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Possible Mood Swing Causes

What Your Mood Swings Might Mean

By , Caring.com contributing editor
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We all have good moods and bad moods. After all, the circumstances of our lives are always in flux. Sometimes, though, the timing, intensity, or trigger of a mood swing can signal that something else is going on.

"More and more, we're learning that people with significant mood problems also have significant health problems, and vice versa," says Ken Robbins, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who's also board certified in internal medicine. Recent research shows that depression, for example, can cause physical changes to the immune system and inflammation, while other health problems can trigger mood states that complicate treatment and recovery.

Mood is obviously just one of many clues to health. But when mood swings are puzzling and notable, it's worth considering possible causes. Here are five:

Possible Mood Swing Cause: Perimenopause

One day you wake up inexplicably grouchy. The next, you're sunny and bright. For a woman of a certain age -- typically the late 30s through the early 50s -- the on-ramp to menopause may announce itself as shifting blankets of feeling. Perimenopause is the biological phase, usually lasting several years, that indicates the start of menopause.

As during postpartum "baby blues," shifting ovarian hormone levels cause these life-stage mood swings.

Women with a history of severe PMS or clinical depression tend to experience the mood swings of perimenopause most, according to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). Trouble sleeping can exacerbate them.

What else to notice: Companion symptoms of perimenopause include hot flashes, irregular periods, disturbed sleep, and vaginal dryness. North American women hit menopause (defined as having gone 12 months without a period) between 40 and 58, NAMS says.

What helps: Nonsmokers in perimenopause are sometimes prescribed oral contraceptives to level out mood, because they stabilize hormone levels.