and track your menstrual cycle, if you’re a woman. Being aware of triggers that cause your mood swings can clue you in to whether you may need medical treatment, or whether you should consider stress-management techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, or mindfulness and meditation.

Common questions

How can I prevent mood swings during menopause?

Exercising regularly, eating healthy foods, and getting quality sleep can help regulate hormones to minimize symptoms of menopause—including mood swings. If mood swings are affecting your quality of life, ask your healthcare provider about available hormone treatments that can regulate hormones.


Which foods contribute to mood swings?

Nutrition-related mood swings are often caused by high amounts of sugar, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates such as donuts, cakes, cookies, and white bread. Many of these foods lack an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals, and can cause blood glucose to fluctuate and trigger mood swings.


Mood swings are normal and affect everyone at some point in time. However, mood swings that affect the quality of life and that are extreme, rapid, and/or frequent may indicate a more serious health problem that requires professional medical treatment.


Here are 5 Everlywell at-home tests related to mood swings that may be a helpful place to start.

Vitamin D Test: This at-home test can be used to ensure you have adequate levels of vitamin D.

B Vitamins Test: This at-home test is an easy way to evaluate your levels of three different B vitamins in your body.

Perimenopause Test: Wondering if those symptoms and menstrual changes indicate that menopause may be near? Our perimenopause test will let you know if you are transitioning towards menopause.

Thyroid Test: Easily measure your levels for the 3 main thyroid hormones (TSH, T3, and T4) plus thyroid antibodies with this comprehensive test—all from the comfort of your own home.

Sleep & Stress Test: This at-home test evaluates fluctuations of three vital hormones needed for a restful night's sleep and can help you determine why you’ve been struggling with sleep lately.