Out of the two sexes, it is rarely men who are accused of having unpredictable moods; whether fairly or not, it is the fairer sex who is most often described as having moods that change like the tide and that can be unpredictable and sometimes vengeful. But what is the cause of this? What's normal? And if you or someone you know is having mood swings then what can you do to help?
Causes of Mood Swings in Women
A mood swing is defined as a mood that changes erratically, often going from one extreme to another but without external factors that would warrant such sudden changes. There are many different causes of mood swings and some of these are slightly more likely to occur in women, while others can affect anyone equally. Here we will look at some of those causes.
Hormones are essentially responsible for all of our emotions and our outlook events could cynically be boiled down to how much dopamine and serotonin we have in our brain. Women's hormones of course infamously tend to go awry at a certain time of the month and this occurs as a result of changes in level of estrogen during PMS (premenstrual syndrome). This is then made worse by the obvious existence of pain and discomfort during that time and this can result in a short temper.
The severity of periods varies to a large extent between women and so the extent to which their moods are affected will vary as well. While some women might experience very severe mood swings during this time, others will be more placid.
During the menopause women will find that their hormones change in a similar way to the way they change during PMS as their hormones change. The good news is that following the menopause the PMS-related mood swings will cease; the bad news though is that the menopause can last years...
Other Hormone Disorders
Other hormone disorders can also cause mood swings. For instance hypothyroidism which is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormones in order to encourage the body to burn fat and provide energy. This is a condition that is slightly more common in women than men.
A range of psychological disorders can result in mood swings and this includes depression – especially particular forms such as bipolar depression which is characterized by sudden extreme mood changes from 'mania' to severe depression. Again this is a condition that is statistically more likely to affect women than men.
Stress is another large cause of mood swings and can affect moods in a number of severe ways and when we are stressed it will take a lot less in order for us to 'snap' or lose our temper and we will also be more prone to bouts of crying and depression.
Dealing With Mood Swings
The first thing to remember when dealing with someone who has mood swings is that they are not likely to be enjoying it any more than you are. Though it may not seem that way, it is they who is the victim and not you. If you are the person experiencing the mood swings meanwhile then you are no doubt aware of this, but you could probably do with acknowledging the moods of others around you and think about how your moods are affecting them. Moods are contagious in a sense – in that your actions will very likely dictate the moods of others. If you can't prevent your own mood swings, then you can at least be sensitive to others and try to keep a relatively calm facade for their sake.
In most cases, someone who is having a mood swing will want either someone to listen to their troubles or they will want to be left alone. Bear in mind that if you want to lend a helpful ear and be that person to listen then this does mean listening. Offering solutions will often not be helpful (which is a more male approach to the situations) and often it will belittle the problem. Rather you should just reassure them, sympathize and remind them that they are strong and capable of getting through.
If you are experiencing a mood swing yourself then you can choose either to vent to a friend or loved one who you know will understand, or you can choose instead to just shut yourself away and work through it. Sometimes crying can genuinely help and this is a healthy form of catharsis. Alternatively you can try to distract yourself with something that might elevate your mood. Using some calming music such as classical music can help you to lower your heart rate and relax, while watching a good film can also help – especially something lighthearted such as a comedy that will make you smile and that you know you enjoy. Sometimes the very best option is sleep.
Remember not to take it out on other people and remember to think calm down before you shout at anyone – otherwise it is easy to end up saying something that you might regret. After you've slept on it – then you can deal with whatever is upsetting you. Chances are that it won't seem so bad in the morning anyway.
Long Term Solutions
There are also long term solutions to mood swings and if you visit a doctor then they may recommend one or two courses of action. For instance a doctor might suggest that you use hormone replacement therapy. This is most suitable for those who have mood swings as a result of their menstrual cycle or as a result of menopause. This has some negative side effects however and is not a permanent solution. In some cases it is possible to prevent mood swings by using the contraceptive pill, or other contraceptive methods, and this can then help you to avoid periods that result in severe mood swings. Some doctors may also recommend antidepressants or other mood enhancing drugs that again affect the hormone levels in the brain, and which will be particularly suited of course to depression and other psychological conditions – though again these can have side effects, may be addictive and are often expensive.
A different strategy to medication and hormone treatments is to use therapy. This doesn't have to be anything invasive, but rather can be something along the lines of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). Here you are taught to recognize the negative thoughts in your mind that can lead to the mood swings in the first place and to replace them with positive ones using such techniques as positive affirmations. You might also be taught coping techniques that you can use to slow down your breathing and calm your mood again. This might be something like meditation used in order to still your mind, or breathing techniques. You may also use these strategies in combination with a heart rate monitor. This strategy is what's known as biofeedback and it means getting information from your body such as your heart rate and pulse rate and then using this information to identify which strategies are working and to learn how to identify the signs of arousal that precede a mood swing. Eventually using biofeedback it is possible to become more in-tune with your body so that you can control your heart rate and mood at will.
If you or the female in your life are experiencing mood swings as a result of stress however then an obvious solution is to identify the causes of the stress and then seek to rectify these. By going to the route of the problem it is possible to make healthy changes that will positively affect mood as well as many other aspects of your life and health.