Woman with irritability and mood swings

What Can Cause Irritability and Mood Swings?

by Dr. Jennifer Landa

Do you feel as though you’re experiencing increased irritability and rapid mood swings that seem to come out of nowhere? Are they impacting your day to day life?

If so, don’t worry. You’re not alone, and there is help.

You should know that mood swings are more than simply being moody or feeling blue every once in a while. Life can throw a lot at you, and sometimes this can make you feel happy, hopeless, irritable, worried, anxious, or sad. However, mood swings that are extreme and rapid are a cause for concern, especially if they are impacting your work, relationships, sleep, or quality of life.

If this is your experience, read on to understand more about irritability, mood swings, and what you can do to alleviate some of the issues they can cause…

Irritability Causes

According to VeryWell Health, mood swings and irritability have several root causes. For one, brain chemical imbalances can cause mental health conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder, all of which are associated with episodes of mood swings, whether it be in the form of bouts of anger or depressive lows and manic highs. These conditions are common and nothing to be ashamed of (although most people with mood disorders do benefit from the care of a licensed, compassionate professional).

Another potential culprit of mood symptoms? Hormones. For women who are going through their menstrual cycle or menopause, mood changes, including irritability, are common. Men also experience mood shifts if they have low testosterone—often from a condition known as andropause. In men, a decline in testosterone may begin in a man’s late 20s. In women, menopause generally occurs around the age of 51, although symptoms can start years before then.

For both women and men, hormonal imbalances can occur at any point and often lead to mood swings.

In women, hormone levels can be thrown off by many factors, including:

  • Pregnancy
  • Giving birth
  • Diabetes
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Birth control medications
  • Stress

In men, hormonal issues may be caused by:

  • Decreased testosterone levels
  • Adrenal fatigue (caused, again, by high levels of stress)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Stress

When you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol, a hormone that increases your heart rate and blood pressure. This can have a direct effect on your hormones.

Mood swings may also be caused by the use of steroids, as prolonged steroid usage can lead to anger and irritability, according to the National Institutes of Drug Abuse.

Brain injury is another cause of mood swings. According to The Family Caregiver Alliance, people who suffer head trauma may find themselves dealing with psychological and/or neurological issues. These issues can include:

  • Decreased focus
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Shifts in personality
  • Memory loss
  • Poor judgement

Irritability and Mood Swings

Beyond the physical effects, emotional trauma can also cause mood swings. According to a 2012 study, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause mood swings that may lead people to:

  • Isolate themselves
  • Feel depressed
  • Feel guilty
  • Experience increased irritability
  • Be easily startled
  • Have trouble sleeping and/or experience nightmares
  • Fear going places or being in situations that could remind them of the traumatic event

To compound any mood swings that may come from PTSD, just trying to manage PTSD in and of itself can also cause irritability.

If you have signs of depression or anxiety, or are living with PTSD, care and treatment are available.

Additionally, cognitive-behavioral interventions (or CBT therapy), which are therapies that help you identify and replace harmful patterns of thoughts and behaviors, can be helpful.

If hormones are the at the center of your mood swings and irritability, a healthcare practitioner with advanced training in hormonal imbalance, such as the practitioners within the BodyLogicMD network, will be able to help you identify a care plan.

The health and wellness experts within the BodyLogicMD network are highly trained in hormone health. They will not only treat your hormonal imbalance directly; they will take a picture of your overall health. In addition to helping you find the right treatment (like bioidentical hormone therapy), they’ll also map out a holistic plan, helping you eat, sleep, and manage your stress better.

Treating Irritability and Mood Swings

So, what are bioidentical hormones, and how can they help balance your hormones and restore stability to your mood?

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is a form of hormone therapy that helps both men and women achieve hormonal balance. It generally does not cause the same side effects associated with conventional hormones. In fact, bioidentical hormones come from naturally occurring sources, like soy or yams. These hormones are designed to mirror your own natural hormones (hence, the term “bioidentical”). So, for example, if the levels your estrogen and progesterone hormones are out of balance, this form of therapy can help you find balance.

This form of therapy may be an excellent option if you are experiencing hormonal shifts at any age, helping you to feel better not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.

If you are looking to treat your mood swings naturally or if you’d like to augment your hormonal or psychiatric therapy, there are options for you. It’s important that you try to establish a healthy routine in everything, including eating, exercising, and sleeping.

For one, you’ll want to avoid drinking too much alcohol or too many caffeinated beverages, since both of these have known effects on mood.

Healthline also suggests eating smaller meals throughout the day, which can help to stabilize your blood sugar. According to an article in Medical News Today, fluctuating levels of blood sugar can also cause your mood to fluctuate, particularly when levels are low.

Exercise can also help keep you feeling level-headed. One study found a correlation between exercise and being in a good mood, especially in cases where a person is struggling with symptoms of depression.

When you exercise, your body produces endorphins, which are known as feel-good hormones. More endorphins, more joy. It’s a free mental health boost! You’ll want to stick to a regular workout routine—about 30 minutes of exercise four to five times per week. Don’t stress yourself out by going too hard.

If stress is what’s behind your mood swings, you’ll want to find a way to limit it. It sounds difficult, but it’s extremely important. As you already know, stress can produce cortisol, throwing the body into hormonal imbalance. These imbalances can cause further mood swings, creating a cycle of unhealthiness.

To reduce stress, focus on simple, mindful, slow daily behaviors that can get you to calm down:

  • Maintain a journal
  • Meditate
  • Try yoga
  • Practice relaxed breathing techniques (you may want to do this once in the morning and once at night, focusing on regulating your breathing and letting go of the day’s stress)

During the day, take a break from stressful activities and employ a breathing practice to calm your system.

Building these healthy routines into your day not only helps you find peace, it helps you become more mindful of the preciousness of your body and wellness. This can help you adopt other healthy behaviors and choices.

Sleep can also help you stabilize your moods. According to Harvard University, sleep and mood are closely connected. More specifically, stress and irritability can often be dictated by how much quality sleep you get on a nightly basis. Furthermore, chronic insomnia can cause a mood disorder.

You may also want to turn to mood-supporting supplements. For example, BodyLogicMD’s Mood Support is a specially designed formula that promotes mental clarity, a better mood, and a relaxed state of being. Its blend of amino acid precursors and bioactive nutrients support healthy levels of the various neurotransmitters (norepinephrine, serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine). Intense levels of stress, nutrient and diet deficiencies, genetics, and medication can lead to neurotransmitter depletion, and inadequate neurotransmitter production can affect mood, memory, and sleep, and it can increase daily stress.

Additionally, Cognitive Balance is a supplement designed with targeted ingredients shown to maximize vitamin transport to the nervous system. This supplement specifically contributes to the production and processing of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is essential to many brain functions, including mood, sleep, cognition, motor activity, and behavior.

If you are experiencing mood swings and irritability, know that help is out there. You don’t have to live with unstable moods or feelings of anxiousness, depression, or irritability.

BodyLogicMD’s network of highly trained practitioners are here to speak with you about your unique health needs and lead you down the path of wellness.


  • Dr. Jennifer Landa

    Dr. Jennifer Landa is Chief Medical Officer of BodyLogicMD and the owner and operator of BodyLogicMD of Orlando. Dr. Landa dedicates her practice to bioidentical hormone therapy, customized nutrition and fitness programs to help women and men resolve menopausal and andropausal symptoms, including weight gain, sexual dysfunction, declining energy levels and stress. As a former gynaecologist, Dr. Landa has always desired to help patients achieve wellness through hormone balance and preventive medicine.