Each one of us knows a certain degree of mood swings. The mood changes over the course of the day, which is normal at first and depends on various factors. However, pronounced mood swings can also be signs of illness. Not only psychological, but also physical illnesses are possible here.
Simple mood swings occur every day and are normal signs of our high and low feelings in everyday life. Mood swings are characterized by a sudden change of mood. Strong mood swings are also known as mood instability.
Fluctuations in mood are not necessarily a symptom of a disease, but are part of human life. Especially during a hormonal change phase, mood swings often occur and are completely normal. Parents must expect their offspring to be prone to mood swings during puberty. Many women know the mood swings before menstruation: the spectrum ranges from joy to irritability to tearful mood. With the onset of menopause and also during pregnancy, hormones can lead to sudden mood swings.
Only when the mood swings are inappropriately strong or inappropriate are they of medical importance. Medically relevant mood swings are more than just normal moods – they are more intense and/or occur more frequently. Psychological disorders are often the cause of mood swings – but sometimes they are also organic reasons that affect the mood. Because the possible causes are so varied, a thorough diagnosis of pronounced mood swings is particularly important.
Mood swings can have many causes and can also be part of a hormonal change, such as during puberty, pregnancy or the menopause. They only become medically relevant if they occur particularly frequently, are inappropriately strong or appear inappropriate.
The causes of many mood swings are psychological – but organic causes are also possible. Mood swings in an extreme form occur in people who suffer from a so-called bipolar affective disorder. This psychological disorder is also called manic-depressive illness. Phases of inappropriate euphoria (manic phases) alternate with phases of deep depression (depressive phases). Between two such episodes there are phases in which the mood of the situation seems appropriate.
In a manic phase, the person’s mood is elevated or irritated. His drive is increased and he tends to overestimate himself. During the depressive episode, on the other hand, the person has lost his or her drive, he or she is depressed and no longer enjoys the things that interested them before. The phases can last for different lengths of time.
Even people who suffer from depression without mania often experience mood swings that occur during the course of a day. A typical sign of depression, although not common to all people, is the so-called morning low: in the morning the person feels particularly sad and listless, while the mood brightens in the afternoon or evening.
Natural hormonal changes
Over the course of life, various hormonal changes are associated with individual stages or cycles of life. These changes in the hormonal balance can, among other things, cause severe mood swings, but they are usually not dangerous and are part of human existence. They only need to be treated if they occur in extreme form. Mood swings caused by natural hormonal changes occur for example in the following phases of life:
Puberty: During puberty, which is associated with hormonal changes, adolescents go through a severe developmental crisis. Mood swings often occur here.
Pregnancy: Mood swings are not uncommon at the beginning of pregnancy, but some pregnant women do not have any problems with them. Normally, the follicles of the ovaries produce hormones such as estrogen. During pregnancy, the placenta gradually assumes this function. But not only this change, also the changed life situation can lead to an unstable mood.
Menstrual cycle: Some women suffer from monthly mood swings, especially if they suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS refers to various physical and psychological symptoms that occur about ten days to a week before menstrual bleeding – including mood swings.
As a rule, mood swings only require therapy if they are particularly pronounced or recur repeatedly. Mood swings that occur during pregnancy or during puberty are usually normal and not a symptom of a disease. The therapy of mood swings must therefore always be preceded by a careful diagnosis. If the mood swings are the result of a disease, therapy is necessary.
If mood swings are a symptom of a mental illness such as a bipolar affective disorder, drug therapy is usually required. For example, the doctor often prescribes antidepressants to people with depressive moods, which intervene in the brain metabolism and thus influence the mood.
Psychotherapy can be particularly useful for mental illnesses. Even after a traumatic experience, such as sexual abuse, psychotherapeutic treatment is necessary.