What Causes Extreme Mood Swings and How to Manage Them (2023)

Mood changes, or swings, refer to abrupt shifts in your mood or emotional state, and may be a normal response to stress or hormonal shifts. However, they can also signify a mental health disorder like borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder, which is characterized by extremely high and low moods. Rapid or extreme mood swings may interfere with your daily life and relationships.

This article explains how to recognize the symptoms of mood swings, what may be causing them, and how they can be managed.

Symptoms of Mood Swings

When you experience mood swings, you may feel very happy one moment for no reason and very sad the next without knowing why. These mood changes may also be accompanied by changes in sleep patterns, activity levels, and behavior.

Mood changes are a normal part of life, especially when you are going through a lot of stress. Sometimes, however, they can be a sign of a mental health disorder. For example, bipolar disorder, a type of mood disorder, causes manic (abnormally happy or irritable) and depressive (excessively sad) episodes. Unlike regular mood shifts, these episodes can last for several days or weeks.

When someone experiences a depressive episode, they may have the following symptoms:

  • Talking more slowly than usual
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, and worthless
  • Having trouble sleeping, waking early, or sleeping too much
  • Experiencing an increased appetite and weight gain
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Having little interest in activities they usually enjoy
  • Having thoughts of suicide or self-harm

When someone experiences a manic episode, their symptoms may include:

  • Talking more or more quickly than usual
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Appearing irritable or euphoric
  • Doing more goal-oriented activities with more energy and intensity
  • Sleeping less than they normally would
  • Feeling like their thoughts are racing
  • Feeling like they are unusually powerful or important

If you or someone you know are having suicidal thoughts, dial988to contact the988 Suicide & Crisis Lifelineand connect with a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call911.For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Causes of Mood Swings

The causes of mood swings vary. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Stressful life changes
  • Hormonal shifts
  • Substance use disorders
  • Mental health disorders

Stressful life changes like relationship breakups; school or job changes; and moving can sometimes cause enough stress to trigger mood swings, or trigger episodes of mood swings in those with certain mental illnesses.

Hormonal shifts during puberty, menopause, and during a woman's menstrual cycle can cause mood swings as well. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which affect some women, can cause more significant mood swings and irritability. Symptoms of PMS and PMDD usually go away two to three days after your period starts.

Significant mood swings can also happen while consuming psychoactive drugs and alcohol.Substance use disorders are often associated with mental illnesses that cause mood swings.

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Mental Health Disorders

When mood swings are extreme, rapid, and long-lasting, they may be a sign of a mental health disorder. Three mental health disorders that are strongly associated with mood swings include:

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  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD): BPD is a personality disorder characterized by difficulties regulating emotions, as well as extreme mood swings. These mood episodes are easily triggered and can last from minutes to hours.
  • Bipolar disorder: Extreme episodes of either depression and mania or hypomania (a less severe form of mania) are a hallmark feature of bipolar disorders I and II. Changes in mood can last for several days to several months. People can also experience long periods (months to years) without any mood symptoms.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: Cyclothymic disorder is related to bipolar disorder. With this disorder, an unstable mood state in which people experience hypomania and mild depression may last for two years or longer. Periods of stable moods typically last less than eight weeks.

What Medications Can Cause Mood Swings?

Steroid drugs in particular are commonly associated with changes in mood and mood swings. There are two classes of steroids:

  • Corticosteroids: These are anti-inflammatory drugs like prednisone, cortisone, and methylprednisolone. They are used to treat myriad conditions such as arthritis, lupus, asthma, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis. In high doses, steroids can cause mood swings, personality changes, depression, mania, and even psychosis.
  • Anabolic-androgenic steroids: These are synthetic substances similar to testosterone. They are often used as performance-enhancing drugs, but they can also treat delayed puberty and other conditions. Anabolic steroids can cause increased irritability, aggression, anxiety, mania, or depression.

Other medications that are known to cause mood swings include Accutane (isotrentoin) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Effexor and Zoloft.

How to Treat Mood Swings

Treatment for mood swings depends on what is causing them. If they are transient—for example caused by a period of extreme stress—they will likely pass once the stress subsides.

For more serious causes of mood swings, treatment may include:

  • Medications: Mood stabilizers (e.g., lithium), atypical antipsychotics (e.g.,Abilify) and antidepressants (e.g., Zoloft) can be used to treat underlying conditions such as bipolar disorder that trigger mood swings.
  • Psychotherapy: Various types of psychotherapies have been found to be useful for people with mood disorders, often in conjunction with medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that can help you learn to recognize triggers and warning signs of oncoming mood swings before they happen. It can also challenge and change your thinking so that coping becomes easier. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) helps patients learn how to control intense emotions and develop coping skills.
  • Lifestyle measures: Using a journal to record your mood symptoms and mood swing triggers can help you get a handle on them. Healthy lifestyle habits including getting regular exercise and enough sleep can help ward off depression.

Types of Mental Health Therapy

Are There Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Mood Swings?

There is no definitive test that can diagnose the cause of mood swings. A healthcare provider or mental health professional will take a detailed medical and family history and ask you about your symptoms, triggers, and how long they last. If a mental health disorder is suspected, they may consult with other providers you've seen and/or ask for input from friends or family.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If your mood swings are severe and frequent, or are having an impact on your job, family life, or other relationships, it is important to contact your healthcare provider, who may refer you to a mental health professional.

Specific symptoms that warrant a consultation with a provider include:

  • Feeling unusually "revved up," and unable to control the urge to spend a lot of money, be sexually promiscuous, or engage in other risky behaviors
  • Feel depressed to the point where you are unable to get out of bed or engage in your usual daily activities
  • Feel like you want to harm yourself or end your life


It's normal to experience mood swings, especially during times of extreme stress. Hormonal changes, life changes, addiction, and high doses of some drugs like steroids can all cause changes in your emotional state. However, some mental health disorders can also cause mood swings and require treatment from a mental health professional.

A Word From Verywell

There’s nothing wrong or unhealthy about feeling overwhelmed, worked up, or even angry in certain situations. It’s also understandable if you’re experiencing mood swings caused by mental illness, even if you’ve been trying to control or treat them. A mental health professional can offer resources to help you manage your mood swings and offer advice on talking to your loved ones so they can better understand and support you.

Frequently Asked Questions

11 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

(Video) How Best to Manage Your Moods

  1. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Bipolar disorder.

  2. National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar disorder.

  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Mood disorders.

  4. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Office on Women's Health. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

  5. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Substance use disorders.

  6. Broome MR, Saunders KE, Harrison PJ, Marwaha S. Mood instability: significance, definition and measurement.Br J Psychiatry. 2015 Oct;207(4):283-285. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.114.158543

  7. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Borderline personality disorder.

  8. Kusljic N, Manias E, Gogos A. Corticosteroid-induced psychiatric disturbances: It is time for pharmacists to take notice. Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy. 2016;12(2):355-60. doi:10.1016/j.sapharm.2015.05.012

  9. National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Drug Abuse. How does anabolic steroid misuse affect behavior?

  10. Bremner, JD. Isotretinoin and neuropsychiatric side effects: Continued vigilance is needed.

    Journal of Affective Disorders Reports. Volume 6. 2021. doi:10.1016/j.jadr.2021.100230

  11. Patel R, Reiss P, Shetty H, et al. Do antidepressants increase the risk of mania and bipolar disorder in people with depression? A retrospective electronic case register cohort study.BMJ Open. 2015;5(12):e008341. Published 2015 Dec 14. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008341

What Causes Extreme Mood Swings and How to Manage Them (1)

By Michelle Pugle
Michelle Pugle, BA, MA, is an expert health writer with nearly a decade of contributing accurate and accessible health news and information to authority websites and print magazines. Her work focuses on lifestyle management, chronic illness, and mental health. Michelle is the author of Ana, Mia & Me: A Memoir From an Anorexic Teen Mind.

(Video) Why do depressed people experience extreme mood swings?

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Why are my mood swings so severe? ›

Sometimes, mood swings are a symptom of a mental illness. Or they could be a clue that something else is happening in your body. Serious mood shifts that threaten your well-being can be treated by medical professionals. Lifestyle changes can often help mild ones.

What mental illness causes extreme mood swings? ›

Whilst everyone experiences mood swings to a certain degree, extreme mood swings can be characteristic of mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, and are a symptom of other mental illnesses including schizoaffective disorder and personality disorders.

What are the 5 mood disorders? ›

The most common types of mood disorders are major depression, dysthymia (dysthymic disorder), bipolar disorder, mood disorder due to a general medical condition, and substance-induced mood disorder.

What vitamins help with mood swings? ›

Hall-Flavin, M.D. Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression.

Why do I get angry so easily over little things? ›

It's common to feel irritable from time to time, but if you feel unusually irritable or irritable all the time or on edge, it is important that you talk to your doctor as it could be a symptom of a mental health condition, like depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, or a physical condition.

What do ADHD mood swings look like? ›

Symptoms of Mood Swings in ADHD

Switching from excited one moment to sad, angry, or anxious the next. Fluctuating between having trouble paying attention and hyperfocusing on an activity. Having bursts of energy and fatigue through the day. Feeling emotions intensely and having difficulty regulating them.

How do you deal with someone who is always moody? ›

Seven smart strategies for dealing with moody people
  1. Try to be understanding. Some people are simply going through a difficult time. ...
  2. Take a break. ...
  3. Stay calm. ...
  4. It might be best to consider removing the person from your life. ...
  5. Avoid falling into the trap. ...
  6. Learn to ignore the negative mood. ...
  7. Address the behaviour.

What are the 2 most common mood disorders? ›

Two of the most common mood disorders are depression and bipolar disorder.

What is the most common and extreme mood disorder? ›

The most common mood disorders are: Depression. Bipolar Disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

What are the 5 treatments for mood disorders? ›

Mood disorders are most often treated with medicine, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, or a combination of medicine and therapy.

What are the first signs of mood disorder? ›

Mania and hypomania
  • Abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired.
  • Increased activity, energy or agitation.
  • Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)
  • Decreased need for sleep.
  • Unusual talkativeness.
  • Racing thoughts.
  • Distractibility.
16 Feb 2021

How do I know if I need mood stabilizers? ›

Your doctor may prescribe mood stabilisers if you have an episode of mania, hypomania or depression that changes or gets worse suddenly. This is called an acute episode. Some people need to take mood stabilisers as a long-term treatment to stop this from happening.

What is the best natural mood stabilizer? ›

Adaptogens, exercise, nutrition, meditation or mindfulness, omega-3 fatty acid, and vitamin D are some examples of natural mood stabilizers.

What is a natural remedy for mood swings? ›

How to treat significant changes in mood
  • Get regular exercise. Moving and exercising are great for your physical and mental health. ...
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugar. ...
  • Try calcium supplements. ...
  • Change your diet. ...
  • Practice stress management. ...
  • Get better sleep.

What is a good mood stabilizer? ›

Anticonvulsants which are used as mood stabilisers include: carbamazepine (Tegretol) lamotrigine (Lamictal) valproate (Depakote, Epilim).

What mental illness is anger issues? ›

Overview. Intermittent explosive disorder involves repeated, sudden episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts in which you react grossly out of proportion to the situation.

Why do I get irritated when someone talks to me? ›

You feel so annoyed and angry when people talk to you because you have an introverted personality that you do not understand. People displaying this kind of behavior are referred to as introverts. They are happier and more comfortable being by themselves.

How do I stop getting easily triggered? ›

  1. 1) Learn your stress signature. The first step is to recognize that you are being triggered as soon as the signs start in your body. ...
  2. 2) Calm the body. ...
  3. 3) Label your emotions without judgment. ...
  4. 4) Do not give into avoidance. ...
  5. 5) Correct your thinking about the trauma.
1 Feb 2019

How do you tell if it's ADHD or bipolar? ›

Bipolar disorder is primarily a mood disorder. ADHD affects attention and behavior; it causes symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. While ADHD is chronic or ongoing, bipolar disorder is usually episodic, with periods of normal mood interspersed with depression, mania, or hypomania.

What are the signs of ADHD in female adults? ›

ADHD Signs and Symptoms in Adult Women
  • Difficulty with time management.
  • Disorganization.
  • Feeling overwhelmed.
  • History of anxiety and depression.
  • Difficulty with money management.
18 Mar 2021

What is the best mood stabilizer for ADHD? ›

Medication Treatments for ADHD - Mood Stabilizers (for ADHD with Mood and Behavior Problems) Lithium, Carbamazepine (Tegretol), and Valproic Acid (Depakote) have been used when mood disorders co-exist with ADHD.

How do I stop letting people's moods affect me? ›

How to avoid absorbing other people's emotions
  1. Create boundaries. You may find it helpful to set appropriate boundaries with others, says Turecek. ...
  2. Establish your baseline. ...
  3. Determine what's yours. ...
  4. Practice grounding activities. ...
  5. Ritualize separation. ...
  6. Spend time in nature. ...
  7. Make time for self-care. ...
  8. Process it with someone.
19 Aug 2021

How do you make a moody person happy? ›

Regardless of the source of the moodiness, these tips can help:
  1. Try to be understanding. Some people are simply going through a difficult time. ...
  2. Take a break. ...
  3. Stay calm. ...
  4. It might be best to consider removing the person from your life. ...
  5. Avoid falling into the trap. ...
  6. Learn to ignore the negative mood. ...
  7. Address the behavior.
27 Feb 2017

How do I stop being angry and moody? ›

15 Ways to Feel Less Irritable
  1. Reduce caffeine and alcohol. ...
  2. Gain perspective. ...
  3. Get moving. ...
  4. Get quiet or alone time. ...
  5. Figure out if it's hormonal. ...
  6. Eat something. ...
  7. Go to bed or take a nap. ...
  8. Step away from your phone.
1 Feb 2021

Can mood disorders be cured? ›

Bipolar disorder is a long term mood disorder that may affect how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Bipolar disorder is not curable, but there are many treatments and strategies that a person can use to manage their symptoms. Without treatment, bipolar disorder may cause unusual mood episodes.

What is the difference between mood disorder and bipolar? ›

Mood disorders may increase your risk of suicide. Some examples of mood disorders include: Major depressive disorder — prolonged and persistent periods of extreme sadness. Bipolar disorder — also called manic depression or bipolar affective disorder, depression that includes alternating times of depression and mania.

What is the best mood stabilizer for anxiety? ›

Some of the most commonly used include: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram oxalate (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine HRI (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft).

What medical conditions are associated with mood disorders? ›

What Medical Conditions Can Cause Mood Disorders?
  • Neurological disorders (Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease)
  • Heart attacks.
  • Pancreatic diseases.
  • Thyroid problems.
  • Cancer.
  • Infections.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's colitis and ulcerative colitis)

What age group is most affected by mood disorders? ›

At What Age Is Depression Most Common? According to CDC data from 2019, 21% of adults experiencing any depressive symptoms in the most recent two weeks were between 18 and 29 years old. This incidence is the largest among all adult age groups.

What is a serious mood disorder? ›

Depression (also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.

What are the 7 personality disorders? ›

The main personality disorders in this category are listed below.
  • Paranoid personality disorder. ...
  • Schizoid personality disorder. ...
  • Schizotypal personality disorder. ...
  • Antisocial personality disorder. ...
  • Borderline personality disorder. ...
  • Histrionic personality disorder. ...
  • Narcissistic personality disorder. ...
  • Avoidant personality disorder.

What are 3 treatments for mood disorders? ›

Depression is a treatable mental illness. The most common forms of depression treatment include psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, and antidepressants.

How many mood disorders exist? ›

Though many different subtypes are recognized, three major states of mood disorders exist: depressive, manic, and bipolar. Major depressive disorder is characterized by overall depressed mood. Elevated moods are characterized by mania or hypomania.

What is a rare mood disorder? ›

Cyclothymia (sy-kloe-THIE-me-uh), also called cyclothymic disorder, is a rare mood disorder. Cyclothymia causes emotional ups and downs, but they're not as extreme as those in bipolar I or II disorder. With cyclothymia, you experience periods when your mood noticeably shifts up and down from your baseline.


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