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Like on a Roller Coaster: Learn to Control Mood Swings

23.08.2019 Author: psiholog pavel horoshutin

“I lived like on a roller coaster – from euphoria to despair. And I didn’t think that something was wrong with me, but I was even proud that I have such a wide emotional range. I considered myself a person with a taste for life, super-active and capable of deep feelings. It’s just sometimes that this person can feel so bad that she stops eating, drinking, washing, lays down against the wall and cries. This could no longer be called momentary weakness or harmless mood swings, it was a real depression. Both my daughter and husband were upset at such moments, but did not know how to help me. Neither did I. I just wanted to take a break from everything. And I tried to sleep as often and as long as possible”. 

– Alexandra, 28, accountant

 Mood swings are familiar to every person. We can be cheerful and friendly in the morning, and by the end of the day can feel sadness. Often, such changes in the emotional state are quite explainable: a lot of events happen to us during the day, we interact with many people, we have to argue with friends, defend our positions in the team, and respond to disturbing news from the outside world.
But some of us may experience sudden abrupt mood swings for minor or completely inexplicable reasons. And it can happen not once, and not twice during the day, but much more often. Suddenly – even for themselves – they go from laughter to tears, from tenderness to anger. People around often consider such people to be quick-tempered and even unhealthy.
Why does their mood change so dramatically? How can we deal with mood swings when this happens to us? We will discuss these issues in the article.

Contents:

  1. Why is everything so unstable: about the reasons of mood swings
  2. Mood swings in women
  3. Mood swings in teenagers
  4. Mood swings in men
  5. Self-test
  6. 5 tips on how to deal with mood swings “without victims”

Why is everything so unstable: about the reasons of mood swings

mood swings

“Sometimes the morning begins well, it’s easy on the heart… And suddenly saddness spreads from somewhere. Everything annoys me! And in a few minutes it passes, as if there was nothing like that.”

– Alina, 32, sales assistant

Mood swings are a fairly common emotional reaction of the psyche. In a short period of time, a person can experience a full range of feelings: instead of uncontrolled happiness comes a feeling of depression, a sharp sense of guilt or strong resentment, rage and anger. A person who is characterized by severe mood swings cannot control his/her inner state.
He/she conflicts with others and reacts to events in the outside world more aggressively than the situation requires. Such fluctuations in the emotional background lead to increased fatigue.
Frequent mood swings can be caused by physiological and psychological reasons.

Physiological reasons:

  • genetic predisposition;
  • puberty in adolescents;
  • hormonal imbalance and metabolism;
  • fluctuations in neurotransmitters;
  • endocrine disorders;
  • period of pregnancy and lactation;
  • menstruation and menopause in women;
  • age-related degeneration in the elderly;
  • weather sensitivity;
  • injuries, postoperative effects of anesthesia;
  • damage to the brain and nerve cells;
  • neurological disorders.

Psychological reasons:

  • nervous exhaustion, frequent stresses;
  • fatigue as a result of irregular working hours;
  • fatigue from hard physical labor;
  • overwork;
  • addictions (alcohol or drug abuse);
  • stress before exams in schoolchildren and students;
  • conflicts in the family and at work;
  • characteristic features of temperament.

Also, a constant pathological change in mood can turn out to be a mental disorder, which experts call cyclotemia. [1]
A more severe form of the disorder, which manifests itself in the form of affective (manic and depressive, and sometimes mixed) conditions, is qualified as bipolar affective personality disorder. Among people suffering from this disease, there are outstanding talented thinkers, composers, artists. For example, Vincent Van Gogh suffered from bipolar disorder. [2]

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Mood swings in women

“My constant mood swings began at the age of 17. I woke up with an excellent mood for the day, and already was crying at breakfast. In the afternoon I was active, and towards the evening I was full of apathy. I completely did not understand the reasons for my condition and did not know what to do with these differences. Since then, I periodically experienced something similar, especially in the spring. By the age of 25, friends began to call me hysterical, colleagues considered unbearable. There was a fear that everyone would turn their back on me. It seemed as if two different people live in me…”

– Tatyana, 35, advertising specialist

It is believed that women are more susceptible to mood swings than men. Hippocrates was the first to draw attention to such behavioral patterns in women. Sudden mood swings, fainting, memory loss, paralysis – he called these strange and variable symptoms hysteria (from the Greek hysteron – “uterus”). Hippocrates believed that hysteria occurs only in women: due to prolonged sexual abstinence, their uterus becomes mobile and, “wandering around the body”, presses on other organs and causes such strange states. [3]

Today, psychologists agree that hysterical disorder is a learned model of behavior that can be changed. We wrote earlier about  the treatment of female hysteria using the 7Spsy behavior modification technique. The dynamic rhythm of life, stress at work, responsibility at home – there are many reasons for mood swings in women. But the main reasons are associated with the cyclical nature of female physiology. Let’s consider them in more detail. 

Premenstrual syndrome

The course of the menstrual cycle provokes periodic mood swings in girls. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a consequence of hormonal changes. Relatively speaking, the body is upset due to non-pregnancy – an unfertilized ovum dies and leaves the body. During PMS, many women show increased irritability, aggression, irritability, tearfulness, emotional swings.

Pregnancy

From the first minutes of pregnancy, serious physiological changes occur in the female body. In turn, these changes affect the emotional state of the expectant mother. The hormonal system is being rebuilt, progesterone is being produced intensively. This hormone is necessary for the normal course of pregnancy. But at the same time, it has a depressing effect on the psyche: there is dissatisfaction with self and loved ones, nervousness, tearfulness, depression, and disturbing thoughts. This explains the frequent mood swings during pregnancy. 

Lactation

In breast-feeding mothers, the so-called “dysphoric milk separation reflex” may occur. A woman puts her baby to her chest, and at the moment before a rush of milk, negative emotions fall on her. During feeding, the mother experiences physical discomfort (tingling in the chest, sometimes quite painful). But it happens not from touching the chest and pain, but right before feeding. And this is also explained by hormonal surges: for milk to enter the breast, the level of dopamine (the hormone of pleasure) must decrease and the level of prolactin (the hormone responsible for milk) must increase. [4] 

Menopause

Sharp mood swings in women during menopause are the most noticeable outwardly symptom of menopause. As in the case of PMS, the changing emotional state here is a consequence of natural processes in the female body. But if before menstruation the swings last for a week or a half, then with menopause this period is much longer – from one and a half to several years. [5]

Mood swings in teenagers

mood swings in a teenager

“I don’t know how to talk with my son… He can change in a moment: he just calmly helped me put plates on the table, and after five minutes he jumps up from the table and locks in his room. And I can’t influence what’s happening to him”.

– Irina, mother of a 13 years old teenager

The mood swings in teenagers are also due to physiological reasons. At the age of 10-13 years, the appearance of a teenager begins to change rapidly, and these changes do not occur gradually, but in sudden jumps. The body changes: first the palms and feet are extended, then the arms, legs, and only then the shoulders and hips. Everything happens so fast that a teenager can notice something new in himself/herself literally every day. What is happening is not always clear and pleasant. A teenager does not know when these changes will end, where will they lead to, how to treat them. This causes natural anxiety and confusion.

During this period, the personality of a teenager is only being formed, he/she is very dependent on assessments and extraneous opinions, sensitive to criticism, especially when someone talks about his/her appearance. Even well-meaning parental comments can hurt. Relationships with peers, their jokes and sharp remarks add fuel to the fire. [6]
Parents should be as sensitive as possible in communicating with a teenager: speak frankly and explain that every adult has experienced the features of this life period, offer their support and help, but not insist on it.
Quarrels and scandals between parents during this period are especially painful for a child. The teenager copies the skills of self-regulation and behavioral techniques from the parents. Therefore, it is important to create a comfortable, calm environment for him/her.
Mood swings in teenage are generally the norm. However, sometimes they can be the first signals of serious problems, the resolution of which will require the help of a psychologist.

You should pay attention to the behavior of a teenager and consult a specialist if the following manifestations become strong and frequent:

  • violation of eating behavior (overeating, refusal to eat, preferring same food);
  • autoaggression (causing pain to himself/herself: wounds, cuts, burns);
  • an open expression of self-hatred and body hatred;
  • cruelty towards people and animals;
  • defiant and aggressive behavior;
  • a decrease in discipline and school performance;
  • forgetfulness and distraction;
  • inability to concentrate;
  • alcohol consumption;
  • impulsive behavior;
  • increased fatigue;
  • bouts of panic and fear;
  • sleep disturbance (constant drowsiness or insomnia against a background of mood swings);
  • appearance of phobias (fear of darkness, silence, loneliness, etc.). [7]

Mood swings in men

Mood swings in men can occur as a result of a midlife crisis. After 40, more often there are feelings of anxiety, dissatisfaction, sudden changes in the emotional state, apathy. By this time, a lot of mental and physical strength was spent on building family well-being, raising and making arrangements for children. A man sums up some results and may be dissatisfied with himself and the results he has achieved. The cause of frequent mood swings in young men may be a lowered level of the testosterone hormone.

Self-test

If, after reading the above, you have a suspicion that your mood swings are pathological in nature, we suggest that you take a small test. Please note that the results of this test will not serve as a confirmation of a mental disorder, but will tell you whether to pay attention to the problem.
From the statements below, choose the ones that are specific to your behavior.

1I often plan big things, but as I move towards their realization, my enthusiasm disappears
2From time to time, I am either active or non-initiative
3When I’m hungry, I’m easily annoyed
4My work schedule is unstable: I either work a lot and dynamically, or I procrastinate and sleep
5During a business or a friendly conversation, I may lose my desire to speak
6I often give up my intentions and decisions for no apparent reason.
7I can fall asleep with good thoughts and wake up depressed
8My emotional state is greatly influenced by a change of weather
9Periodically, I lose interest in everything that happens around me
10Quite often in business there is a feeling that I can move mountains, and then apathy and indifference come up

If you matched 7 or more statements with yourself, there is a reason to think how to learn to cope with mood swings, and stabilize your emotional sphere.

5 tips on how to deal with mood swings “without victims”

how to cope with mood swings

Our working capacity, relations with society and the state of health depend on changes in the emotional state. In a whirlwind of emotions, we may not notice how we hurt not only ourselves, but also loved ones.
We will give some recommendations that will help you cope with emotional changes without serious consequences.

1. Do not rush from work and responsibility

Take on your (usually, largest) part of the responsibility for changes in your mood. These are your emotions, even if they arose because of the events in the outside world. And there is a huge advantage: your emotions belong to you, and you can work with them. Try to keep a “journal of thoughts”: once again experiencing a hard feeling, write down your experiences and rate them on a hundred-point scale. By practicing this exercise for several weeks, you will more and more soberly evaluate the correspondence of your emotions to the significance of events.

2. Take a look from the side

If you suddenly feel fear or experience inexplicable sadness, try to understand what caused them. Any emotion has a meaning and function, and it has good reasons for appearing, even if we cannot understand them. The fact is that the brain stores in memory any important information that should protect us. For example, in the past you have experienced some kind of event related to danger or loss. Any such situation, even insignificant at first glance, will naturally evoke a response emotion. Try to find this reason and evaluate how significant it is throughout your life. This will help take control of emotions. 

3. Identify the direct source of worries

Refer to what was the reason for the change of mood, even if you do not see the obvious connection in the moment. Ask yourself the questions: “What exactly happened to me?”; “What exactly excited me?”; “What have I heard / seen / felt?”; “How did I react?”, etc. Mental speraking out the circumstances and sensations will weaken their severity, and you will quickly return to a stable calm state.

4. Let the emotions exit through the body

Listen not only to your consciousness, but also to the body. Any emotion, as a rule, is reflected in our physical condition – from an insult the throat becomes sore, from fear and anger, the heartbeat quickens. Be attentive to such feelings in order to track changes in mood earlier, and find for yourself a safe and comfortable way to lash the emotions.
Regular meditation, running or performing simple breathing exercises will help you realize your own resources to overcome mood swings, achieve harmony of the body and soul.
In particularly acute moments, you can perform expressive actions. To give vent to your emotions and not make a mistake, choose the appropriate way to express feelings. For example, to cope with a keen sense of resentment, cut or tear up an old thing that you have not worn for a long time. And spitting will help get rid of anger…. Yes, this advice may seem unpleasant or ridiculous, but it really works.
The main rule in such exercises is to stay alone and make sure that no one can hear or disturb you.

5. Accept yourself

Do not fix on the thought of the need to always be in a normal mood. An internal commitment to a strict standard of equilibrium can lead to complete apathy and depression.

Allow yourself to be in a different mood and learn to find healthy ways to express your emotions. By developing internal independence from social standards, you are more likely to find a peace of mind.

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References:

  1. Cyclothymia: treatment, ICD-10, symptoms and typical manifestations (https://psihbolezni.ru/rasstrojstva/tsiklotimiya-lechenie-mkb-10-simptomy-i-tipichnye-proyavleniya/).
  2. Bipolar depression (http://depressia.info/vidy-depressiy/bipolyarnaya-depressiya/).
  3. Who are tantrums (http://www.psychologies.ru/articles/kto-takie-isteriki/).
  4. If breastfeeding is not a joy: D-mar syndrome (https://www.babyblog.ru/community/post/breastfeed/3053587).
  5. Changes in the emotional background in women after 40 years (https://vmenopauze.ru/obshhee/perepady-nastroeniya-pri-klimakse.html).
  6. Mood swings in teenagers: how to explain them (https://mel.fm/blog/tsentr-perekrestok/7431-perepady-nastroyeniya-u-podrostkov-kak-ikh-obyasnit).
  7. Mood swings in a teenager: what to do (https://zen.yandex.ru/media/cognifit/perepady-nastroeniia-u-podrostka-chto-delat-5c2f7735e5e73b00aad0753c).