Health and Balance: What’s Causing My Mood Swings?

Reviewed on 3/1/2021

Bipolar Disorder

Mood swings are a common feature of bipolar disorder.

Many people may think of bipolar disorder when they think about mood swings. While it's true that people with that condition have mood highs and lows, it isn't the only thing that causes them.

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation can cause mood swings.

Your brain and body recover from the events of the day while you sleep. If you don't get enough rest, your sleep won't fully refresh you. When you're short on shut-eye, you might feel cranky. You’re also more likely to make poor choices throughout the day, and you may snap at people more often. If you skimp on sleep all the time, it may raise your chances of depression.

Low Blood Sugar

Low blood sugar can trigger mood swings.

If you've ever gotten "hangry" -- hungry and angry at the same time -- low blood sugar may have been to blame. This happens to some people when they go too long between meals. You may feel angry, upset, lonely, or confused. You may even want to cry or scream.

To feel more like yourself, eat something.

If you have diabetes, it's important to notice sudden mood changes because you could faint if your blood sugar stays too low for too long.


Stressful situations can trigger mood swings.

Stressful situations may pop up at work, at home, or elsewhere. Chronic stress can lead to a number of health problems, and it may make you feel sad, angry, or bitter. You may lose sleep, which can affect your mood. If you can distance yourself from what causes your stress, you should start to feel more like yourself. Exercise is a good way to ease pressure, and it should also help make you feel better.

Certain Medications

Certain medications may affect your mood.

Mood swings or depression can be side effects of drugs you take. If your doctor prescribes a new medicine, pay attention to how you feel for the first few weeks, because there may be a link between your mood and your meds.

Mood swings are a common side effect of high-dose steroids. If you take them, you may become angry more easily than usual. You might have a hard time sleeping, too. That can make your mood even worse.


Hormone therapy can affect your mood.

When you take hormone therapy for different things, you may feel upset or angry for no reason. Whenever your body makes hormones in greater or smaller amounts than usual, your mood may rise or fall. The same thing can happen when your body produces surges of hormones when you go through puberty.


Hormone surges during pregnancy can lead to mood swings.

When you're pregnant, you make more hormones than usual to help your body grow and nourish the baby. These surges can affect your mood: You may cry more or feel empty inside. You might swing suddenly from happy to sad, then back again.

Some women become depressed during pregnancy or after the baby is born, when hormone levels drop quickly. If that’s you, talk with your doctor so they can treat your depression and help lift your mood.


Many women experience mood swings as a feature of PMS.

Many women have premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during the days right before their period. This can bring symptoms like cramps, headaches, and mood changes. PMS may make you feel sad or moody without a trigger. It can be because your levels of certain hormones drop at that time of the month. Once you get your period, your hormone levels start to pick up, which helps your symptoms go away.


A drop in hormones during menopause can precipitate mood swings.

When you start menopause, your body makes far fewer hormones than it once did. That drop can cause any number of symptoms, including hot flashes, sleep problems, and mood swings. Lifestyle changes, like a healthier diet, more sleep, or more exercise, can help your mood. Your doctor could prescribe medicine, too.


Dementia causes brain damage that may affect mood.

Dementia causes damage to the brain, which affects a person's memory and personality over time. People with dementia may have sudden mood swings -- calm one minute, then angry or upset the next. They may feel frustrated that they forget things or can't express their thoughts anymore. Some people with dementia become depressed and withdraw into themselves. Others don't interact with anyone, even if they were social before.


ADHD is often accompanied by anger, frustration, depression and other mood symptoms.

If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may not be able to control your impulses well. You're likely to get angry or frustrated suddenly, even about small things like long lines or traffic. People with ADHD are more likely to become depressed or have other problems related to mood. With treatment, you can learn to control your impulses, which can help make you feel more like yourself.

Thyroid Issues

An overactive or underactive thyroid gland can produce mood symptoms.

People who have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) make too much thyroid hormone. People with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) don't make enough. Both can cause a number of health problems, including mood swings. When you get treatment for the thyroid, your levels should return to normal. This should help your symptoms fade, and you should start to feel more like yourself.


Caffeine can give you energy, but caffeine withdrawal may lead to fatigue, annoyance, nervousness and anxiety.

Coffee, soda, and other beverages that have caffeine can boost your mood while they give you a burst of energy. Because caffeine stimulates your nervous system, you may feel more alert than usual. If you use it often, your body gets used to its effects. By that point, if you try to cut back, it can make you feel tired, annoyed, nervous, or anxious.

Too Much Sugar

Consuming sugar can make mood conditions like depression worse.

Many studies suggest that if you eat a lot of refined sugars, like things with high fructose corn syrup, it can affect how your brain functions. That can affect your mood. It can even make symptoms of mood disorders like depression worse. Common foods with refined sugars include crackers, flavored yogurt, tomato sauce, salad dressing, most processed foods, and many choices that are labeled "low-fat."


Depression is a mood disorder.

Depression is a type of mood disorder. If you have it, you can feel sad and hopeless. You might lose interest in things you usually enjoy. If you've felt this way for 2 weeks or more, you should see your doctor or a mental health professional.

Health and Balance: What’s Causing My Mood Swings?

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