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Back to What is Bipolar Disorder?

“You’re irritable in the store. You’re irritable with the cashier. You’re irritable with the subway conductor. You’re irritable with everybody, and it turns into anger, and it’s very destructive.”
— Greg

Read more comments from people with bipolar disorder.

People with bipolar disorder may find that their mood swings are triggered by things that happen in their life. Unpleasant, sad, or even happy events can make a time of depression or mania more likely.

Triggers, also called stressors, are anything that may help cause a mood swing. Not everyone's triggers are the same.

Some common triggers of bipolar mood swings include:

  • Not having a regular sleep schedule
  • Misusing alcohol or drugs
  • Stopping your medicine
  • Starting medicines for depression (in some cases), or other medicines and herbal products
  • Having thyroid problems and other medical conditions

Some people find that triggers can be things like:

  • Seasonal changes
  • Holidays
  • Illness
  • Disagreements with family or friends
  • Problems at work
  • The death of a loved one
  • Marriage
  • Starting college
  • Starting a new job

Keeping track of moods and triggers

It's important to figure out what your own triggers are. One way to do this is to keep a diary of your moods or a Mood Chart. A mood chart is a way to record your emotions over time and a list of events in your life.

After you keep a mood chart for a while, you or your healthcare provider may start to notice patterns. For instance, you may seem to get depressed when you're away from home. Or you may feel manic when the school year begins.

Figuring out your triggers on your own can be tough. It may help to ask your trusted friends and family what they think your triggers are.

Also, seeing a healthcare provider or therapist and discussing your mood chart can help you figure out your triggers. Talking to an expert may help you see things more clearly.

Avoiding triggers

Once you figure out what tends to trigger your mood swings, the next step is to learn how to avoid these things when you can.

For instance, you may notice that consistently not getting enough sleep can lead to mood swings. In that case, you could try to plan a better sleep schedule.

You also may want to talk about your triggers with family and friends. That way, they can help you avoid your triggers, too.

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