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Mood Swings and Bipolar Disorder

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.

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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:

  • Sleep patterns
  • Energy level
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Sex drive
  • Self-esteem
  • Concentration

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.

The Appeal of Mania in Bipolar Disorder

When people with bipolar disorder are depressed, they almost always know that something is wrong. Nobody likes feeling that way.

But it's different for people who are hypomanic or manic. Often, they don't think anything is wrong. Or if they notice a difference in their mood and personality, they think it's an improvement.

Mania and hypomania can be seductive. You might feel more energized, creative, and interesting. You might be able to get extraordinary amounts of work done. So what's the problem?

Manic phases often turn destructive. Some consequences of a manic episode can't be undone. You can wipe out your savings account. You can have affairs that ruin your marriage. You can lose your job. Most dangerous of all, mania can make you do things that risk your life or the lives of others. And manias are often followed by depressive episodes. Effectively treating a mania or hypomania may help reduce the risk of developing a future depression.

Although hypomania or mania can feel good at the moment, in the long run, you'll be happier, healthier, more productive, and more successful if you can maintain a stable mood.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on September 11, 2014
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