All of us go through a range of emotions on a daily basis, but have you ever felt like you are riding a huge emotional rollercoaster with unexpected highs and extreme lows without any warning? This rollercoaster is termed “mood swings”. The term is fairly popular now, thanks to social media, but the casual attitude towards it needs to be addressed.
Mood swings, if they don’t negatively affect routine life, can be considered harmless. But they can also be a symptom of an underlying mental health condition or distress. Experts describe a mood swing as “a sudden or intense change in emotional state”. It can cause one to quickly move from feeling cheerful one moment to feeling sad or annoyed the very next moment.
Mood swings can be caused by a wide range of factors including lifestyle changes as well as untreated mental illnesses. Some lifestyle changes known to cause mood swings are events that involve crucial decision making and adaptation such as switching jobs or moving homes, relationship decisions, financial stress, and the like. Erratic sleep schedules, a nutrition-deficit diet, tension, or any medications which can affect mood and sleep also give rise to mood swings.
Mild to moderate mood swings which do not interfere with one’s quality of life usually don’t require professional treatment and can be dealt with by identifying the cause and eliminating it accordingly.
Some lifestyle changes can help one get off the emotional rollercoaster. A few things to consider if you’re having trouble dealing with swinging moods are: maintaining a proper schedule and getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet and having proper meals regularly, meditating or practising mindfulness through yoga or other activities, keeping a track of mood changes and potential triggers for them.
Mood swings are, however, not always easy to deal with, especially when they are intense, regular, persistent, and affecting one’s relationships, work, or other spheres of life. Mood swings can also cause one to engage in self-sabotaging behaviours or to have thoughts of self-harm or death by suicide.
It is always a good idea to see a professional if any of these symptoms feel relatable. Extreme mood swings can be a sign of different mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, clinical depression, cyclothymia, persistent depressive disorder, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD). Some physical health conditions can also be the reason behind mood swings, including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, thyroid disorder, coronary heart disease, epilepsy, HIV, stroke, and more.
Mood swings are also sometimes caused by hormonal changes. As hormones affect brain chemistry, women who experience PMS, menopause or pregnancy, might find shifts in their mood because of the hormonal changes. Teenagers may also experience swinging moods caused by the hormonal changes related to physical development. Another cause behind severe mood shifts can be substance use.
While both males and females experience mood swings caused by any reason at any point in their lives, sexism in popular culture and the stigma around menstruation in general results in people making crude jokes if a woman acts in an emotional or erratic manner due to changing moods.
Not only this, several memes on social media seem to portray women as the only ones who experience mood swings, accusing them of the same all the while. From making crude jokes about mood swings in women to dismissing women as emotionally unstable or “too emotional”, to portraying men as emotionally more stable, popular culture reinforces stigmas of all sorts, and trivialises mood swings.
As emphasised above, mood swings can be a symptom of a serious underlying mental or physical condition, and hence, should not be dismissed. Different people can have different triggers and different solutions work for different people. Taking care of one’s physical and mental health can certainly help prevent unwelcome mood swings.
However, consulting a professional is the best possible way if one finds themselves in a position where sudden and/or extreme shifts in mood affect their quality of life. Professionals can help in diagnosing the underlying issue behind mood swings and dealing with the causes can help levelling out one’s mood.
A healthcare professional can also suggest treatment in any form like lifestyle changes, psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of them. We must recognise that mood swings are not fodder for jokes or fun. It is important not to ignore or dismiss intense and/or long-lasting mood swings, and to create safe spaces for people to speak about them and avail moral and medical help.
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