Somewhere around 2.3 million Americans have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which is approximately 1% of the population. However, it is believed that the number exceeds this due to undiagnosed and underdiagnosed individuals within the United States.
Bipolar disorder comes with inherent “mood episodes” that often seem random and uncontrollable to those on the outside. These episodes can be triggered by a very wide range of identifiable (and unidentifiable) phenomenon, which can be hard to manage for those caring for a loved one suffering from this specific mental health disorder.
In this article, we’re going to dive into the triggers for the mania associated with bipolar disorder, so you can help your loved one cope and find ways to achieve mental health stability.
Understanding Bipolar Disorder and its Triggers
Bipolar disorder, which was formerly referred to as manic depression, is largely misunderstood due to the surrounding negative stigmas attached to mental health disorders in general.
In short, bipolar disorder is a “mood disorder,” as manic episodes can range from hypomania to manic—the less extreme to the extreme mood swings. Each manic episode could be an expression of euphoria, high levels of energy, or severe irritability, listlessness, and depressive states.
These mood swings can affect an individual’s sleep, energy levels, interest in activities, judgment, behaviors, and ability to think clearly. They can be a rare occurrence or a frequent occurrence, and they affect everyone differently.
Most importantly, if you’re caring for someone with bipolar disorder or close to someone with the condition, it’s important to become educated on the triggers that can cause it. That way, you don’t become a potential trigger, and you can help them avoid such triggers in everyday affairs—including social situations.
Let’s take a look at the common triggers of bipolar mania.
Research has shown that the most common trigger for episodes of mania is sleep loss. This can be in the form of sleep disturbances, disruption, jet lag, and an inconsistent sleep schedule.
Sleep disturbances rarely cause episodes of hypomania, but it does happen—particularly in individuals with bipolar I. Regardless of the type of bipolar disorder, women are more likely than men to experience mood episodes due to improper sleep.
Negative and Positive Life Events
Negative life events that cause undue stress, such as personal conflicts, job loss, relationship loss, death of a loved one, and many more, can have serious psychiatric consequences. Negative life events are often associated with the emergence of depressive episodes as they can exacerbate existing depression leading to mania as a “flight” response to what’s happening.
In the same sense, positive life events such as goal attainment, falling in love, or winning an award, can also trigger an episode of mania. This is because individuals with bipolar disorder have a higher “reward response” chemically speaking, which can manifest with consequences.
Substance Use and Abuse
Drug and alcohol use, including cannabis use, are well-known mania triggers. This is because substances of all kinds affect the delicate neurochemical balance that exists within our brains. This chemical balance is even more delicate for individuals with bipolar disorder.
This would include prescription medications, particularly antidepressants and corticosteroids, which is why doctors generally advise against them.
Seasonal changes often bring on what is called the “winter blues” for most people. However, they can also have a significant impact on those with bipolar disorder as a lack of sunlight can exacerbate the already existing condition.
At the same time, the elation we feel as summertime rolls around can also cause hypomania in these same individuals. Unfortunately, these triggers are nearly unavoidable, which is why it’s important to ensure that your loved one maintains a consistent schedule of taking care of themselves via exercise, healthy eating, and regulated sleep.
Pay Attention to the Signs
Bipolar disorder and its inherent mania is a lifelong condition. However, it is manageable with proper self-care, awareness of the signs and triggers of mania, and a well-thought-out treatment plan.
We can help with that. Reach out to us today to get yourself or your loved one help.