Women's Health

What Are the Causes of Mood Swings in Females?

Mood swings are a common complaint among women — but what causes them? Learn more about the hormonal causes of mood swings.
Dr. Nayan Patel
PharmD

If you’ve ever experienced mood swings, you’re not alone. While many women are told that these unpleasant symptoms are just a fact of female life, nothing could be further from the truth.

Mood swings are quite common, but they are by no means normal. By understanding the science behind these mood shifts, you can better navigate the ups and downs of your emotional wellbeing.

What Are Mood Swings?

A mood swing refers to a sudden, often extreme shift in a person's emotions or feelings. These swings can range from intense happiness and euphoria to deep sadness, irritability, or anxiety. 

Mood swings can be triggered by various factors and can impact your ability to function effectively in daily life. While mood swings are common among both men and women, women tend to experience them a bit differently. 

Men may think of women as “moody” or “emotional,” but women are actually much more prone to mood swings than men are due to their monthly hormone changes. We’d like to see men try not to get a little moody during that time of the month!

Mood swings can be a normal part of life, or they may indicate an underlying issue that requires attention. If you notice your mood swings are becoming more frequent or intense, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional to rule out any possible health concerns and develop a plan for managing your emotions effectively.

What Are the Symptoms of Mood Swings?

The symptoms of mood swings can vary depending on the underlying cause. Common things to look out for include:

  • Intense and sudden shifts in emotions or feelings
  • Unstable moods that can last anywhere from several minutes to several days
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks
  • Irritability or feelings of frustration
  • Social withdrawal
  • Changes in sleep patterns, appetite, and energy levels
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or despair
  • Difficulty managing stress

Everyone experiences mood swings differently, and you may not experience every symptom. Any significant changes in your emotional baseline could be due to mood swings. 

If you're concerned about your mood swings or notice any major emotional changes, check in with a healthcare professional. While mood changes can be overwhelming, you don’t have to address them on your own.

What Can Cause Mood Swings in Women?

At their mildest, mood swings can be uncomfortable and overwhelming for the women who experience them. However, some women experience moderate to severe mood swings that significantly impact their daily life.

Let’s look at what can work together to cause mood swings in women.

Hormonal Fluctuations

A woman’s hormone levels are designed to change throughout her menstrual cycle. In the first half of the menstrual cycle, also known as the preovulatory phase, estrogen tends to be higher. This is why women may feel more confident and social during this time.

In the second half of the menstrual cycle, also known as the luteal phase, progesterone is the primary hormone at work. Healthy levels of progesterone can help lend feelings of calm and motivation. 

However, a hormonal imbalance in the second half of the menstrual cycle can lead to mood swings, irritability, and emotional sensitivity, which are common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). 

During pregnancy, hormonal changes can also cause mood swings. The sudden increase in hormones like estrogen and progesterone can lead to emotional instability, particularly during the first trimester. 

There are also some health conditions that can contribute to hormonal imbalances. For instance, those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) frequently experience low levels of progesterone in the luteal phase, which can trigger feelings of dissatisfaction, anxiety, and irritability.

Additionally, during menopause, women experience a decline in estrogen levels, which can lead to mood swings, irritability, and feelings of sadness. Many women in menopause turn to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), which may help alleviate these symptoms by maintaining healthy levels of estrogen.

Psychological Conditions

Untreated mental health disorders, such as depression, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), anxiety, or bipolar disorder, can also contribute to mood swings. While these conditions can exist on their own, they can often be exacerbated by hormonal changes.

Past traumatic experiences can also impact a woman's emotional well-being and lead to mood swings. Therapy or counseling can help women process and cope with these past experiences and may help stabilize these mood swings.

Finally, stress can be a significant contributor to mood swings. This is because cortisol, the stress hormone, can significantly affect the balance of other hormones in the body, including progesterone. Healthy coping mechanisms, such as meditation, exercise, or breathing techniques, can help you manage stress and support balanced mental well-being.

How Are Mood Swings and Mental Illness Different?

We want to remind you here that mood swings are not the same as a mental health condition, such as depression or bipolar disorder. While the symptoms of a mood swing can be similar to those associated with mental illness, mental illness is a persistent condition that requires professional diagnosis and ongoing treatment. 

If you're struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, it’s important to talk to your doctor. While these symptoms don’t always indicate a mental illness, it’s always better to rule out the possibility so that you can know how to move forward.

Environmental Causes

Believe it or not, external factors can have a significant impact on your mood, too. Living in a chaotic or stressful environment can make it difficult to maintain emotional balance. Exposure to negative stimuli, such as aggressive behavior, loud noises, or unpleasant sights, can also cause emotional distress and trigger mood swings.

A lack of exposure to natural light can also affect your mood. Sunlight can help regulate serotonin levels in the brain, which play a crucial role in mood regulation. Spending too much time indoors or living in a place with limited sunlight can affect serotonin levels, which may lead to mood swings.

Seasonal changes can also contribute to mood swings. For some women, the shorter days and colder temperatures of fall and winter can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression triggered by changes in sunlight exposure.

Lifestyle Factors

Lack of sleep can significantly impact your mood and overall emotional health. Sleep is essential for our bodies to rest and repair, and when we don't get enough of it, our ability to regulate emotions can be compromised. It's essential to practice healthy sleep hygiene and get enough rest in order to maintain emotional balance.

Certain medications can also lead to mood swings. Antidepressants, blood pressure medications, steroids, and even birth control are all known to cause emotional instability in some people. If you're taking a prescription medication and experiencing severe mood shifts, reach out to your doctor for advice.

Other lifestyle factors that can contribute to mood swings include poor nutrition, dehydration, and underlying medical conditions, like thyroid disorders. Make sure to talk to a doctor if you suspect an underlying medical condition may be the cause of your mood swings.

What Are Some Tips To Control Mood Swings?

When you’re in the middle of a mood swing, life can feel out of control. We’ve all been there before — overwhelmed with negative emotions, it’s all too easy to lash out at a partner or enter a downward spiral. Luckily, there are some conscious efforts, both physically and mentally that you can take to break the spiral. 

1. Identify Triggers

Paying attention to the situations or circumstances that surround your mood swings is one of the first steps to controlling them. Keep a journal of your moods, thoughts, and behaviors throughout the day, noting what preceded and followed each mood shift. 

This information can help you identify and avoid the things that trigger your mood swings. Common triggers include stress, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, disrupted circadian rhythms, and hormonal imbalances.

2. Exercise

Physical activity is beneficial not only for physical health but also for emotional well-being. Regular exercise can help regulate mood swings by providing a natural boost to mood-changing chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins and serotonin. 

Exercise can also improve sleep quality, which can, in turn, minimize feelings of stress and anxiety. It’s generally recommended to engage in moderate-intensity aerobic activities such as walking, cycling, or swimming for at least 30 minutes a day.

3. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment while observing thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations without judgment or reaction. Mindful awareness techniques, such as deep breathing, body scan, and meditation, can help to regulate emotions, minimize stress levels and increase self-awareness. 

Mindfulness-based therapies, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), may also help you increase your awareness of what might be triggering your mood swings.

4. Get Adequate Sleep

In general, it’s recommended to try to get seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night and avoid stimulating activities such as watching TV or using electronic devices before bedtime. 

To support your sleep quality, you may want to incorporate lifestyle changes like avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and limiting alcohol. While a glass of red wine can be a relaxing way to wind down, drinking too close to bedtime can cause side effects that might keep you awake longer than you’d like.

Establishing a consistent pre-sleep ritual can also help you feel relaxed and rested. This could include taking a bath, drinking a cup of tea, reading a book, or anything else that helps you feel relaxed.

5. Build a Support Network

Building a strong support network of family, friends, and support groups can help you cope with mood swings. Surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people who can offer emotional support, practical assistance, and encouragement can help minimize feelings of stress and build resilience. 

6. Relax and Recharge

Finally, allow yourself time to relax and recharge. Doing something you enjoy, such as reading a book or listening to music, can help minimize stress levels, improve mood, and decrease the frequency of mood swings. 

Taking time for yourself can also help you better manage relationships with family members or friends who may not understand your mood swings.

7. Seek Professional Help

If your mood swings are causing significant distress or affecting your daily life, we recommend seeing a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. They should be able to help you identify the underlying causes of your mood swings, teach coping strategies, and provide emotional support. 

Can Hormone Replacement Therapy Help With Mood Swings?

Although women can experience mood swings at any age, they are especially common during menopause. This is due to the hormonal fluctuations that often occur during perimenopause, which is the transitional period leading up to menopause. 

Fluctuating hormone levels during this time can cause the neurotransmitters in the brain to become unbalanced, leading to an unstable mood. It's important that women manage their menopausal symptoms in order to reduce mood swings — and one way to do this is through hormone replacement therapy.

How Can BHRT Help Regulate Mood?

BHRT works by introducing bioidentical hormones to help correct a hormonal deficiency or imbalance. One of the main hormones at work during mood swings is progesterone.

Just think about it: Mood swings are most common during times when progesterone levels tend to be out of balance, such as during pregnancy and menopause. Even low progesterone levels during a woman’s monthly cycle can contribute to emotional symptoms of PMS.

Using bioidentical progesterone replacement therapy can help to even out not just mood swings, but many other uncomfortable symptoms as well. While women in menopause can benefit from progesterone, many perimenopausal and postmenopausal women can enjoy the benefits, as well. Even women who are nowhere near menopause can feel relief with progesterone.

Like Dr. Bimisa Augustin says, “ I don't just treat if you're perimenopausal or menopausal, we have to find a common solution to help these other women that aren't anywhere near menopause — they need the help as well.”

Women’s wellness is built on hormonal balance. Here at Thrivelab, we specialize in using bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to help women experience holistic well-being. 

How Long Does It Take for BHRT To Improve Mood?

Once you start taking BHRT, you should see results within 90 days. During this time, it’s important to be patient and give the hormones time to work their magic.

However, there is a general timeline that you should be able to follow if you’re receiving BHRT. Here’s what you should notice as you progress in your treatment:

  • In two to four weeks, you may notice small improvements in your sleep and mood. While your mood swings might not be completely in the past, you may notice that you get them less frequently or that they’re not as in tense.
  • After two months, you may notice some larger changes. This is what our nurse practitioner Katie Jo likes to call “The Snowball Effect.” Now that you’ve addressed areas like sleep, you may notice more energy and emotional stability.
  • Within three to six months, you can see these effects continue to grow. You may even notice that you’ve lost a few pounds or that you’re more interested in intimacy with your partner.

As Katie Jo says, “hormones work from the inside to the outside.” Remember that BHRT isn’t a band-aid fix — it’s about getting to the root cause of your symptoms and starting at the bottom. It may take time, but trust us — it’ll be worth it. For more information on the timeline of BHRT, watch this video.

Mood Swings Explained

Mood swings can be overwhelming, but they can also provide some insight into your physical and emotional health. By understanding the possible causes of mood swings in women, you can take proactive steps to help minimize your triggers and improve your overall well-being.

If you're not sure what's causing your mood swings, it's crucial to talk to your healthcare provider or a mental health professional to identify the underlying issue and receive proper treatment. 

Remember, you're not alone in this journey — there are many options available to help you manage your mood swings. With the right support and self-care, you can take control of your emotions and live a more balanced life. 

Not sure where to start? Speak to a board-certified provider today to learn more about whether BHRT is right for you. Whether you’re searching for relief from menopausal symptoms or simply need some help getting a handle on your moods, our team is here to help. 

References

  1. What are Mood Swings and How to Manage Them | Centerstone
  2. Menopause | Endocrine Society 
  3. What is Mental Illness? | Psychiatry.org 
  4. Sunlight, Serotonin and Your Sleep Cycle | PBSNC 
  5. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic 
  6. Emotion, emotion regulation and sleep: An intimate relationship | PMC 
  7. Hormonal contraception and mood disorders | PMC
  8. Anxiety, Irritability & Mood Swings | Women in Balance Institute 
References
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