Should You Be Concerned About Your Mood Swings?

What's happening to you lately? One minute you're on top of the world, the next you're ready to rage at anyone who crosses you. You're up, you're down, you're happy, you're irritable—didn't you leave this all behind in middle school?

What's happening is, in a word, hormones. Our hormones change throughout our lives, rising and falling during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, post-pregnancy, and menopause. And while hormonal variations are a necessary part of life, an unfortunate consequence of all that shifting is mood swings. Not every woman gets them, of course, but they're common. And according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, women who were prone to mood swings around the time of their periods or during or after pregnancy are more likely to experience mood swings as they transition into menopause. These women are naturally more sensitive to hormonal changes.

When does all this happen? For many women, perimenopause—the period of years leading up to the actual cessation of your period—begins in the late thirties and forties. Although you still menstruate, your cycles may become somewhat erratic, and you may notice your body changing in different ways. You may:

  • Gain weight more easily, especially around your abdomen
  • Have hot flashes
  • Experience vaginal dryness
  • Notice your hair thinning or falling out
  • Find new hair growth on your face
  • Sleep less soundly
  • Experience forgetfulness or fuzzy thinking

All of these changes are due to see-sawing hormones—the same hormones that are causing your mood swings.

While mood swings should not be confused with clinical depression, they can cause women who experience them to suffer feelings of sadness and despair (not to mention upset friends, family and coworkers who must tiptoe around you and your changing personality). Sometimes hormone therapy can help, as can getting enough sleep and exercise. Certain vitamins can mitigate your symptoms, so be sure to eat a balanced diet and take a supplement if necessary.

When should you worry about your mood swings? Obviously, if you're alienating people, that's cause for concern. If you feel completely out of control, experience wild swings in mood (from tremendous highs to crashing lows), can't sleep, or have overwhelming negative thoughts, you could be dealing with something more than just hormonal mood swings. Talk to your doctor to be sure.