How to Deal With Your Roommate's Mood Swings

Three Parts:Managing Tension and Caring for YourselfTalking about the MoodinessGetting to the Bottom of the Behavior

Have you ever had your roommate yell at you for no apparent reason? Are you afraid to say something that might ruin your friendship and make the living situation harder than it already may be? Here are a few steps to take in order to maintain your relationship with your roommate no matter what mood swings you might encounter.

Part 1
Managing Tension and Caring for Yourself

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    Perform regular self-care to manage the tension. Set time aside to do activities outside of your apartment/house/dorm room and on your own to help you relieve stress that builds up in the home environment. It may even be a good idea to make friends other than your roommate. If he or she is usually in a bad mood, you probably don’t want to depend on him or her for all your social interactions.[1]
    • Self-care activities can include virtually anything that relaxes you and relieves tension.[2] You can go to the spa for a massage, listen to music while you walk/jog on the trails, and even go to the library for peace and quiet to study. Schedule in a few self-care activities each week to keep your stress levels down.
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    Anticipate moodiness and leave the space for a while. Get to know your roommate and understand the signs of a problem that is in the making. Take a walk while he or she calms down. You may not be able to avoid all of the moodiness but it can go a long way it avoiding a good percentage of the blow ups. You need to space to avoid the conflict and there is a good chance your roommate needs the space in the room to calm down.[3]
    • Do consider how often you end up leaving to make sure the roommate isn’t reacting in a negative way just to get the room to themselves.
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    Prevent getting yelled at by addressing issues during calm moments. You will not solve anything yelling during an argument but you can work on the problem during calm times. Try to stay as calm as possible instead of matching your roommate anger with a louder voice. From the start of living together set up a list of house rules that include waiting to calm down before talking things out.[4]
    • It may be a good idea to schedule in a weekly meeting or housekeeping session to discuss any issues happening within the living space. You might say "Hey, George, I'd like to talk to you about the rent payments. Let me know when it's a good time to have that discussion."
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    Consider moving if the situation becomes unbearable. Do not hesitate in reporting the problem to your residential advisor if you are living on campus or to a landlord in an apartment or housing unit. This can be a tough process so asking to be moved should not be used as a first defense. Work with the residential advisors to explore all your options.[5]

Part 2
Talking about the Moodiness

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    Call out the moody behavior in conversation. This should take place in person and not via email or social media. Talking face-to-face allows the other person to not only hear what is being said but also see that you are concerned.[6]
    • Try to be careful to label the behavior and not judge your roommate. Since moodiness can sometimes have a very real and physical cause, it’s not fair to focus on the roommate being “wrong” or "bad."
    • Say something like “Hey, I’ve been noticing you’re in a bad mood a lot lately. Do you want to talk about it?”
    • Discuss observations of the behavior instead of evaluations of the roommate. [7] You might tell him or her that “You come off as rude to my guests” or “Your attitude makes the living environment tense.”
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    Help your roommate learn to manage stress. Set clear boundaries so that you can be helpful with the process, but you don't want to end up acting as a therapist to your roommate. Approach the issue as you would a friend, with a compassionate tone of voice.[8]
    • Bring up the subject by saying something like "Hey, I've noticed you've been really stressed lately. I get stressed sometimes, too. How about we brainstorm some ways we can both manage or prevent stressful situations?"
    • Work with your roommate to identify what causes the majority of his or her stress and offer to help with possible solutions. Your roommate may become moody around finals because he or she puts off studying. If this is the case, offer study tips or to help with better time management early in the term.
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    Come up with a signal. You can work with your roommate to let him or her know that a break or chill time is needed. Remember that you do not need to become best friends, but you need to set some sort of ground rules to enable the two of you to live together peacefully.[9]
    • For example you may tell your roommate that he or she is getting upset by telling them you can see that their mind is “working a mile a minute” or another key phrase you agree on. This will trigger them to reflect on what is currently happening and take a break to perform self-care.
    • Having a signal that is not obvious to those around you can be helpful to not call attention to your roommate’s moods outside of your room.

Part 3
Getting to the Bottom of the Behavior

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    Identify patterns of moodiness. The mood swings may be as harmless as a general annoyance or severe enough that they are keeping the friend up all night. Take notes in a journal to help you identify patterns. You may also be able to spot other factors that may contribute to the mood swings.[10]
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    Conduct some research. Some mental illnesses have mood swings as a symptom. Your roommate may be experiencing an undiagnosed psychiatric disorder. Mood swings can be a symptom or even a result of bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, ADHA or even anxiety. Look up the symptoms of each and compare your roommate’s behaviors to see if anything fits.[11][12]
    • Keep in mind, your goal is not to diagnose your roommate. You are simply trying to learn more about his or her behaviors so that you can have a better understanding.
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    Talk to your roommate’s friends and family. See if they have noticed the behavior. Do this discreetly. You might start by asking other friends if they see the moodiness when you aren’t around. Finding out can help you understand if it happens all the time or only at home. If it's strictly at home, you may want to consider whether the two of you are well-suited if he or she only acts like this in your presence.
    • If the mood swings are something you have seen occur with other people as well, ask them for suggestions as to how they handled it. "So, you say Terry is moody around you every now and then, too, huh? What do you do when this happens?"
    • Explore how many people in your roommate’s family have similar issues and see if there is a pattern as far as mental health issues running in the family.
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    Suggest that your roommate see a doctor or counselor. If the mood swings have been interfering with his or her life, it may be a sign of a larger problem. It can be helpful to remind your roommate of the affect his or her mood swings actually has on life for both of you. Your roommate may not notice the issue on a daily basis, so be prepared.[13]
    • You might show compassion by saying "I can see that your mood brings you down some days. It also causes tension between us. Have you thought about seeing a counselor or someone you can talk to professionally?"
    • Volunteer to go to the doctor with your roommate for emotional support.


  • Do not ignore the situation. Ignoring the situation only makes it worse and creates a stressful atmosphere at home.
  • Do not show any anger when your roommate goes through a mood swing. Be sure to not completely blow off your roommate either. Displaying anger or blowing him/her off only heightens your roommate's anger.

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Categories: Campus Life | Maintaining Relationships