Episodes can occur in patients with bipolar disorder for numerous reasons; sometimes episodes occur for no known reason at all. I have learned to pay attention to my triggers so I can try to stay ahead of my episodes; sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes it’s not. I also let those closest to me know about my triggers. At times, my family and friends can see my episodes before I can.
The sooner I can recognize my episodes, the easier and quicker it is for me to treat them. I started by asking a family member to help me write down my triggers. Once I knew what they were, I then told my friends to keep an eye out for me; they were more than happy to help.
I have learned different life events that can cause me to experience either a manic or depressive episode. The following are my known triggers:
1. Drinking alcohol and/or using drugs can cause both manic and depressive episodes, depending on what is being used. Drinking and drug use are extremely dangerous in combination with medications. They can create the perfect storm to trigger episodes that take a long time to recover from.
2. Not taking my medications as prescribed can be dangerous. Our doctors/psychiatrists prescribe our medications in specific doses. Many people take multiple medications at varying doses. Changing those medications without talking to your doctor can cause an episode to occur.
3. A big fight with a friend, family member, or significant other can cause added stress. Many people blame themselves for arguments they’re having. Sometimes, if a relationship ends, it can be difficult to continue without a change in emotional state.
4. Medication changes are often made to fix some symptoms of bipolar disorder. Sometimes these changes help, while other times, they can worsen the symptoms. Medication changes should only be made under the supervision of a psychiatrist.
5. Loss of a loved one can be enormously difficult to deal with for anyone. Some individuals go straight into a manic or depressive episode, and have a hard time coming back from it.
6. Anniversaries of important dates can be just as difficult as the loss of a loved one. People often think of their regrets and misgivings that plagued them at the time of the original event.
7. Not sleeping enough can cause some individuals to experience manic episodes. Sleeping too much can lead to a depressive episode. It’s important to keep a regular sleep schedule.
8. Traveling is stressful, no matter where your destination is. It disrupts your regular routine, which is something that can easily cause a bipolar episode. It is especially difficult to travel if you are changing time zones. When traveling, take time to adjust to your vacation schedule. Give yourself some slack and listen to your body while you’re away.
9. Health problems can arise at any time during a person’s life and they can often cause depressive episodes. Taking care of your physical health is another way to take care of your mental health.
10. Any additional stress can trigger a bipolar episode. This stress can come from anywhere and occur at any time. Pay attention to your mental health and make sure you are taking time to take care of yourself.
Manic or depressive episodes can occur at any time. There are many ways to fight these episodes, such as talking to family/friends, being open with your psychiatrist, and paying attention to the events in your life. If you know what some of your triggers are, tell your friends/family about them and ask for their help. This makes it possible for someone to tell you if they see you struggling with one of your triggers. The sooner you catch an episode, the easier it is to treat it and become balanced again.