Mood swings: What are they?

Research reckons that changes in the hormone oestrogen are what triggers mood swings. In the days and weeks before a period, a woman’s oestrogen levels escalate and fall intensely. They level out one to two days after menstruation begins. These shifts may affect mood and behaviour.

“Mood swings” is a common term used to describe swift and extremely unstable emotions. People often describe mood swings as an intoxication of feelings, for instance, from happiness and pleasure to anger, irritability, and even depression.


Dr Michel Baingi, a general practitioner in Kigali, explains that stress and worry influence the body and health in a diversity of harmful ways. Frustrations worry and a relentless state of stress can lead to severe shifts in mood, among other psychological issues.


“Variations in hormone levels during pregnancy can lead to changes in emotions and mood. Pregnant women often experience physical changes and emotional stress that can cause issues like mood shifts and emotional expressions harsher,” Baingi states.


Dr Iba Mayele, an obstetrician-gynaecologist at Clinic Galien, Kimironko, is of the view that menopause (the time in a woman’s life when her period stops) is syndicated with a period of mood shifts. That is to say, as levels of oestrogen drop, many women experience an assortment of symptoms, for example, changes in mood, insomnia, lessened sex drive and many more.

In cases like this, he says, doctors might provide perimenopausal women with hormone replacement drugs to assist in easing into the low-oestrogen phase of life.

Stress and worry influence the body and health in a diversity of harmful ways. Net  photos

Mayele also notes that psychological disorders and behavioural conditions can affect nature, thus causing symptoms like shifts in mood. Some of these disorders include, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-ADHD (this is a disorder that makes it difficult for a person to pay attention and control impulsive behaviours. He or she may also be restless and almost constantly active). 

Other disorders are, depression (a disorder that changes how a person thinks, feels, and functions in daily activities), bipolar disorder (a chronic or episodic mental disorder that causes rare, often extreme and shifting changes in mood, energy, activity, and concentration or focus) among others. Once these conditions are treated, the symptoms of extreme mood shifts will be alleviated, he adds.

“New medication prescribed by doctors could cause mood swings. If the doctor prescribes a new medicine, it is important to be attentive about how one feels for the first few weeks, as there may be a connection between one’s mood and their medication. Some medication even makes it hard for one to fall asleep, or even makes them angry easier, than usual,” Baingi says.

He adds that people with dementia (a broad category of brain diseases that cause a long-term and often gradual decrease in the ability to think and remember that is severe enough to affect daily functioning), experience mood swings. This is because they may feel irritated that they forget things or can’t express their thoughts anymore.

Mayele further notes that caffeine appears to be associated with depression and depressive symptoms, some studies have identified a positive effect of caffeine on depression. One experiment suggested that the chemical effects of caffeine can prevent brain receptors from responding to stressful situations.

Scientists explain that caffeine is the world’s most commonly used stimulant. Large quantities of caffeine can decrease blood flow to the brain by as much as 30 per cent and can result in severe mood swings and disorders.


Mayele also says that having enough sleep is everyone’s responsibility as it can cure illnesses like extreme changes in mood. Aim for seven to eight hours per night.

Baingi notes that changes in mood can be reduced through exercising regularly, a healthy diet, eating in time, relaxation, avoiding stress, shunning stimulants like caffeine and alcohol, as they aggravate feelings of anxiety and depression, and drinking enough water as mild dehydration can cause moodiness and fatigue.

Indulge in regular self-care and seek medical attention if you find that your mood swings are uncontrollable, Baingi adds.

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