What Can Trigger a Bipolar Episode?

Many factors can trigger an episode in those who live with bipolar disorder. Some triggers are even unidentifiable, meaning that there isn’t a known cause whatsoever. From personal experience, I don’t always know why I am feeling a certain way. Some days I just wake up and feel lousy without a known reason and other times something has triggered an episode such as a bad day at work, school, or a relationship issue.

Photo by marin

Photo by marin

Triggers are often a combination of environmental, social, and biological factors. Some instances and situations that are more likely to trigger a bipolar episode include:

  • Disruptions or problems in relationships – Relationship and social issues have a great effect on a bipolar individual’s mood and health. Relationship problems can cause someone with bipolar to become deeply depressed, suicidal, or possibly even angry and out of control depending on the circumstances and person. This includes arguments with a spouse, a family member, or a friend. Sometimes a mood can be triggered by what another person says or does or if a certain situation didn’t turn out well.
  • Little or no sleep –  Lack of sleep can be a huge trigger for a bipolar episode. It is always extra important for those with bipolar to try to maintain a regular sleep schedule so that it does not affect their mood or health negatively.
  • Stress – Stress is one of the main triggers for an episode. This can include stress at work, school, in personal life, basically anything that may be causing stress. It is crucial for those with bipolar to find ways to cope effectively with stress and have some down time if needed. Bipolar and stress do not mix well together.
  • Other medical conditions or health issues – Other health conditions can trigger a bipolar episode such as a thyroid condition, vitamin deficiency, immune disorder/disease, or a hormone imbalance. It’s always a good thing to get regular health check ups on any additional health issues.
  • Menstrual Cycles – In women, menstrual cycles can wreak havoc especially if they live with a mood disorder like bipolar disorder. During, before, and even after a woman’s menstrual cycle, hormones are being released and adjusted. These hormone changes can trigger severe depression, crying spells, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, or anger in bipolar women. These symptoms usually show up about 1 to 2 weeks before a woman’s cycle and sometimes last throughout the entire cycle.
  • Changes in the season or day – It is quite common for a change in the season or weather to cause some feelings of despair. Many with bipolar have noticed that their moods tend to change with the season as well. Sometimes winter can bring more feelings of isolation and depression due to the lack of sunshine and vitamin D. The changes during the day can also cause an episode such as when day turns to night or if it rains. I personally used to experience anxiety attacks when it got darker outside and was close to bedtime. To this day, most of my episodes generally occur at night before bedtime.

It’s important to realize that each person will have their own triggers. Not everyone with bipolar disorder will find the list above to fit them specifically, but many do and can relate with the above statements and perhaps a few others that weren’t mentioned.  It’s also crucial to know and to catch what does trigger an episode because it makes coping and recovering all the more successful.

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  1. Pingback: What Can Trigger a Bipolar Episode? - black dog pie: a magazine on depression and bipolar

  2. Brilliant article Kait. It also can be courses of antibiotics that trigger manic symptoms for me, and certain antidepressants like cipramil can put me in hospital if I’m not on enough seroquel, so I tend to stay away from them. Stress and social stuff ( dealing with morons and haters for example) can bring me right off the sanity stoop. I find that depression is much safer than mania.

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