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How to cope with Bipolar Disorder

by Sydney King, Staff Reporter, Assistant Photographer

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Dramatic mood swings between the highs of mania and the lows of depression can be exhausting for the person with bipolar disorder.

For some people, episodes of anger or depression can last for weeks or months, while for others, mood swings are shorter and more frequent. Coping with bipolar disorder and the mood swings it brings can be difficult. But understanding what causes mood swings can be the first step in coping with the ups and downs of bipolar disorder.

Mood Swings: Causes and Triggers

Caused by a chemical imbalance that alters a person’s moods. This imbalance may be linked to irregular hormone production or a problem with chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters that act as messengers to nerve cells.

Some triggers are:

Stress from major life events, both positive and negative
Lack of sleep
Erratic schedules
Caffeine and alcohol
Certain medications, such as antidepressants

Stopping bipolar meds or varying the treatment schedule
Thyroid problems
Substance abuse

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population age 18 and older every year.

Mood Swings: Coping Strategies

While some triggers like seasonal changes or a stressful event may be impossible to avoid, lifestyle changes and mood-management strategies can make a big difference.

  • Control stress: Do what you can to simplify your life and relieve stress in your work and personal life. See if your spouse, family members, and friends can help with household responsibilities.
  • Practice healthy sleeping habits:Being overtired can trigger mania in some bipolar people. Relax before bed by listening to soothing music, reading, or taking a warm bath
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and drugs:Alcohol and drugs can affect how your medications work and possibly trigger a mood episode.

Knowing what your triggers are and taking steps to manage them can help prevent a minor mood swing from becoming a serious problem.

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How to cope with Bipolar Disorder