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Pinpointing and Treating the Underlying Cause
Anyone who has struggled with the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome knows about the roller coaster of moods that can accompany those few days of the month. Without warning, it seems a woman’s mood may fluctuate from euphoria to rage in an instant. Hormonal fluctuations are a known possible cause of severe mood swings in women, but that isn’t the whole story. When mood swings continue to occur outside of a woman’s cycle there may be other causes for this erratic behavior.
What Causes Severe Mood Swings in Women
There are a surprising number of possible causes for women to experience serious mood swings. Ranging from mental health disorders to personal temperament to lifestyle issues, severe mood swings can be a feature or significant symptom. Some of the causes for severe mood swings in women include:
- Bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that features extreme and unpredictable shifts in moods, switching from manic to depressive.
- Personality disorder. Some personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, can cause serious mood swings over a short time period.
- Cyclothymic disorder. A less serious form of bipolar disorder, cyclothymia features fluctuating moods and emotions, but not as severe.
- Persistent depressive disorder. PDD, or dysthymia, is a form of depression that lasts more than two years and may cause mood swings.
- PMS and Hormonal conditions. Female hormones fluctuate throughout one’s life. For teens and adults, an extreme form of PMS can cause serious mood swings. For women entering menopause, termed perimenopause, mood swings may also be present.
- Our personal temperament may be one that is dominated by moodiness, such as the melancholic temperament.
- People have varying abilities to manage stress. Some may struggle with cortisol regulation or other biologically-based chemical issues, and experience hyperarousal or agitation that can impact mood.
- Substance use disorder. Addiction often features mood swings, with moods ranging from irritable to hypermanic. Certain stimulants can also cause mood swings, such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and Adderall.
Separate from a medical or psychiatric disorder, mood swings can be triggered by daily habits. The good news is that these habits can be changed, which may help stabilize mood. These daily lifestyle triggers might include:
- Eating a diet heavy in sugars and processed foods, and too high a caffeine intake, can lead to jittery, irritable moods. Instead, limit caffeine, reduce sugary and starchy foods, and create a daily diet rich in lean proteins, fresh produce, whole grains, seeds, and nuts.
- Not getting enough sleep, or getting disrupted sleep, on a regular basis can lead to moodiness during the daytime hours. Set a regular bedtime and stick to it. Do not drink caffeinated beverages after 3:00pm, or alcohol after 6:00pm. A warm bath and a cup of chamomile tea can also help induce sound sleep.
- Stress can lead to moodiness and other health conditions, so it is best to learn how to manage it. Learn to use mindfulness exercises, deep breathing techniques, and guided imagery to help promote relaxation.
- Lack of exercise. A sedentary lifestyle can make us feel weak and tired, and lead to a negative sense of self and possibly mood swings. By integrating regular cardio fitness activities into daily routines, not only does this improve overall fitness, but it stimulates the production of endorphins, which helps to elevate mood and balance emotions.
- Life events. A traumatic life event, such as the sudden loss of a loved one, moving, a divorce or romantic breakup, or job loss can trigger moodiness. Seeing a therapist can help navigate the individual through the difficult life event.
Treatment for Severe Mood Swings in Women
When the mood swings persist regardless of steps taken to reduce stress and improve overall well-being, then getting professional help is essential Intense mood swings can point to a serious medical or psychiatric condition that should be treated. The first step in seeking treatment should be to have a thorough medical examination. There may be some medical condition, such as a malfunctioning thyroid or hormonal imbalance that is causing the mood swings. If no physical condition is identified, then the doctor will likely refer the individual to a mental health practitioner.
A psychiatrist can help by first conducting a psychological evaluation, using various assessments in addition to the verbal interview. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications for a wide variety of mental health conditions that may be at the root of the mood swings, such as a mood disorder or a personality disorder. Medications may include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or anti-psychotic drugs. Often this treatment is combined with psychotherapy, where the patient sits with a therapist and examines live events or past traumas that might be contributing to the mood swings.
If these outpatient services are not adequately helping the individual, a more intensive level of care may be in order. Residential mental health programs can be very helpful in providing a much more targeted treatment approach while the patient resides in a safe, supportive treatment environment. Individual therapy, group therapy, and experiential therapies, in addition to medication management, can be very effective in helping stabilize the individual’s mood swings.
There are a variety of mental health treatment centers available, ranging from a home setting to a rural or ranch-like setting, to a psychiatric hospital setting. The type of residential facility is determined by the severity of the mental health disorder. Following the residential program, patients are encouraged to continue to receive support through an outpatient or day program, as well as family therapy and other specific treatment options.
Treatment options for Severe Mood Swings
The Treatment Specialist is an online resource for information regarding severe mood swings in women, as well as other mental health disorders. The specialists can provide individuals with helpful tips and resources that can assist them in researching a mental health condition. For more information about treatment options in a private residential or inpatient treamtent progran, call to speak to a Treatment Specilaist at (866) 644-7911.