7 Signs Your Mood Changes Might Mean Something More Serious

by Lara Rutherford-Morrison

Are you feeling whiplash from shifting moods, swinging from happy to sad, from angry to relaxed? Everyone goes through upswings and downswings sometimes, but you should be on the lookout for signs that your mood changes are signs of something more serious. Mood changes can be signs of mental and physical health problems, hormonal fluctuations, or adverse reactions to medication.

It’s completely expected that your moods will change over time. After all, if you were totally “even” at every moment, you’d more resemble a creepy robot than a human being. Often, shifts in mood logically occur with changes in circumstances. Different situations and interactions naturally affect how you feel in any given moment; positive events make you feel good, and bad things make you feel bad.

Other changes in mood are less logical, and their triggers may be harder to pin down. You may find yourself feeling unaccountably “low” or getting angrier than a given situation warrants. To a certain degree, these kinds of mood swings are also common — they can be triggered by routine fluctuations in your hormone levels (during your menstrual cycle, for example) or by major hormonal shifts like pregnancy.

But some changes in mood — especially extreme changes — could be a sign there is something else going on. They can be signs of mental health conditions like bipolar disorder and cyclothymic disorder; hormonal disorders; or issues with your thyroid, lungs, central nervous system, and cardiovascular system. Some medications can also cause mood swings.

If you have concerns about your mood changes — if they are affecting your relationships, your ability to work, your ability to live how you want to live — don’t hesitate to consult a doctor. He or she may be able to reassure you that your moods are nothing to worry about, or, if they do indicate an underlying issue, offer treatment options that could help you feel more able to regulate your emotions.

Read on for signs that your changing moods are more than the standard fare:

1. Your moods change drastically, for no apparent reason.

Again, it’s common for moods to change — sometimes something as simple as being hungry can make a person feel suddenly irritable. But it could mean something else if your moods change wildly, launching you from one extreme of emotion to the next, without any discernible reason. If you’re feeling fine — even happy— only to find yourself descending inescapably into sadness, with no apparent trigger, you should pay attention to that and seek help. Inexplicable shifts in mood can be symptoms of conditions like depression and bipolar disorder.

2. Your “up” or “down” moods last for a long time.

According to Dr. Russ Federman, an expert in bipolar disorder and Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Virginia, intense moods that last for an extended period could be a key sign of bipolar disorder. Bouts of debilitating depression will last for as long as two weeks or more, while periods of mania or hypomania (a milder form of mania, characterized by feelings of euphoria) last four days or longer.

3. Your moods are extreme.

It’s not reasonable to expect to be happy all the time — everyone goes through ups and downs. But if being “down” frequently means more than normal sadness — if you’re sobbing uncontrollably for minor reasons (or no reason at all) — that may mean that there’s something more significant going on. Ditto for good moods that fly past “happy” and hit “inexplicable euphoria” instead.

4. Your moods lead to uncontrollable, self-destructive behavior.

If you think your moods might mean something else, take a look at the actions they lead you to take. Do “good” moods lead you into uncontrollable behavior, like over-the-top spending? When you’re irritated, do you find yourself screaming with people or getting into physical fights? Are you experiencing suicidal thoughts or the urge to hurt yourself? If so, seek help.

5. Your mood changes are hurting your relationships.

Again, it can be helpful to look, not only at your moods themselves, but the affect they have on your life. If your loved ones say that your mood changes are hurting them, or making it difficult for them to spend time with you, listen to what they have to say.

6. You’re having trouble sleeping.

A lack of sleep can trigger mood swings, so if you’re mood is changing frequently, try to institute good sleep habits. However, an inability to sleep, in conjunction with mood swings, can also be a sign of other health issues, including depression.

7. Your moods are making it impossible to work, get out of bed, or live your life.

Mood changes are inevitable, but not to the extent that they interfere with your ability to live your life the way you want to. It’s one thing to feel happy or sad, but it’s another to feel like you can’t go to work, see your friends, have relationships, or get out of bed — all because of emotional swings that you can’t control.

If you’re experiencing frequent or intense mood changes that you feel could be signs of larger problems, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. You can find some useful mental heath resources right here.