Quick Facts

  • Emotional reaction may be appropriate for a situation but the behaviour/expression is louder, stronger, and lasts longer
  • Unexpected occurrences of laughing, crying or angry yelling by the individual
  • Emotional lability is another term for mood swings

What does it
look like?

  • The individual may present as happy one moment and suddenly sad the next, without any obvious reason
  • Emotional reactions may be inappropriate to the situation at hand
  • Emotional reaction may be appropriate to the situation; however, behaviours/expression may be louder and last longer

Possible Causes and Complications

Possible causes:

  • Unawareness of emotions (their own and other’s)
  • Inability to control the expression of emotions
  • Inability to stop emotions from coming out
  • Triggers for mood swings may include:
    • Fatigue/tiredness
    • Stress, worry, anxiety
    • Over-stimulating environment (too demanding, too noisy, too many people)
    • Pressure or demands from others
    • Sad or funny situation (e.g movies, jokes)
    • The discussion of certain topics (e.g. loss of job, death of a family member)

Possible complications:

  • The individual may become embarrassed and self-conscious by emotional outbursts
  • Emotional outbursts may be misinterpreted and difficult for others to understand
  • As a result of mood swings, the individual may isolate and withdraw socially, which may negatively impacting relationships and their social network

What can we do?

  • Try to understand why mood swings may be occurring and identify any possible triggers
  • Reassure and calm the person when necessary
  • Remove yourself to give time for the individual to calm themselves
  • Ignore the behaviour as much as possible, carry on conversations with others
  • Change the topic or the activity
  • Encourage the person to give basic explanations to others about their mood swings, let others know what they can do (e.g. “when I am nervous I may giggle, ignore me and it will stop”)
  • Plan activities with the individual’s ability in mind (i.e. plan more demanding activities/appointments when the person is well rested)
  • Encourage the individual to think of something else, imagine a peaceful image, count
  • Redirect the individual by switching the task/activity (i.e. go for a walk, listen to music, etc.)
  • Promote an understanding for others as to why the mood swings occur and how to react in those situations
  • Avoid focusing on outward signs of mood swings

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to replace advice from a medical doctor. Consult a health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.