Recognizing Bipolar Triggers

When you or someone close to you is living with bipolar disorder, life can sometimes feel like a carnival ride in a dark tunnel – you never know when the next twist, turn, up or down will come. The condition can cause severe fluctuations in the person’s energy level and mood which are significant enough to affect everyone around them. There are some well-known bipolar triggers, and by keeping them in mind patients and their families can take steps to reduce the number and intensity of manic or depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder.

1. Sleep Patterns
For the person with bipolar disorder, keeping a normal sleep/wake cycle is paramount. The illness can lead to dysregulations in the sleep pattern known as circadian rhythm and for this reason, not only too little, but also too much sleep can cause a problem. The best plan is to maintain a regular pattern of sleep and wakefulness. This is best for the brain and helps the bipolar medications work optimally.

2. Erratic Use of Medications
Speaking of medications, using them as directed is important. For the person with bipolar disorder not to decide on his/her own to stop taking their medication. In a similar way, some patients have attempted to augment their medication with herbal supplements. Always talk with the prescribing physician before eliminating meds or adding any type of remedy.

3. Alcohol and/or Drug Use
Alcohol and drugs are serious substances for anyone and should always be used with caution. Their use is especially dangerous to the person with bipolar disorder because using them can launch a person into an episode (manic or depressive). People with bipolar disorder may decide to use these substances in order to help them with their feelings or mood, but this will only backfire by creating a negative use cycle.

4. Comorbidity
Illnesses or conditions which can go hand-in-hand with another disease are cormorbid. For the person with bipolar disorder, any condition which affects hormone production or which affects/alters mood can easily trigger a bipolar episode response.

5. Stress
Stress is a challenge for everyone, but when it becomes too much for the person with bipolar disorder it can initiate a manic or depressive episode. Stresses like money problems, difficulties on the job -even starting a new job, jam-packed calendar schedules or occasions of family tension can all set off a bipolar episode.

If you or someone you love is attempting to manage these factors, but still feels a bit out of control, one idea is to keep a mood journal for one month. Each day the person with bipolar should write down their schedule, medication level and how they feel. Usually, by looking at a month-long record, patterns of what triggers mood swings begin to appear. Once you recognize the triggers, you can take the appropriate steps to manage them.

Posted on January 3rd, 2013
Posted in Mental Health

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