We’ve all been there. You succumb to a random crying jag on your otherwise cheery run. Or you snap at your significant other for being the no-biggie, usual-bit late. When your mood shifts dramatically, you might be wondering what’s up.
We all have mood shifts at times, whether triggered by something real or perceived. Life’s usual mix of ups and downs can bring on a bout of irritability or heightened reactivity.
So how do we know if our pendulum of feelings is related to typical stress, our cycles, or a mood disorder we may need pro help navigating? And if our shifts in mood are affecting our lives, how can we have more control over this carnival ride?
Take this mood swing self-assessment
1. Do you regularly experience extreme highs and extreme lows?
On the hike of life, we all navigate peaks and valleys here and there and some stretches of steady terrain — you know, when things are kind of just ho-hum.
But constant emotional volatility could be a sign of something else.
If you’re altering your mood with substances like alcohol, the dramatic changes of a high or buzz followed by withdrawal or a hangover might lead to swings in your state of mind. Check your caffeine consumption, too. That late-afternoon cold brew could be the culprit.
A small indulgence in alcohol, especially during festivities, could modify your mood temporarily. But constant emotional volatility could be a sign of something else such as perimenopause.
If you’re in your 30s and 40s, there’s a chance it’s perimenopause. This stage begins several years before women actually stop menstruating, and they usually don’t realize it. Their estrogen levels can spike and dive a bit more sporadically during this time, causing fluctuations in mood.
Another more serious consideration, if your shifts in mood follow a pattern, is bipolar disorder (BP). This psychiatric disorder is characterized by extreme mood shifts.
In BP, an intensely elevated mood is called episodes of mania and may involve energetic or impulsive behavior which lasts at least a week.
It can last less if symptoms become so severe that the person must be hospitalized. A plummeted mood, or depression may involve intense sadness or fatigue lasting at least 2 weeks.
2. Do you go through periods of sadness, irritability, anger, or anxiety that last longer than two weeks and aren’t related to a major life event?
Struggles or big changes, such as a breakup, divorce, job loss, move, and more, can toss us into a bit of a downward spiral. And grief over the death of a loved one — human or pet — can bring on a range of emotions.
Women are more vulnerable to a down-in-the-dumps frame of mind right before they get their periods. Hello, PMS.
If you feel hopeless or devoid of energy on the regular or for weeks and weeks, depression could be to blame.
Depression is also a commonly reported side effect of birth control pills.
3. Are your shifts in mood harming your relationships?
If we have the rare snippy moment or just need our space, the people who love us understand and cut us some slack. And we do the same for them.
We all spin our wheels about our relationships occasionally, and a little DIY cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help get us out of a rut or decide on an appropriate course of action.
Long-term patterns could cause major relationship changes, and patterns may be a sign of a mood disorder. Any mood disorder can cause you to unwittingly withdraw from others.
Personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD), can cause similar behaviors. Some of the symptoms of BPD include alternating between idealizing and devaluing others, feeling angry without cause, and lashing out.
4. Are your shifts in mood impacting your job, schoolwork, or ability to function?
Work or school can be chaotic with meeting deadlines and even dealing with people’s BS. Tension can lead anyone to react in frustration, feel more sensitive to criticism, or need more time than usual to complete a to-do list.
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You may just need a little help soldiering through stressful times, especially when you’re PMessy. Try adaptogenic herbs to keep you calm and ward off moodiness.
If you’re regularly struggling to get out of bed or complete everyday tasks, that’s a concern.
For women, feeling drained of energy before or during their periods is common, but exhaustion throughout a cycle could be a symptom of a health condition such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, or chronic fatigue syndrome.
Long-term and severe low energy could also be a sign of depression. Paralyzing periods of procrastination or worry about work performance could be a sign of anxiety.
If a woman is always down the second half of the month or is irritable right before they start a period, this could be associated with hormones.
If the mood swings are erratic and not able to be tied to a certain part of a cycle, it’s unlikely they’re tied to hormonal shifts.
Tracking the shifts in mood can help determine if they’re tied to a menstrual cycle.
Changes in mood in women are possibly linked to their cycle, or they may simply be regular ups and downs.
Tracking the moods in tandem with a cycle may help a woman become more aware of when she will be on edge.
Your answers don’t indicate that your changes in mood are severe or that they’re impacting your life. If you’ve found a clockwork to any weepy or testy moments, your hormones might be working your nerves.
If you ever feel like mood shifts are interfering with your life, never hesitate to talk to a doctor.
About 3 to 8 percent of women who experience PMS have a harsher form of it called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
PMDD could make a woman intensely irritable, angry, sad, or anxious in the weeks or days before her period. People with existing mood disorders may also feel a flare-up of related symptoms as a result of PMS or PMDD.
Talk to a doctor about what you’re experiencing. They can help you work through solutions and make any needed referrals.
Your emotional shifts could be a result of depression or another mood disorder.
Through your answers, you’ve indicated that your shifts in mood are either severe, lengthy, or damaging your relationships or work. Or, you’ve indicated a combination of all of these things? If your mood is impacting your life, that’s hard to deal with on your own.
Talk to a mental health professional to find out if you’re experiencing symptoms of a mood disorder and to learn about tools and techniques for coping with intense feelings or reactions.
This assessment is for informational purposes only. It’s not meant for diagnosing yourself or others with a mood disorder. If you suspect you need help with shifts in mood or other mental health conditions, consult a mental health professional.
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