Episode 48: September 21, 2011
by Sanaz Majd, MD
Nothing irks women more than when we hear someone say “Oh, it must be her time of the month!” That really seems to diminish and patronize our views, and makes us feel like we are to blame for the debate or argument – right, girls? As if the problem is really our female hormones, and not that our significant other just forgot to put the toilet seat down (again). Ok, so maybe that’s not the best example, but you know what I mean.
There are times when we realize that if it wasn’t for our hormones acting up, we may not otherwise handle the situation in the same manner. And sometimes it has nothing to do with our “hormones” at all. So what causes mood swings anyway?
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What Causes Mood Swings?
Mood swings can be quite distressing for many women, and some of us have a tendency to experience them more than others. But our hormones aren’t always to blame. There are many causes of mood swings. Here are the 8 most likely:
1. Stress and Anxiety
People deal with stress in various ways. Some handle it better than others. When we have a lot on our plate – conflict with our spouse, children acting out, financial struggles, difficult co-workers or family members, or whatever else, sometimes it gets to be too much and we can break down.
Not everyone with depression expresses sadness. Some depressed people become angry or agitated instead. You may not realize that your mood swings are actually a symptom of depression.
3. Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is thought to be underestimated in the U.S. because patients often seek help from a doctor when they are depressed, but not when their mood is on the opposite extreme – manic. When in the manic phase, patients have so much energy that they often lack the need for sleep, overspend their finances, become promiscuous, or do overly ambitious things like paint the entire house in one day. Some patients can flip flop between the two extremes.
4. Lack of Sleep
Sleep is super important. Those who don’t sleep well often become irritable and find it more difficult to deal with life stressors.
5. Drugs and Alcohol
Alcohol and illicit drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamines, can bring on a high. But what goes up must eventually come down. Not only are drugs bad for our physical health, they do a number on our mental health as well.
6. Caffeine and Sugar
Most people can handle caffeine well at 1-2 cups a day; but not all. Caffeine at an excess, or for some people any at all, can make you jittery, bring on heart palpitations, and influence mood. The same goes for sugar. It may give you great energy at first, but when sugar wears off, we tend to crash and deplete our energy stores, and hence, our mood dips.
7. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
And yes, sometimes our hormones do in fact influence our mood. Patients who suffer from PMS report mood swings up to two weeks prior to the onset of their periods.
8. Menopause and Perimenopause
Estrogen withdrawal can steal our mojo, too. When estrogen levels drop, women just don’t feel well. I often hear women complain of mood swings, depression, and anxiety when they are experiencing this phase of their life.
How to Manage Your Mood Swings?
The principles of taming mood swings sound simple, but are often a challenge to incorporate into daily life. It takes effort, and unfortunately, there’s no easy pill or magic trick. Here are my 8 Quick and Dirty Tips to help manage mood swings:
1. Get enough sleep
Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, and keep a routine sleep-wake cycle. Don’t watch TV or do anything in bed other than sex and sleep.
2. Limit caffeine
Don’t drink more than one cup a day, or better yet, none at all, especially if you are sensitive to caffeine.
3. Limit alcohol
Don’t drink more than one glass of red wine per day. Anything more can potentially influence your mood and interfere with sleep.
4. Avoid Illicit drugs
Drugs can truly impact how we deal with life. They may give you a break from your stressors momentarily while you’re on a high, but the aftermath and long term health risks are just not worth it.
5. Keep a well-balanced diet
Avoid excessive carbohydrates and processed foods. Eat a balanced diet consisting of a complex carbs with a protein at each meal, along with at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
6. Drink water
Throw away those energy drinks and any drinks with sugar. Drink plenty of water throughout the day – add a slice of lemon to make it extra zesty.
7. Find a hobby
Whether it’s playing a sport, joining a yoga class, learning how to bead or sew, or anything that fancies you, hobbies are great outlets for our life stressors and help keep us balanced.
8. Get enough exercise
Exercise increases our endorphins – these are the “happy chemicals” that circle our brains to bring us joy. Get at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day on most days out of each week.
Think of these 8 tips as a work in progress, and set goals for yourself one at a time. For instance, in weeks 1 and 2, work on your sleeping schedule. Once you tackle that, move on to tip #2 and slowly wean off the caffeine, etc.
If you’ve mastered the above 8 tips, and yet find that your moods are still out of whack, it’s time to see your doctor. Your doctor will likely start with a blood test and then offer treatment options. These can include counseling, anti-depressants, hormones, or any other medications to address a chemical imbalance that your body may be experiencing.
Remember: If you EVER have thoughts of hurting yourself or anyone else, you should seek your doctor immediately and not wait until you have attempted to master the previous tips.
Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.
NOTE: All good things must come to an end, and I don’t mean just the end of this podcast. It has been my pleasure to host the Girlfriend MD show for the past year, but this is my last episode. However, with each ending, there’s a new beginning. And I’m thrilled to announce that I will be taking over as the House Call Doctor, in order to address a wider spectrum of health concerns. Please tune in every Wednesday for a new episode of House Call Doctor. Thanks for listening, my wonderful audience!