The mood swings of bipolar disorder can be profoundly destructive. Depression can make you isolate yourself from your friends and loved ones. You may find it impossible to get out of bed, let alone keep your job. During manic periods, you may be reckless and volatile.
Picking up the pieces after a mood episode can be hard. The people you need most -- especially your friends and family -- may be angry with you or reluctant to help.
There's no denying the exhilaration that mania brings. For many with bipolar disorder, there's a period of denial -- a disbelief that the wonderful surge of energy and euphoria marks a disease that truly needs treatment.
"Mania is a fascinating thing ... it's the brain creating its own hormonal high," says Carrie Bearden, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at UCLA. "Most people first become manic in their early 20s, at a time in life when they're not thinking...
The best way to avoid these mood episodes is to get treatment for bipolar disorder. But unfortunately, periods of hypomania, mania, or depression aren't completely preventable. Even people who always take their medication and are careful with their health can still have mood swings from time to time.
That's why it's important to catch changes in your mood, energy levels, and sleeping patterns before they develop into something serious.
Mood Swing Triggers in Bipolar Disorder
At first, mood swings may take you by surprise if you have bipolar disorder. But over time, you might start to see patterns or signs that you're entering a period of mania or depression. Aside from a shift in your mood, look for changes in your:
Mood episodes in bipolar disorder often occur spontaneously, for no particular reasons. Sometimes, however, you may discover particular "triggers" -- situations or events that can provoke a period of mania or depression, such as sleep deprivation, changing seasons, or crossing multiple time zones when traveling. Some people find they're more likely to become depressed or manic during stressful times at work or during holidays. Many people see seasonal patterns to their mood changes. Of course, not everyone can identify triggers. Also, some triggers can't be anticipated or avoided, like a serious illness or a traumatic event.
One good way to see patterns or triggers in your bipolar disorder is to keep a journal. Make note of big events, stresses, your medication dosage, and the amount of sleep you're getting. Over time, you might see some patterns emerge.
If you can recognize triggers for periods of mania or depression, you can prepare for times when you might be most vulnerable. Ask for more help from co-workers. Have your family and friends check in more often so you get extra support.
If you see the signs of potential trouble, get help. Don't wait for the mood episode to pass on its own. With quick intervention, you might be able to stop a very minor mood swing from becoming a serious problem.