Mood Swings

Mood swings are sudden changes in how you feel. They’re caused by changing levels of brain chemicals. They can be a regular part of life, like hunger. Or they can be a sign that something else is going on, like adolescence, the transition to menopause or a mood disorder.


Mood swings in stages of life and conditions
Everyone has mood swings. But they’re more common at different times in life or if there’s a medical issue.

What are mood swings?

Mood swings are sudden changes (swings) in how you feel at a particular time (mood). Sometimes, you know what causes a good or bad mood. Other times, you can’t really pinpoint exactly why you feel like you do.

Research suggests that chemicals in your brain (neurotransmitters) determine how you feel. Many things can make the levels of these chemicals rise or fall, including missing a meal, taking a walk, playing with a puppy, getting your period and more.

Ups and downs are a regular part of life. You can be feeling fine for a while and then, like a playground swing, change direction. But when you’re swinging on a playground swing, you can anticipate when the swing will go up and down and back and forth. Mood swings usually aren’t that predictable.

Although sudden changes in your mood can be unsettling, it’s important to remember that everyone has mood swings. But if they happen frequently or have a negative impact on your life, you should talk with a healthcare provider.


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Possible Causes

What can cause mood swings?

Changes in levels of neurotransmitters cause mood swings. Just about everything in life has some impact on those chemicals. But mood swings are more common in some stages of life and in people with certain medical conditions. Substances like alcohol and medications can also play a role. Learning more about the possible causes of mood swings may help you anticipate when you might feel a shift — or at least understand why it’s happening.

Life stages

Life is full of changes. And some stages of life are marked by more physical (and hormonal) changes than others. You’re more likely to have mood swings during the following life stages:

  • Adolescence. There’s a lot of change in this stage of development. The emotional and physical changes in puberty make mood swings very common. They tend to become less severe and less frequent as teenagers become adults.
  • Pregnancy and postpartum. Many factors can lead to mood swings when you’re pregnant or have just had a baby. These include changes in hormones, sleepless nights (and days!), the lifestyle changes that come with being a new parent, the stress of trying to interpret your newborn’s cues and more.
  • Menopause. During menopause, extreme changes in estrogen levels can lead to mood swings.

Medical conditions

Conditions affecting various parts of your body — from your brain to your thyroid — can impact your mood. Examples include:

  • Brain conditions. Conditions like Alzheimer’s, brain tumors, dementia and abnormal buildup of fluid in your brain (also called normal pressure hydrocephalus) can cause mood swings.
  • Conditions that affect blood sugar. Researchers have linked conditions like diabetes and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) to mood swings.
  • Migraine. If you experience migraines, you may notice mood swings in the 24 hours before you get a headache. This is part of the first phase (prodrome) of a migraine.
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). Conditions that cause your thyroid to make more hormones than you need can lead to mood swings, including conditions like Grave’s disease, thyroid nodules and thyroiditis.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Mood swings are a common symptom of PMS and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
  • Sleep deprivation. Not sleeping enough sleep — or having disrupted or restless sleep — makes it harder to process emotions. This can lead to mood swings and irritability.
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI). After a sudden, severe injury to your head that damages your brain (traumatic brain injury), your behavior and/or personality may change. You may have more frequent or more severe mood swings marked by aggression,a lack of concern or interest in things or people, or trouble trusting people.

Mental health conditions

Sometimes, mood swings are symptoms of mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder. Or they may relate to other mental health conditions, like:


Many different substances, including ingredients in medications, can lead to mood swings. Examples include:

Care and Treatment

How are mood swings treated?

Mood swings usually don’t need treatment. But if they start to impact your relationships, work or education, help is available. Your healthcare provider will focus treatment on the condition causing your mood swings. Treatment may include:

What can I do to stop mood swings?

To a certain extent, ups and downs are part of life. There’s not much you can do to stop mood swings completely. But there are things you can do to reduce how often you experience them or how severe they are when you do, including:

  • Getting outside. Spending time in nature can help you feel less stressed and improve your mood.
  • Getting regular exercise. Jobs and other circumstances might make us sit a lot. But adding more movement to your daily routine can affect your mood in positive ways. Research shows exercising releases mood-boosting chemicals and can help with sleep.
  • Eating more foods that help regulate your mood. This means more lean proteins and colorful vegetables, and fewer processed foods and added sugars.
  • Practicing deep breathing. Breathwork can reduce stress and help you take time to process a situation before responding to it.
  • Trying light therapy. Using a light box in the fall and winter months can increase serotonin and improve mood.


When To Call the Doctor

When should mood swings be treated by a healthcare provider?

Everyone has mood swings from time to time. But you might want to talk to a healthcare provider if mood swings start to:

  • Happen more often.
  • Lead to stronger emotions.
  • Make you feel out of control.
  • Affect your work or schooling.
  • Impact your relationships with others.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

With so many factors that can contribute to mood swings, they can start to feel like a part of everyday life. And there's some truth to that. But that doesn’t mean they have to disrupt your life or make you feel like you’re no longer in the driver’s seat. There’s a lot you can do to manage mood swings — from changes to your daily routine to medical treatment. And you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re having more — or more intense — mood swings or they become a source of tension in your relationships, a healthcare provider can help.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 02/06/2024.

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