Mood Swings

Medically reviewed

Medically reviewed by Brenda G., MD | Written by SheCares Editorial Team | Updated: Jun 18, 2020

A woman suffering from mood swings may be happy one minute, feeling sad the next, and then angry, all for no apparent reason. It is very common for women to experience this rollercoaster ride of emotions when their hormones, which regulate mood and emotions, are thrown off balance.

Fortunately, there are ways to manage mood swings caused by hormonal imbalance, in all stages of life. So, continue reading to learn everything about mood swings, its causes, risk factors, signs and symptoms, prevention, and treatment options.

Mood Swings


Quick Facts about Mood Swings

  • An estimated 10-20% of pregnant women suffer from depression.
  • Women who experience PMS or post-partum depression are more likely to experience mood swings during menopause.
  • More than 50% of women experience mood swings during perimenopause.

Mood swings are characterized by an extreme or rapid change in mood, whereby the reaction seems disproportionate to the cause. One of the most likely causes of mood swings for women is hormonal imbalance. Although hormonal fluctuations take place naturally during a woman's menstrual cycle, many women suffer from disruptive symptoms of this hormonal imbalance, which is known as premenstrual syndrome or PMS.

Significant hormonal changes also take place during certain stages of reproductive life, such as puberty, pregnancy, post-partum - including breastfeeding - and menopause. These hormonal changes, like during PMS, can affect emotional stability as well as physical functioning, leading to symptoms like mood swings.

Identifying Mood Swings

It is difficult to accurately establish the different types of mood swings, since the individual experience of them can be drastically different from woman to woman. However, there are three criteria that can help identify ways in which this symptom may vary: frequency, duration, and intensity.

In order to understand the processes behind mood swings, continue on to the next section to read about their hormonal and non-hormonal causes.

About Mood Swings


Learning about the causes of mood swings provides the key to understanding how to prevent and treat these troublesome attacks. While the exact causes of mood swings are complex and not completely understood, most doctors and researchers believe hormonal changes are the primary cause of mood swings. In addition to these completely normal hormonal causes, other factors and medical conditions can, in more rare instances, cause mood swings.

Continue reading to learn more about both the hormonal and additional causes of mood swings.

Hormonal Causes of Mood Swings

Hormones are chemical messengers that control every process in the body, so when changes in these hormone levels occur, certain health disorders can arise. Medical researchers have found that fluctuating levels of hormones, especially estrogen, make women more susceptible to changing moods and depression. This is because estrogen and progesterone influence the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter also known as one of the “feel-good” chemicals because of its mood enhancing qualities, as well as its influence on appetite, sleep, sexual desire, and memory.

A deficiency in estrogen at certain points in the menstrual cycle and during phases of significant hormonal imbalance - puberty, pregnancy, post-partum, and menopause - causes levels of serotonin to decrease, and consequently results in mood swings. In this sense, we can say that mood swings are largely caused by the hormonal fluctuations during the changes women go through during their reproductive life.

Furthermore, there are also specific hormonal causes and typical environmental factors which can explain the occurrence of mood swings according to the stage of a woman's reproductive life in which this disorder appears, such as around PMS and during puberty, pregnancy, post-partum, and menopause.

Hormonal Causes during Different Phases in a Woman's Life

PMS is a consequence of hormonal fluctuations linked to the menstrual cycle. It is a collection of disorders, which may include mood swings, among others.

Puberty is the stage in which a girl's body begins to produce reproductive hormones; these and other factors, such as school and dating pressures, contribute to mood swings during puberty.

Pregnancy leads to extreme changes in the production of reproductive hormones, which along with other factors, like fatigue or bodily changes, can lead to mood swings.

Postpartum and breastfeeding is another stage where reproductive hormones are imbalanced, leading to symptoms like mood swings. Also, other factors contribute to mood swings in postpartum, like postpartum depression.

Menopause is the stage in a woman's life when production of reproductive hormones naturally declines, signaling the end of a woman's fertility. As well as hormonal causes, other factors add to the reasons for mood swings during menopause, including the experience of other symptoms of menopause.

Other Less Common Causes of Mood Swings

While hormonal imbalance is the major underlying cause of mood swings during a woman's life, experts also point out that mood disturbances may be caused by other, less common, underlying conditions including thyroid conditions, sleep disorders, and as a side effect of certain types of medication.

Keep reading to learn what these risk factors and triggers are that have such a profound effect on a woman's experience of mood swings.

Mood Swings - Causes
Women with PMS at risk for mood changes during hormone replacement therapy Women with PMS at risk for mood changes during hormone replacement therapy

Risk Factors and Triggers

Risk Factors for Mood Swings

Some women are more likely than others to suffer from mood swings because of inherent psychological, behavioral, and health reasons - such as obesity, stress, or past emotional trauma. These predisposing factors can affect a woman's hormone levels and increase the chances of developing mood swings during her reproductive life.

Triggers of Mood Swings

In addition to long-term risk factors, mood swings can also be triggered by certain environmental factors and behavioral habits. Avoiding these unhealthy environments or habits as much as possible may help to avoid the onset of mood-related symptoms. These include habits like smoking and keeping a sedentary lifestyle, as well as other external triggers.

Continue reading to discover the symptoms and signs of mood swings to be able to choose a treatment specific to its cause.

Mood Swings - Risk Factors and Triggers

Signs and Symptoms

Because each woman has her own individual way of managing emotions, stress, and of coping with difficult situations, each one will experience the symptoms of mood swings differently. However, many symptoms of mood swings are common among women undergoing hormonal imbalance.

Common Symptoms of Mood Swings

  • Frequent changes in mood, personality, or behavior
  • Mood depression or elevation
  • Unexplainable emotions
  • Lack of motivation
  • Extreme moods
  • Increased stress
  • Anxiety

What other symptoms might occur with mood swings? In addition to these general symptoms, mood swings may be accompanied by other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying cause or the specific stage which the woman is going through. These symptoms may be psychological (cognitive) or physical.

Signs of Mood Swings

As opposed to more noticeable symptoms, medical signs are measurable criteria that are usually assessed by a physician. The following medical signs will most likely be taken into account by a physician when diagnosing the disorder:

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Fluctuating blood pressure
  • Slightly elevated or reduced body temperature
  • Abnormal blood levels of reproductive hormones
  • Abnormal bone density reading

Diagnosis of Mood Swings

To diagnose and identify the symptoms of mood swings, a doctor must typically perform four procedures. First, he or she should review the patient's medical history, then conduct a physical exam, and finally do a psychological evaluation. The doctor may order additional tests, if necessary.

Complications of Mood Swings

In rare cases, when mood swings are left untreated, they can lead to certain complications, which are more risky for a woman's emotional and mental health. However, it is important to remember that in the majority of cases, mood swings will not require any serious medical intervention. These possible, but uncommon, complications of mood swings can include depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems, and they have some specific warning signs.

Women who experience frequent mood swings that are interfering with their daily lives may wish to treat or learn how to prevent them. Keep reading below to learn useful techniques and habits that will prevent mood swings or make them more manageable.

Mood Swings - Signs and Symptoms
Extreme Mood Swings: Important Things to Know Extreme Mood Swings: Important Things to Know

Prevention and Management

Preventing Mood Swings

While there is no single way to completely prevent mood swings, just as there is no way to stave off natural hormonal processes, there are a few steps that a woman can take to lessen her chances of developing severe mood swings, or to minimize the frequency of mood swings episodes.

Lifestyle changes for prevention are extremely important, especially with regard to diet, exercise, and healthy habits. Moreover, women may seek ways to complement these lifestyle approaches with the use of supplements that help enhance the endocrine system and, therefore, help prevent or ease symptoms of hormonal imbalance such as mood swings.

For women who are already going through the disorder, prevention may not be possible if mood swings have already appeared. Fortunately, there are many ways to manage them in order to prevent these “flare-ups,” or to lessen the intensity of the symptoms. Keep reading to learn about the different ways to manage mood swings.

Managing Mood Swings

Wherever a woman happens to be when experiencing a mood swing, or when feeling agitated, angry, or unnecessarily sad, there are effective ways to instantly manage mood. Making minor daily changes and avoiding triggers can make a huge difference for women who are trying to manage mood swings.

There are certain tips and tricks available that can help improve the experience of mood swings, giving women the tools they need to cope with a sharp shift in mood. There are general tips that women of all ages can use, such as certain breathing techniques, spending more time with friends, or keeping a journal.

Furthermore, there are also specific management tips that can be followed by women during puberty, pregnancy, post-partum, and menopause.

Alternative Management Tips for Mood Swings

Alternative treatments are also a great way to manage mood swings. These treatments will not tackle the hormonal cause behind most women's mood swings, but they are effective in reducing stress in the short and medium term. Alternative treatments include massage, acupuncture, and biofeedback.

While these measures often help to reduce the frequency and intensity of mood swings, they are unable to treat the root of the problem, which in most cases is hormonal imbalance. However, there are several natural treatments that can treat the hormonal causes of mood swings. Please continue to the next section to learn more about treating mood swings. Keep reading to discover approaches to treatments for mood swings.

Mood Swings - Prevention and Management


Mood swings, a common consequence of hormonal imbalance, can be frustrating for any woman who experiences them; however, some mood swings are so severe that they begin to interfere with daily life. Fortunately, it is more than possible to find an effective treatment for mood swings.

Three Approaches to Treat Mood Swings

Three levels of approaches can be considered for treating mood swings. These are categorized as: (1) Lifestyle Changes, (2) Alternative Medicine, and (3) Pharmaceutical Options.

Women are encouraged to begin with the least risky approach to mood swings treatment, lifestyle adjustments, and then proceed to the next level of care. While medical intervention is not usually necessary to treat mood swings, some women who are unable to find relief from lifestyle changes and alternative medicine may wish to consider pharmaceutical options, after properly assessing the risks associated with such a treatment. 


Lifestyle Changes for Mood Swings

This primary level of treatment involves the least amount of risk, though conversely it requires the highest amount of self discipline. Often simple changes in lifestyle can reap huge benefits in fighting mood swings, and achieving a higher overall level of health. Fundamentally, an improved diet, regular exercise, and healthy habits can do a woman great service.

While these changes will help alleviate mood swings, they do not directly address hormonal imbalance - the most common cause of mood swings - so further treatment may be necessary. Alternative medicine has proven to be an excellent way of treating mood swings related to hormonal imbalance in a safe and natural way.


Alternative Medicine for Mood Swings

Alternative medicines and supplements involve little to no risk and can be an extremely effective way to treat mood swings. In the case of herbal supplements, there are two main types that can be used: phytoestrogenic and hormone-regulating herbal supplements.

Phytoestrogenic herbal supplements

These supplements, such as black cohosh, contain estrogenic components produced by plants that complement the low estrogen hormones in a woman's body, helping alleviate mood swings. By introducing plant-based estrogens into the body, these herbs treat the underlying estrogen deficiency behind mood swings.

They are mainly effective for menopausal women who are more likely to have low estrogen levels but are not necessarily effective for women in other stages of life such as puberty.

Hormone-regulating herbal supplements

These supplements, including Macafem stimulate the body's natural hormone production by nourishing the pituitary and endocrine glands, helping the whole hormonal system produce hormones more efficiently. This ultimately results in balancing not only estrogen but other important hormones such as progesterone.

These supplements can be considered the safest and most natural way to treat the underlying hormonal imbalance behind mood swings, and can be taken throughout a woman's life, as they support the body's natural hormone production.

Additionally, there are some other types of supplements that can also alleviate mood swings, or at least make them more manageable, including vitamins and other herbal supplements.

A combination of approaches is usually the most effective route to take. Lifestyle changes combined with alternative medicine will most likely be the best way to alleviate the symptoms of mood swings. However, for some women the symptoms will be so severe that a more drastic treatment is necessary.


Pharmaceutical Options for Mood Swings

Interventions at the third level involve the highest risk and often the highest costs. Not all treatments are suitable for women at every life stage, so it is strongly recommended to speak to a licensed healthcare practitioner before starting any pharmaceutical treatments for mood swings.

There are two main types of pharmaceutical options that can be prescribed to treat mood swings: hormone-regulating medication and mood-regulating medication.

These three approaches are not mutually exclusive. A woman may use different approaches at different times or any combination of them, depending on the duration and severity of symptoms. Today more and more women find that dealing with menopause symptoms is best accomplished via a combination of healthy lifestyle and alternative treatments.

Mood Swings - Treatments
How to Control Mood Swings: 5 Considerations How to Control Mood Swings: 5 Considerations