A woman dancing and singing with a hulk on her shirt

Prednisone Mood Swings and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Last updated: May 2021

For some, prednisone is a miracle medication. For others, it is the slingshot that has launched them down a course in their life that they will never recover from. But I say, it is both. It is the spawn of Satan and simultaneously an angel of mercy.

One of the side effects of prednisone that I struggle the most with is absolutely crazy mood swings. Anger sneaks up out of nowhere and suddenly, BLAH! Raging word vomit gets spewed everywhere. The relief is great, but the mood swings are killer.

Taking prednisone for RA and psoriatic arthritis

Originally prescribed prednisone about a month before my initial diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis, I was later prescribed them again before my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Not to mention on and off over the years between medications and to combat stubborn flare-ups.

I’ve taken prednisone tapers (pills prescribed for a short period of time, and tapered down slowly over the course of a few weeks) as well as whole-body shots. Some people take a low dose of prednisone over an extended length of time.

Prednisone to fight flare-ups

When I find myself in the middle of a flare that just won’t go away, I literally sing the praises of prednisone. By day two of my taper, I have the energy to dance around my kitchen and belt out my favorite 90s jams. But by days three and four, you better just start to duck and cover my friends, because the Hulk comes out to play.

I’m not going to lie, the relief that prednisone gives me is a beautiful thing. I get a (no matter how brief) glimpse of who I used to be. I get a small window into what I could be if rheumatoid disease wasn’t such a big part of my life. But there is a high price to pay for those moments. And after years of taking prednisone on and off, for me, the price is often just too high.

My mood changes so quickly

On prednisone, my mood quickly swings from excited to finally garner some relief and some energy to move around a little, to nervous, snippy, and even angry. Pain relief turns to unexplained anger and I subject my family to my wrath for no other reason than they were the nearest targets.

It is not fair to them, and even though prednisone helps calm my body down, it wreaks havoc on my emotional and mental well-being, not to mention the damage it can inflict on the relationships I have with those who I rely on for support and understanding. If I seem unusually quick to anger or easily annoyed, “Are you taking steroids?” is usually in the top 3 questions on my hubby’s list.

Managing prednisone mood swings

Luckily for me, once I get to the tail-end of my taper, I can more easily see through the red haze and start to feel more like my easy-going self within a few days. When I’m mid-mood swing, I try my best to remember that it is the steroids that are making me angry, not my husband or children. I try to distance myself from situations that might lead to anger. And I slowly breathe through my nose and count to ten to help myself remain calm.

Prednisone, likened by many as an unlikely combination of sinner and saint, is, unfortunately, a frequent visitor in my medicine cabinet. By now I know for me, the good rarely outweighs the bad, despite being aware of how prednisone affects my moods. It is a steep price to pay for a little extra energy and I only use it if I’ve absolutely exhausted every single other option in my flare-fighting toolbox.

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