Mood swings


Heavenly cheering, saddened to death – everyone has probably experienced mood swings at some point in their lives. However, most of them are not dangerous, but are part of human life. They are only in need of treatment in extreme form.

It should be noted that the transitions between normal and pathological can be fluid, which is particularly important in diagnostics. Mood swings are perceptible or measurable changes in the basic mood that we ourselves or others perceive or measure – they can be of a joyful or depressed nature and cover every emotional state. Simple mood swings can occur in the course of a day and are part of our lives.

Women in particular are affected by them even more frequently, since in certain situations in life hormonal changes influence the mood. Mood swings can occur during puberty, before menstruation and during pregnancy. They are characterized by a rapidly changing mood, often without a recognizable trigger.

Only when the mood becomes inappropriately strong or inappropriate and changes rapidly are these fluctuations of medical significance. They are clearly distinguishable from normal “moods” – they are experienced more intensively by those affected and occur more frequently. Often these fluctuations are caused by psychiatric illnesses.

Mood swings can occur, for example, in the context of a bipolar disorder or a pathological dependence on drugs or alcohol. But also organic reasons, such as a hormone balance changed by a disease, can trigger mood swings. The best example of this is hyperthyroidism.


Often a disturbance or change in hormone balance is the underlying cause of mood swings. These can occur in the following areas of life, among others:

  • Puberty: During puberty the body undergoes a hormonal change, among other things. The body changes, the secondary sexual characteristics become more pronounced and girls experience their first menstruation.

    All of this is closely related to the hormonal balance, which also changes, and can lead to irritability and mood swings.

  • Menstrual Cycle: Some women experience mood swings just before their monthly period starts. In particular, these occur in connection with PMS (premenstrual syndrome). This is related to the altered hormone composition in the body, which regulates the menstrual period in women.
  • Pregnancy and puerperium: Especially at the beginning of pregnancy some pregnant women suffer from mood swings but not all of them.

    This is also related to changes in the hormone balance, as the hormone estrogen in pregnant women is not produced by certain cells of the ovaries as is usually the case, but by the placenta. In addition, the changed life situation can cause additional psychological stress and influence the mood.

However, mood swings can also be triggered by a mental illness, such as a bipolar disorder. In this case, a connection between genetic and environmental factors such as life circumstances and stress-inducing life events is suspected.

Mood swings can also indicate an underlying psychological problem. For example, life events that have not been overcome, such as the loss of a close person or job, etc., can trigger a mental illness that may also include mood swings. Traumatizing events such as sexual abuse can also lead to this.

Mood swings occur particularly in connection with the following psychiatric illnesses:

  • Bipolar disorder: A bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating high and low phases in the voice, which occur for no reason and can be a heavy burden to those affected.
  • Borderline syndrome: The borderline syndrome is characterized by impulsive behavior and disturbed impulse control. Emotions are often felt and carried to the outside world in an exaggerated way and mood swings often occur. For borderline patients it is difficult to maintain a relationship with other people, they have a disturbed and inappropriately negative self-image and have low self-esteem.
  • Schizophrenia: This includes a range of symptoms characterized mainly by paranoid delusions and hallucinations, such as hearing voices.

    In an acute seizure, thinking and perception disorders occur, which can lead to speech problems and behavior that can endanger oneself and others.

  • Schizoaffective disorders: This refers to a mixed form of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It is characterized by alternating strongly negative or strongly positive moods as well as delusions and hallucinations
  • ADHD: A psychiatric disorder that often occurs for the first time in childhood or adolescence and is caused by reduced attention.
  • Last but not least, the intake of drugs or alcohol can also affect the brain and cause mood swings. Especially during drug withdrawal, mood swings can occur more frequently.

    Drugs can also sometimes trigger mood swings as an undesirable side effect.

Since mood swings can have many causes, treatment of the underlying disease is most promising. Not all types of mood swings require treatment. If they are limited to certain areas or stages of life, such as puberty or pregnancy depression, treatment is not necessary.

However, if the mood swings are particularly pronounced or recurring, treatment should be given. If mood swings occur in the context of a psychiatric illness such as a bipolar disorder, drug therapy is usually necessary. In this case, antidepressants are usually prescribed, which intervene in the brain metabolism and influence the mood.

Important biological messengers of the brain that play a role in this are serotonin and dopamine. Another drug is lithium, which stabilizes the mood and is used in particular for severe psychologically induced mood swings. The exact mode of action of lithium has not yet been conclusively clarified scientifically.

Last but not least, if the cause is psychologically determined, possible underlying problems and processing difficulties of past events should always be taken into account and psychological help should be sought. Therapy always depends on the severity and the characteristics of the underlying mental illness. Selected methods can be a deep psychological conversation therapy, a behavior therapy, a psychoanalysis or an occupational therapy.

Especially when possible traumatic experiences in the life of the person affected, such as sexual abuse, seem likely as a cause for the mood swings, an accompanying psychological therapy is recommended. If organic causes are responsible for the mood swings, such as hyperthyroidism, a basic therapy for this disease must be provided. In the case of the thyroid gland, this would be certain medication, surgery or radioiodine therapy.