We all experience changes in our mood, how we feel and the emotions we experience, these are usually associated with something that is going on in our life. Because antidepressants have been found to improve depression it was believed that low mood was caused by a ‘chemical imbalance’. However, the evidence for this is weak, and if brain chemistry does change, it is not known if this is the result of depression or the cause. The understanding of depression is complicated by the fact that antidepressants generally have good evidence showing that they can help, particularly with more severe depression.
Often, changes in mood are not very significant or noticeable. For example, we might wake up feeling low if we’ve had a bad night’s sleep, but feel happier a couple of hours later once we’ve had some pleasant experiences like breakfast, sunshine, sharing a joke with a friend, etc.
More severe mood changes can be much more difficult to deal with. They can happen quickly, where someone feels happy and upbeat then suddenly feels low and anxious, or they can change after longer periods of time. These changes in mood can be extreme, and difficult to understand by the person experiencing them and those around them. They can occur following traumatic experiences and stressful life events such as bereavement and divorce. Since hormones play a large part in our emotional wellbeing, women may experience mood changes during their menstrual cycle and during menopause.
When these mood changes start to impact on our daily lives, such as affecting our ability to work or socialise, our relationships with friends, family, loved ones and colleagues, or cause us personal concern, then it may be helpful to seek advice and support.
Where possible, it can be helpful to work out why mood swings are happening. Understanding what is going on can be a relief and can enable you to seek the support could aid your recovery. The answer may lie in lifestyle changes such as improving your diet, being more physically active or reducing alcohol use. However, there may be underlying issues which you may wish to address, either through your own support networks, or with support from professionals.