Mood swing

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Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings, usually between mania and depression

A mood swing is an extreme or rapid change in mood. Such mood swings can play a positive part in promoting problem solving and in producing flexible forward planning.[1] However, when mood swings are so strong that they are disruptive, they may be the main part of a bipolar disorder.[2]


Speed and extent[edit]

Mood swings are universal, varying from the microscopic to the wild oscillations of manic depression,[3] so that a continuum can be traced from normal struggles around self-esteem, through cyclothymia, up to a depressive disease.[4] However most people's mood swings remain in the mild to moderate range of emotional ups and downs.[5]

The duration of mood swings also varies. They may last a few hours - ultrarapid - or extend over days - ultradian: clinicians maintain that only when four continuous days of hypomania, or seven days of mania, occur, is a diagnosis of bipolar disorder justified.[6]

In such cases, mood swings can extend over several days, even weeks: these episodes may consist of rapid alternation between feelings of depression and euphoria.[7]


Changes in a person's energy level, sleep patterns, self-esteem, concentration, drug or alcohol use can be signs of an oncoming mood disorder.[8]

Many different things might trigger mood swings, from unhealthy diet or lifestyle to drug abuse or hormonal imbalance.

Other major causes of mood swings (besides bi-polar disorder and major depression) include diseases/disorders which interfere with nervous system function. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), epilepsy,[9] and autism are three such examples.[10] [11]

The hyperactivity sometimes accompanied by inattentiveness, impulsiveness, and forgetfulness are cardinal symptoms associated with ADHD.[12] As a result, ADHD is known to bring about usually short-lived (though sometimes dramatic) mood swings. The communication difficulties associated with autism, and the associated changes in neurochemistry, are also known to cause autistic fits (autistic mood swings).[13] The seizures associated with epilepsy involve changes in the brain's electrical firing, and thus may also bring about striking and dramatic mood swings.[14] If the mood swing is not associated with a mood disorder, treatments are harder to assign. Most commonly, however, mood swings are the result of dealing with stressful and/or unexpected situations in daily life.

Degenerative diseases of the human central nervous system such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and Huntington's disease may also produce mood swings.[15]

Going too long without eating, or eating too much sugar, can cause fluctuations in blood sugar, which can cause mood swings. [16] [17]

Brain chemistry[edit]

If a person has an abnormal level of one or several of certain neurotransmitters (NTs) in their brain, it may result in having mood swings or a mood disorder.[18] Serotonin is one such neurotransmitter that is involved with sleep, moods, and emotional states. A slight imbalance of this NT could result in depression. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that is involved with learning, memory, and physical arousal. Like serotonin, an imbalance of norepinephrine may also result in depression.[19]

List of conditions known to cause mood swings[edit]


Cognitive behavioral therapy recommends using emotional dampeners to break the self-reinforcing tendencies of either manic or depressive mood swings.[20]

Exercise, treats, seeking out small (and easily attainable) triumphs, and using vicarious distractions like reading or TV, are among the techniques found to be regularly used by people in breaking depressive swings.[21]

Learning to bring oneself down from grandiose states of mind, or up from exaggerated shame states, is part of taking a proactive approach to managing one's own moods and varying sense of self-esteem.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peter Salovey et al, Emotional Intelligence (2004) p. 1974
  2. ^
  3. ^ Sigmund Freud, Civilization, Society and Religion (PFL 12) p. 164
  4. ^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 406
  5. ^ Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (1995) p. 57
  6. ^ S, Nassir Ghaemi, Mood Disorder (2007) p. 243-4
  7. ^ Hockenbury, Don and Sandra (2011). Discovering Psychology Fifth Edition. New York, NY: Worth Publishers. p. 549. ISBN 978-1-4292-1650-0. 
  8. ^ "Bipolar Mood Swings, Stabilizers, Triggers, and Mania." WebMD. WebMD, 3 May 0000. Web. 29 Feb. 2012.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Neurobiology of Mood Disorders.
  19. ^ The Four Major Neurotransmitters.
  20. ^ Gilbert, Paul (1999). Overcoming Depression. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-465-01508-5.  edit
  21. ^ Goleman, p. 73-4
  22. ^ Terence Real, I Don't Want to Talk About It (1997) p. 279

Further reading[edit]

  • Ronald R. Fieve, Moodswing (1989)
  • Susanne P. Schad-Somers, On mood swings (1990)

External links[edit]