Many teenagers experience a rollercoaster of emotions that can leave their families reeling.
But experiencing these violent mood swings in adulthood can be potentially damaging to relationships and overall wellbeing.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Jessica Sepel, an Australian clinical nutritionist and founder of JSHealth, and Tom MacLaren, a consultant psychiatrist, explained the common causes of these mood swings later in life – and how simple lifestyle changes could help you become more balanced.
Jessica told how having too much white bread, sugary food or caffeine can all lead to imbalances in the body that can lead to mood swings, as can issues with hormone levels.
Meanwhile Dr MacLaren said these mood swings could be a symptom of a deeper rooted mental health issue that might require more attention…
Many teenagers experience a rollercoaster of emotions that can leave their families reeling. But experiencing these violent mood swings in adulthood can be potentially damaging to relationships and overall wellbeing. stock images
One common cause of dramatic mood swings is a hormonal imbalance.
Many women will experience this around the time of their period due to a shift in the progesterone and estrogen levels, which rise and fall throughout the full menstrual cycle.
Fluctuations in estrogen can cause similar swings, or a depressed mood, during the perimenopause (the phase before periods stop completely) and the menopause.
Insulin, a hormone which manages our blood sugar levels, metabolism and energy, is also important for a balanced mood.
Jessica Sepel shared her advice with Femail
That’s because fluctuations in blood sugar can result in rapid mood changes, including low mood and irritability.
Anyone who thinks they might be suffering from a hormone imbalance should seek advice from a doctor.
Another cause of mood swings could be an undiagnosed thyroid issue. Imbalances and problems occur when the thyroid gland under or over produces hormones.
Hypothyroidism is the term for an underactive thyroid, one that produces too few hormones, and hyperthyroidism describes an overactive thyroid, one that produces too many hormones
Research has shown that patients with thyroid disorders are more likely to experience dips in mood as they are prone to developing depressive symptoms.
Jessica explains that we need adequate T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) for a healthy mood. These hormones also play an important role in controlling our weight, body temperature, muscle strength, and nervous system.
When these are not balanced, which could be due to hypothyroidism, our anxiety can spike and our mood becomes more chaotic.
lack of sleep
Lack of sleep can cause low mood, irritation and anxiety.
Studies show people who are sleep deprived report increases in negative moods (anger, frustration, irritability, sadness) and decreases in positive moods.
This happens because lack of sleep weakens the ability to adapt to frustrating situations resulting in increased incidences of getting angry.
The outer portion of the brain, the cerebral cortex, helps apply logic and aids in decision making whereas the emotional center of the brain is known as the limbic system.
It is the amygdala part of the brain which manages the emotional responses, memories, decision making and fight or flight responses.
When an anger trigger is sent to the brain the amygdala decides whether it is sent to the limbic or cerebral cortex and when a person is tired the cortex is overridden, creating a highly emotive reaction.
Jessica added that sleeplessness is often a symptom of mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
The vicious circle occurs as anxiety and stress increase agitation keeping the body awake and alert.
Your heart may beat faster and your breathing becomes quick and shallow not allowing your brain to switch off and rest therefore making you more stressed and anxious as the body is kept in a contact state of anxiety and irritability.
Eating too many refined carbohydrates is a problem for mood balance. High intakes of unhealthy, processed carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries, cause blood sugars to rise and fall rapidly. This can lead to low energy and irritability. stock images
As a nutritionist, Jessica said she ‘loves’ to tackle mood swings nutritionally first, and usually asks people to provide a full insight into their lifestyles and diet.
Small things like having too much caffeine or not drinking enough water can have a major impact on your emotions.
Blood sugar fluctuations and nutritional imbalances are often to blame. Without a steady source of fuel from the foods we eat, our minds and bodies don’t function well.
Skipping meals, in particular breakfast can lead to low blood sugar, which will leave you feeling weak and tired.
Also if you reduce the variety of foods in your diet, it can be tricky to get the essential nutrients you need, for example low levels of zinc, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids are all associated with worsening mood and decreased energy.
Jessica said a probiotic and fish oil can also be useful alongside Saffron and by adding more greens and protein to your diet allows for stable blood sugar levels and a better mood.
In addition, eating too many refined carbohydrates is a problem for mood balance. High intakes of unhealthy, processed carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries, cause blood sugars to rise and fall rapidly. This can lead to low energy and irritability.
Exercise helps reduce feelings of anxiety because it not only releases endorphins and serotonin, but gives your mind something else to focus on, like keeping your breathing steady.
Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers and trigger feelings of euphoria. As well as boosting your mood, endorphins also reduce feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, and can increase your self-esteem.
Serotonin is sometimes referred to as the ‘happy chemical’ because it contributes to wellbeing and serves several different functions within the body including regulating your mood. When your serotonin levels are healthy, you will feel more focused and more emotionally stable.
When we exercise, our blood flow is increased, which helps to carry oxygen and nutrients to our muscles making us feel more energized and alert.
Jessica said people who work out regularly are generally more balanced and can manage their personal and work life better.
In addition, she says that when coupled with healthy nutritious eating, sleep improves, which all go hand in hand for emotional wellbeing.
Tom MacLaren, consultant psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health, pointed out that mood swings often persist into adulthood, especially for people with mental illnesses that make their emotions harder to manage
Tom MacLaren, consultant psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health, pointed out that mood swings often persist into adulthood, especially for people with mental illnesses that make their emotions harder to manage.
The London-based doctor says that sometimes ‘quite small triggers’ can set off these angry and upset emotions ‘without warning’ but for those who have grown up with more intense feelings and complex emotions, ‘mood swings can be more frequent.’
People with low mood, depression and anxiety (all very common mental illnesses) can also struggle with big mood swings that can be hard to predict.
Mood swings are a result of abnormal levels of a certain neurotransmitter, such as serotonin, which affects the brain and nervous system, altering your mood without you feeling in control.
Mood swings are also caused by the natural fluctuation of hormones, but can be made worse by factors such as a lack of sleep, alcohol consumption and stress.
As an adult it is important to look after your mental health and monitoring mood swings could be a good way to find out what is causing them and if they are linked to mental health.