Bipolar disorder is a condition characterized by both depressive episodes and manic or hypomanic episodes. The pattern of these symptoms is different for everyone. Some people may feel relatively normal much of the time, occasionally tipping into a manic or depressive episode and some people may cycle more quickly from one to the other. There are several triggers that can cause an episode, even if the condition is controlled with therapy and medication.
Disturbed sleep is a major trigger of bipolar symptoms. Typically, getting too little sleep leads to manic or hypomanic episodes. Your body recognizes it’s not well rested so it boosts your levels of adrenaline and cortisol to keep you going. In addition to this, your prefrontal cortex, which helps regulate emotions, can’t function at full capacity with too little sleep. As a result, you might slip into a manic or hypomanic episode. A smaller percentage of people might slip into a depressive episode instead. Both manic and depressive episodes can make the problem worse by disturbing sleep even more. There are many ways sleep gets disturbed that people with bipolar should watch out for. One is just leaving too little time for sleep or dealing with some kind of emergency. Seasonal changes, especially Daylight Savings time can throw off your sleep and cause an episode. Travel is also something to watch out for, as jet lag can disturb your sleep cycle for weeks.
Drugs and alcohol
Drugs and alcohol affect your brain chemistry and can cause an episode. This may seem obvious when dealing with a drug like cocaine, but it may be less obvious when it comes to alcohol. Not only can alcohol powerfully disrupt your balance of neurotransmitters, but it can also make your bipolar medication less effective. Prescription medications may also cause an episode. Antidepressants, when not counterbalanced by mood stabilizers can cause manic or hypomanic episodes.
Stress can cause a depressive episode even in someone with no history of mental health issues. A divorce, the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job can lead to an episode of major depression and these are all major triggers for bipolar disorder. Even good stress can lead to an episode, typically a manic episode. Achieving a goal or an unexpected windfall can lead to excitement that gets out of control. The brain can’t regulate the positive emotions, so it spins into a manic episode.
Hormones can play havoc with your brain chemistry. The shifting hormonal landscape is one reason women are more prone to depression than men and it can be a trigger for bipolar symptoms. The premenstrual phase may trigger or worsen an episode of depression. Pregnancy and childbirth is especially challenging for women with bipolar disorder because it combines hormonal changes, life stress, and sleep disruption. You can’t always avoid these triggers, but you can try to get enough sleep and avoid drugs and alcohol. Being aware of triggers helps you adapt when you encounter them and prepare when you see them coming.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or bipolar disorder, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.