A key to managing bipolar disorder is to recognize early relapse warning signs. Medication will minimize, but not eliminate, mood swings for many people coping with bipolar disorder. Changes in a medication regimen may need to be made to optimize stabilization. Identify your specific early warning signs of bipolar disorder relapse so you can notify your treatment team right away. In order to intervene more effectively, it is important to recognize warning signs prior to shifting into a hypomanic, manic, or depressive episode.
Here is a list of sample warning signs of bipolar disorder relapse. Warning signs may not be exactly the same every time but are often similar to what has happened in past episodes.
Early warning signs of bipolar disorder relapse:
- Do you have decreased need for sleep? Are you starting to stay up late and not feel exhausted the next day?
- Have you had a couple nights in a row of poor sleep because you can’t get to sleep or stay asleep?
- Are you irritable? Is the irritability out of proportion to the situation, different from how you would normally react, or a feeling of underlying edginess.
- Have you increased your alcohol consumption? Any recent binge drinking?
- Road rage episode? Are you driving faster or getting furious at other drivers?
- Are your thoughts getting sped up? Is your mind starting to work quicker?
- Do you feel complete clarity in your thinking that is different than your usual?
- Are you coming up with new, exciting ideas
- Have you started to tackle several projects at once? Do you suddenly have the energy to start projects that you have been avoiding?
Individually, each of these symptoms may not be significant or indicative of bipolar disorder relapse. Obviously, you are not going to call your treatment team every time you have a new, exciting idea!
However, if you have a combination of a couple days of reduced sleep without next day fatigue, and feel an increased clarity of your thoughts at the same time, these symptoms begin to add up to a concerning shift in your mood.
How to manage bipolar disorder: Get some help if you need it!
Family members or loved ones can be key to identifying and recognizing early warning signs. Involve the people you trust to help you recognize if symptoms return. Talk to them about what they notice as a pattern before a hypomanic, manic, or depressive episode. Often the people around you may be the first to see changes.
Coping with bipolar disorder
- Sit down and come up with a list of symptoms that may indicate you are headed towards a bipolar disorder relapse.
- Share your list with loved ones and your treatment team so they can help if they notice any changes.
Learning how to manage bipolar disorder by recognizing shifts in one’s mood early is a key to long-term success. It is much easier to intervene effectively when a mood episode is just starting than if it has progressed into a full episode.
Looking for more tips on how to manage bipolar disorder?
Here are some books I recommend or you can visit my mental health bookstore:
What Everyone Should Know About Bipolar Disorder and Hypomania
What is hypomania and how is it different from mania? Learn about the criteria for diagnosis of bipolar 2 with explanations and examples provided by someone who has been through it.