Trigger Management for Moods

by Jerry Kennard, Ph.D. Medical Reviewer

No doubt we’ve all made allowances for moodiness in other people, because we’ve all been there. Wayward hormones, sickness, worry, lack of sleep, and work stress are just a few of the possible causes of moodiness.

Being on the receiving end of moodiness isn’t pleasant. So we learn to back off, give the person some space, and hope that things will settle down. Nine times out of 10, they will, especially in people where moodiness is atypical. This is because they have the insight and awareness to know how negatively moods can affect people. At other times our own moodiness or that of others is more of a puzzle, so it’s helpful to understand the possible triggers.

Other People’s Mood Triggers

Children and teens are some of the crankiest people around. Mainly, it’s due to the fact they are still maturing both physically and emotionally, although depression in teens is becoming more commonplace. When older, and the necessary life skills are acquired, we naturally expect greater maturity. With maturity we learn a bit of give and take. We sometimes bite our tongues in order to maintain harmony and, if possible, we steer clear from the constant grumblers who seem determined to spread misery.

Moods are contagious. We’ve probably all been in situations where someone else’s bad mood has triggered our own. It is part of the human condition and something we learn to accept and deal with. Sadly there are many people trapped in relationships, or work roles, that involve relentless levels of moodiness. The brooding, sulky, uncommunicative partner is all too common and represents a form of manipulation. Moody people avoid facing the real reasons for their temperament. They fall back on blaming others and rarely accept personal responsibility for their own emotional issues.

As the recipient of moodiness you may find yourself puzzling over what you’ve done wrong, when you’ve actually done nothing wrong. There’s little point in blaming yourself or seeing yourself as the mood trigger, because you aren’t responsible. Unless and until you confront moodiness and see it for the abusive behavior it is, things will never change for the better.

Dealing with persistent moodiness in others isn’t pleasant but it needs to be done. The people who regularly accept blame and keep apologizing in the hope they will placate their partner or boss are setting themselves up for disappointment. In reality, these attempts to appease simply reinforce the bullying behaviour that is such a feature of moodiness.

Identifying Our Own Mood Triggers

People who experience low moods or depression are often susceptible to stress. Those feelings of low confidence, low energy and always expecting or assuming the worse, are typical symptoms of depression. These are especially good reasons for trigger management, because a little personal intervention to escape low moods can reduce your vulnerability for depression, as well as lighten your mood.

The causes of mood swings are varied and sometimes hard to pin down. We know, for example, that moods swings can be a feature of conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety, but where mood swings can’t be attributed to mental health conditions then triggers must exist elsewhere. Even if your mood swings are associated with a mental health condition it doesn’t mean you can’t exert some control over them.

If you’re prone to mood swings, tracking your moods may be a sensible place to start. A simple journal about the things happening that day, how you felt and reacted, may be all that’s required. A more comprehensive mood tracker could involve things like your diet, alcohol intake, the amount of sleep and activity you’ve been getting, as well as the things that have pressed your buttons.

Moods may appear to come out of the blue, but there’s always a trigger. If you can’t pin down lifestyle issues, maybe it’s worth visiting your doctor to enquire whether a blood test, or some other examinations, might be useful.

Jerry Kennard, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D.

Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s work background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of