Mood swings? This is when you should be alarmed

There can be psychiatric causes to mood swings. (Shutterstock)

Having emotions like sadness, anger or fear are part of life.  As overwhelming as these emotions may occur, they can be completely normal according to our knowledge of the human brain. However, when emotions occur suddenly without any apparent reason, this might be a case of mood swings.

Mood swings are described as rapidly changing moods or emotions where the reason of the change is unclear. “Small mood swings, or emotional ups and downs, are part of most people’s lives, and part of being human is the wide range of emotions that one can experience,” said Abdulnaser Arida, a consultant psychiatrist in Abu Dhabi.

“However, some mood swings can be so extreme or rapid that they can cause distress and affect everyday life functions, and people experiencing these extreme forms should consider seeking professional help,” he added.

The topic was discussed by specialists in Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) this month, in an attempt to make people aware of the difference between regular changes in mood and those that are related to disorders.

Emotions are generally conceived as logical and explainable reactions to observable events, and therefore people experiencing them tend to look at these events, rather than the human body when they want to understand why they feel what they feel.

However, before understanding the trigger of an emotion, it is important to understand what is happening in our brain when these emotions are experienced. Feelings such as happiness, stress, fear or depression occur when the brain releases chemicals called neurotransmitters, the release and re-absorption of which affects how a person feels.

There might be an imbalance in the make-up of these neurotransmitters. For example, the brain might produce an abnormal level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved with sleep, moods, and emotional states, causing disorderly mood swings.  Or, an atypical level of Norepinephrine, which is involved with learning, memory, and physical arousal might cause a person to feel depressed.

There can be psychiatric causes to mood swings, such as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPS) or Bipolar Disorder. Sometimes these disorders go unnoticed, and therefore undiagnosed, pointed the specialists out.

“Bipolar disorder knows no racial, cultural, or economic boundaries, and just like anything else in life, when something is out of balance, it can cause trouble. We want to urge anyone experiencing mood swings for more than a few weeks, that seriously affect daily life and relationships, to reach out and seek help – there is certainly help out there,” Arida said.

However, hormone imbalance, irregular sleep patterns, stress, puberty, pregnancy, or menopause can also lead to mood swings and when resulting in a situation where daily life is affected, should not be neglected.

“A professional can help accurately diagnose the problem, and suggest appropriate treatment,” Arida emphasised. Whether it is a change in lifestyle patterns or medication, people with disorders are helped by the awareness of the problem and the suggestion towards a solution.

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