Mood swings are very common among women of all ages, especially those who have reached menopause. You can be laughing at one moment and sobbing the next. It is very disorientating for you and perhaps for those you are close with. It is important to know the key information about mood swings to be able to better understand what is going on in your body and mind.
What Is a Severe Mood Swing?
Mood swings are abrupt and irrational changes in mood throughout your day. Moderate ones are characterized by happiness, anger, and sadness that approaches in waves. You may transition from one emotion to the other in a couple of hours, with little to no justification.
Severe mood swings, however, are far more intense and come much more frequently. Instead of it taking an hour or so for feelings to change, it can happen within the hour. Your emotions can be explosive at times and leave you feeling like you're in a constant state of turmoil for no identifiable reason. Sobbing, yelling, depressive thoughts, and laughter interchange rapidly.
How Long Will it Last?
It differs from person to person. Mood swings can last just a couple of hours and then cease, which is called ultradian mood swings. Or, they can last for several days, which is called ultrarapid mood swings. Mood swings do not last for more than a week.
What Are the Causes?
There are many causes for mood swings. They can be caused by an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, substance abuse, stress, traumatic life events, or be a prescription drug side effect. In menopausal women, the most common cause is hormonal imbalance. When you go through menopause, your levels of sex hormones, such as estrogen, drop dramatically. This directly off-puts the levels of other hormones and chemicals responsible for controlling stress and inducing happiness, ultimately throwing off your self-esteem and mood.
When Do They Usually Come?
Mood swings are very prevalent among young women and adults throughout their cycles of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). They are also very pronounced during pregnancy. They come on most severe for many women during menopause, even if they had not experienced them in the past.
How Will They Affect My Life?
Severe mood swings can cause friction between you and your loved ones. This can leave you feeling alienated, thereby losing interest in social gatherings and creative activity. They can also make it hard to focus at work and tend to daily tasks. You may spend more time inactive, eating poorly or not enough, and sulking.
What Can I Do?
First, make sure you voice what you are going through to your loved ones. They will understand and be there for you, which always helps. Also, eating whole grains, vegetables, lean protein, and fruit will balance your body and mind. Staying healthy and making sure to get enough physical activity (30 - 40 minutes a day) is essential if you are experiencing severe mood swings. Additionally, check your prescription drugs to ensure mood swings aren't a side effect.
When Should I Seek Professional Help?
If you are having severe, constant mood swings for more than four days, then you may be at risk for bipolar disorder. If moderate mood swings are lasting more than seven days, this is also cause for worry of a more serious condition. Also, if your sadness has you feeling worthless, accompanied by suicidal thoughts, you may have major depression and should seek help immediately.
Understanding your severe mood swings is helpful and comforting during menopause. Awareness is half the battle to wellness. Luckily, even the severest of mood swings can be treated.
- Kowatch, R.A. , Monroe, E. & Delgado, S.V. (2011). Not all Mood Swings are Bipolar Disorder. Current Psychiatry, 10(2). Retrieved from http://www.currentpsychiatry.com/home/article/not-all-mood-swings-are-bipolar-disorder/7421647cc932604048d19d5d0e588848.html
- Marchand, W.R. , Dilda, V. & Jensen, C.R. (2005). Neurobiology of Mood Disorders. Hospital Physician, Sept, 17-26. Retrieved January 27, 2014, from http://www.turner-white.com/pdf/hp_sep05_mood.pdf