Mood swings are universal — they’re not just limited to people who have bipolar disorder or manic depression. Oscillations in emotion and self-esteem are part of daily life for the average person, and you’ve probably experienced these emotional bumps fairly often.

A mood swing can consist of a small change in emotional perception, which can be triggered by a minor event, like missing a train or unexpectedly getting bad grade on a test. But drastic — and frequent — mood swings are usually caused by deeper issues, such as depressive diseases, low self-esteem, unhealthy diet, alcoholism, degenerative diseases of the central nervous system — or even the side effects of certain medications.

No drugs are entirely exempt from pestering side effects. Typically, medications that alter brain chemistry and mess with the normal balance of neurotransmitters can lead to mood swings. Some of these important neurotransmitters include norepinephrine — one that deals with learning, memory, and physical arousal — as well as serotonin, which reigns over emotion and sleep. If norepinephrine and serotonin are out of sorts, mood swings are likely to happen. Below are some examples of prescription medications that can trigger mood swings.


Antidepressants are meant to balance out neurotransmitters in your brain, and increase the feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. So ideally, after taking antidepressants for a few weeks you should feel more stable — and less likely to experience violent mood swings. That, at least, is the goal. But this isn’t always the case, because taking antidepressants can be a trial-and-error process. If your antidepressants aren’t right for you, it’s likely that they are causing more harm than good, and creating imbalances in your brain rather than balancing things out. “Depression medications can sometimes cause mood swings, especially in people who have a tendency toward bipolar disorder, depression, and mania,” Dr. Joseph Hullett told Everyday Health. So if you’re getting worse mood swings after starting antidepressants, you should probably switch to a different type of medication.

Cardiac and High Blood Pressure Meds

Beta-blockers are used to treat heart problems such as high blood pressure, heart failure, chest pain, and even abnormal heart rhythms. But they are also notorious for being linked to depression symptoms and mood swings; such medications are usually labelled as having the adverse effect of depression. However, research has shown contradicting results on the matter.

ADHD Medication

Medication taken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can cause mood swings as well. Research has shown that ADHD meds can also lead to loss of appetite and sleep problems. “[S]timulants have been reported to have a range of adverse psychiatric effets on children taking them for [ADHD],” Dr. Charles Raison, a psychiatrist at Emory University Medical School, writes on CNN. “In studies, 9 percent of patients receiving the extended release form of Adderall have emotional liability, which is a fancy word for mood swings. The PDR doesn’t provide percentages for agitation, which is similar to violent aggression, but in studies, this is reported less than 2 percent of the time.”

It’s difficult to gage, though, whether or not these medications directly cause mood swing or depression side effects in patients, since everyone is different and reacts in a unique way to drugs. Raison writes:

[U]nfortunately, we know that the symptoms of ADHD look a lot like the symptoms of another very serious psychiatric problem: bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic depression. Figuring out whether [mood swings and/or depression] is a medication side effect or bipolar disorder is of immense importance, because although recent studies suggest that stimulants might benefit some bipolar patients, in general, patients with bipolar disorder need very different types of medications and psychosocial interventions than do kids with ADHD.

Just because these medications can trigger mood swings, however, doesn’t mean you should drop them. As stated before, all meds have side effects. In the meantime, until you find the right prescription drugs for you (especially when it comes to antidepressants and ADHD meds), you can learn to battle drastic mood swings by exercising, seeking out cognitive behavioral therapy, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy and well-balanced diet.