Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme shifts in mood, and when those shifts are severe enough, they can have a profound effect on your life. It may take months or years to piece your life back together after the damage is done. This I know firsthand, seriously, it’s been almost a year and a half and I am still putting the puzzle back together.
I’ve learned that one of the most common triggers is stress. Negative or stressful life events seem to trigger mood swings. There are studies that found people with bipolar disorder are seven to eight times more likely to experience an unwanted, extended period of extreme mood shift due to stress. The onset of my bipolar disorder was among the stress of major life events. I got engaged and married, my husband is Canadian so we had to go through the immigration process, and I hated my job and kept beating myself up for taking it. Eventually I fell into a deep depression and things just went downhill from there.
Triggers are something that can set you off in a depressive episode, but they can also set you off in a manic episode. It was when the rapid cycling between depression and mania started that my life completely spiraled out of my control. It took me eight months to get the correct diagnosis and it is such a tough disease to live with, day in and day out (especially undiagnosed). Never knowing when or where your moods will change. Even with the diagnosis it was challenging because I had not yet learned what my triggers were and what to do when they came at me from all directions.
Of course, manic and depressive episodes aren’t always a result of a trigger. However, doctors claim that if you can manage your triggers then you can cut your symptoms in half. Knowledge is power, right?
I’d define a trigger as anything outside of the illness that causes mood swings. Learning to avoid what sets you off is extremely important to managing your illness. Every individual has different triggers but the most common triggers for bipolar mood swings include – stress, lack of sleep, arguments, relationship problems, drugs and alcohol, antidepressants and other medications, the change of seasons, pregnancy and birth, job loss, and death.
I have recently began charting my moods two or three times a day, or whenever I feel as if my mood is swinging. I use an app on my iPhone that allows me to rate my mood and add notes about events or feelings. I find this to be the easiest for me because I always have my phone near me. This allows me to evaluate my mood as it relates to events in my day, enabling me to identify triggers as well as things that appear to improve my mood. For example, I can wake up in a good mood but if I get in a heated argument with my husband my mood swings way down. The trigger management really seems to be helping me become more stable. As I grow more stable, I have become capable of handling certain triggers in small doses.
For those of you that also struggle with this brain disease, I strongly suggest taking the time to learn what your triggers are and create a plan for trigger management.
Feel free to share your thoughts, feelings or opinions, as always 🙂