What Causes Irritability and Mood Swings

We, and everyone in our sphere, are well aware when we are feeling edgy. Everything seems to annoy us, frustrate us, or infuriate us. We know we are off-putting on these days, how no one wants to be around us. Sometimes these nasty moods disappear as fast as they came on and we feel calm and pleasant again…only to be followed by a repeat the next day. Or, our moods might shift between depression on one day and feelings of mania the next. What gives? What causes irritability and mood swings anyway?

While most of us will have our share of testy days when everything just rubs us the wrong way, these bouts of irritability are not the norm. However, some individuals suffer from chronic irritability that can negatively impact their interpersonal relationships, and even their career. Irritability cast a negative energy that can permeate the space, making everyone feel uncomfortable.

Chronic mood swings might be a sign of a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder. Mood swings are also among the list of symptoms for anxiety and depression, meaning that a psychological evaluation is in order. Mental health conditions are usually highly treatable, which can make a profound difference in quality of life.

Mental Health Disorders Associated with Moodiness

When you feel as if you are mentally unstable, with mood swings and irritability are disrupting your daily life, it is time to consider the possibility that you may be struggling with a mood disorder. Understanding what causes irritability and mood swings through reaching a diagnosis is the first step in addressing the issue.

Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder has four different classifications, including bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, cyclothymic disorder, and bipolar with mixed features. Generally, bipolar disorder involves fluctuating mood swings between depressive episodes and manic episodes.

Anxiety disorder: There are various anxiety disorders that include mood swings and irritability as symptoms of the disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and panic disorder are likely to be included in what causes irritability and mood swings.

Depression: Depressive disorders feature low mood, or feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair that can impair daily functioning. In addition, individuals struggling with certain types of depression may experience moodiness and irritability, especially premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

Causes of Mood Disorders

So, exactly what causes irritability and mood swings to the degree that it becomes a mental health disorder? Science has yet to definitively define the exact causes of depression or bipolar disorder, although there are some identified factors. These include:

  • Biological. The brain structure itself may be different in individuals with bipolar disorder. Also, imbalances in biochemistry, such as the neurotransmitters, may be involved.
  • Environmental. An unstable family environment, neglect, abuse, unexpected death of a loved one and other stressful life events or situations may be factors.
  • Genetic. Mood disorders are often hereditary, with successive generations experiencing depression, anxiety, or bipolar.

How a Mood Disorder Impacts Daily Life

Daily life operates on communication and interaction with others. When moodiness or irritability get in the way of that it can hinder our ability to function optimally. Relationships can be damaged due to a mood disorder, as can one’s reputation on the job. Employees who are considered “difficult” may be passed over for special projects or promotions. Children may also bear the brunt of a parent’s mood disorder, not understanding why their mother or father is always so grumpy or sad or unpredictable.

A mood disorder isn’t something one can just shake off. You don’t wake up the next and feel normal. In fact, over time an undiagnosed and untreated mood disorder can develop into a more serious mental health disorder that could further negatively impact quality of life.

Getting Help for Mood Swings

The process of learning what is causes irritability and mood swings usually begins with a physical examination. There are some medical conditions that can cause these types of emotional or behavioral issues, such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, sleep disorders, or hormone imbalances. The physician will conduct a thorough examination and order blood work to eliminate the possibility of a health condition.

If the physical exam does not reveal a medical cause for the excessive moodiness, the doctor will then refer the individual to a mental health provider for further evaluation. The psychiatrist will interview the individual to learn about what might be triggering the symptoms, if anything, and gain as much information through assessments to arrive at a diagnosis. From that point, he or she will design a treatment plan for the specific diagnosis.

Treatment for a Mood Disorder

Treatment for a mood disorder usually includes two principle modes of therapy: drug therapy and psychotherapy. The type of psychiatric medication and psychotherapy will depend on the specific mood disorder, whether it is depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.

Medication will likely fall into one of the following categories:

  • Antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines or sedatives
  • Anti-psychotic medications
  • Mood stabilizers

Psychotherapy can be tailored according to the features of the mood disorder, but might include the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy

With treatment it is entirely possible to live a productive and happy life while managing a mood disorder.

The Importance of Learning How to Relax

In addition to the front-line interventions, many providers now include holistic therapies in the treatment plan for individuals with a mood disorder. This is because of the relaxation benefits of utilizing these therapies, and controlling the stress response is critical in helping to reduce the mood swings and irritability. Learning how to calm oneself down when triggered through the practice of relaxation techniques can be an essential aspect of managing the mood disorder. Some of these relaxation activities include:

  • Yoga. Yoga is an ancient Eastern practice that entails slow, methodical movements and poses that open up energy flow. Combined with meditation and focused breathing, yoga can induce a deep sense of calm.
  • Mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness allows the individual to control their wandering, stressful thoughts and instead focus on the present moment. Mindfulness helps us to acknowledge our surroundings, sensations, emotions in a non-judgmental way.
  • Meditation. Meditation can take many forms, but usually involves some quiet time to reflect or pray. Some benefit from using a meditation audio program that provides imagery to focus on that can help increase a sense of peace.
  • Acupuncture. Another ancient practice from China, acupuncture opens up blocked energy flow in the body by inserting small needles in particular regions. This can lead to a sense of relaxation and improve mood.
  • Massage. Massage therapy can relax body tension in the muscles, which releases toxins and induces a deep sense of relaxation.
  • Deep breathing. Breathing becomes shallow when we are irritable or stressed. Focusing on the breathing process is a quick way to alleviate feelings of anxiety or irritability. Deep breathing exercises can be done anywhere at any time
  • Gardening therapy. Spending time outdoors in the garden can be very edifying. Being out in nature is uplifting, and the sun exposure provides vitamin D, which can improve mood.
  • Art therapy. Working through emotions using an art medium can be very relaxing, as well as providing new insights about your state of being. Art therapy is helpful for expressing difficult feelings.
  • Aromatherapy. Essential oils are made from plant and flower parts and distilled into a potent form of oil. These are used in aromatherapy, or breathing in the essence of particular oils that can boost mood and calm the mind.

Can Diet Make a Difference?

Increasingly, it is being found that individual mood states can be influenced by dietary selections. Certain foods can exacerbate moodiness and irritability and should be avoided or limited. Foods to avoid include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Sugary foods
  • Fast food
  • Dried fruits
  • Cold fruits and salads
  • Potato chips
  • Soda
  • Caffeinated drinks

To better balance your mood it is best to eat a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids sources such as salmon, spinach, soybean, mackerel, chia seeds, and walnuts. In addition, eat plenty of fresh veggies and fruits, whole grain breads and pastas, and lean proteins.

Managing a Mood Disorder

Getting a handle on a mood disorder involves a multi-dimensional approach. Keeping a lid on the mood swings takes a concerted effort, involving taking medication as prescribed, continuing to go to therapy, incorporating holistic therapies into the regular weekly routine, getting 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times per week, and eating a healthy diet.

It is also important to engage in a support system. Support can come from a combination of sources, including support groups, close friends and family members, and regular meetings with the psychotherapist. Through these efforts you will learn copings skills and methods to better detect when a mood episode is coming on or escalating. It is good to make a crisis plan that provides emergency contact information, and a list of warning signs or symptoms that a loved one can recognize and then get you the help you need. Included in the plan should be information about your medications as well.

Mental Health Hope Connects People with Mental Health Retreats

Mental Health Hope provides important resources for individuals experiencing the difficulties of a mood disorder. Ask our experts questions about what causes irritability and mood swings, and our team will provide guidance and suggest treatment options that are a perfect fit for your needs. Don’t continue to suffer in silence. Get the help you deserve to live your best life. Call Mental Health Hope today at (877) 967-9274.

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