Living with bipolar disorder can be seen as an exercise in both patience and proactive planning. Patience, because the fact is that bipolar disorder is a chronic and complex mental health disorder that is ever shifting, and proactive planning is key to managing the warning signs of an impending relapse.
And relapse there will be. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong diagnosis, the alternating manic and depressive episodes that one must learn to manage. Even the most valiant efforts to stave off recurrence may fail when signs of bipolar depression relapse are flashing. But doing something is a better option than doing nothing when impending relapse is on the horizon.
Sometimes a relapse will completely surprise the person. There may not be any foreseeable signs of bipolar depression relapse on the horizon—it just happens. Even though the relapse was unforeseen, there are still steps to take to mitigate the symptoms of depression. Living with bipolar disorder is all about management.
About Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder, once known as manic-depressive disorder, is a mental illness that features extreme shifts between manic emotional states and depressive emotional states. In most cases, bipolar disorder appears in the teen or early adult years, and affects 2.6% of the U.S. adult population, or approximately 5.7 million people, according to the National Institute on Mental Illness. Of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder, more than 8 out of 10 will have a severe form of the mental health disorder.
While bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings between mania and depression, there are variations of the disorder. These include:
Bipolar I Disorder: Features dramatic mood swings between manic episodes and depressive episodes, with normal period between them.
Bipolar II Disorder: Features at least one depressive episode and one hypomanic (less severe than manic) episode. Depression symptoms are more prevalent.
Cyclothymic Disorder: Features milder versions of both mania and depression that occur often.
Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified: Features the symptoms of mania and depression that do not meet diagnostic criteria.
Common Bipolar Depression Relapse Signs
Although the actual cause of a bipolar relapse is still unknown, there may be a pattern of triggers or situations that can lead to a bipolar depression relapse. Lack of sleep and too much stress are common triggers that can bring on a bipolar relapse. Research shows that at least 75% of those with bipolar disorder will experience relapse, according to a study published in the Iranian Journal of Psychiatry. Bipolar II disorder, which is defined by the prevalence of depressive episodes, is more prone to relapse.
Some of the signs of bipolar depression relapse include:
- Increasing irritability
- More headaches, stomachaches
- Change in eating habits
- Sleep problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Fuzzy thinking
- Difficulty making decisions
- Avoiding social interaction, skipping school, staying home from work
- Not taking medication, missing therapy appointments
- Feeling flat
- Thoughts of suicide
Anticipate Potential Triggers and Take Preventative Steps
When the signs of an impending relapse are seen, as often they are not and depression can suddenly appear without warning, there are some steps to take to ward off the relapse. Because bipolar is a chronic condition, it may help track the triggers or symptoms of the disorder by keeping a journal. This is a tool that may begin to reveal a pattern of signs that can help the individual become more aware of a forthcoming relapse back into depression.
Also, just anticipating events or situations that might trigger a depressive episode can help prepare for it. Noting on a calendar a few days before a potentially triggering event can help one focus on self-care, to take proactive steps that can possibly diminish the impact of the event. This might include massage therapy, acupuncture, mindfulness meditation, getting quality sleep, eating nutrition rich foods, and seeing the therapist.
Managing Bipolar Disorder
Although there is no cure for bipolar disorder, the condition can be managed using a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle adjustments. By being vigilant and proactive with these interventions, an individual can expect to enjoy more stability and overall wellness while living a productive life.
Medication: Mood stabilizing medications, such as antipsychotics and antidepressants, are the most commonly prescribed drugs for treating bipolar disorder. Lithium is the most commonly prescribed medication for controlling bipolar disorder, while anticonvulsants and SSRIs are also utilized often as well. It is important for patients to comply with their medication schedule and dosing to maintain stability.
Psychotherapy: Because thoughts can influence behaviors, and negative thoughts can lead to self-destructive behaviors, cognitive behavioral therapy is an excellent therapy for helping individuals with bipolar disorder. CBT helps one identify and correct the irrational and troublesome behavior patterns associated with bipolar disorder.
Lifestyle: Establishing a healthy routine is an essential aspect of managing bipolar disorder. Sticking to a regular sleep schedule, getting regular exercise, eating nutritiously, and managing stress are all intrinsic to achieving stability and reducing the probability of a relapse.
Even a diligent adherence to these important treatment methods may not deter the signs of bipolar depression relapse. Bipolar disorder remains an unexplained mystery in many ways, including the cycling of relapses. However, by charting thoughts, feelings, situations, trigger exposures, emotional issues, work and family issues, and health conditions, managing pre-relapse situations and taking proactive steps can help avoid the onset of a relapse.
Elevation Behavioral Health Residential Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Elevation Behavioral Health is a Los Angeles-based mental health provider that provides residential services for individuals with bipolar disorder. When symptoms have worsened and relapse becomes a chronic issue, a stay at Elevation Behavioral Health may provide the intensive and focused care needed. Our expert clinical team will design a customized treatment protocol that addresses each individual’s unique bipolar features for best results. Using a medley of evidence-based therapies and holistic approaches, Elevation Behavioral Health addresses all aspects of the person. For more details about our residential program, please contact Elevation today at (888) 561-0868.