Everyone gets irritated at times especially if they are hungry or tired. People with bipolar disorder are often more sensitive to fluctuations in their internal and external environment and can become more agitated, anxious, sad, or angry than the situation would warrant for those without bipolar disorder. Examples of these fluctuations include:
Being cold or hot
Other people’s emotions or moods
Tactile input such as touch by clothing or other people
Some ideas to help combat these triggers
Eat at regular intervals and always carry snacks and water with you when you leave the house.
Talk to others, journal or exercise when angry or if you are in a 12-step program work the steps on it.
Make contact with people in real life on a regular basis.
Go to bed and get up around the same time everyday.
Dress in layers and always keep a jacket or coat in the car. You never know when a restaurant or store will be extra cold. Keep a cold wet cloth in a small cooler during hot weather to place on your forehead or the back of your neck.
Always carry pain reliever with you when you leave the house.
Use ear plugs that cut down on the decibel level of the environmental noise.
Wear a hat or sun glasses to shade the light.
Practice setting boundaries and blocking out other people’s emotions.
Remove yourself from situations where other people’s emotions and behaviors cause you distress.
Cut the tags out of clothing.
Wear comfortable clothing like loose shirts and elastic waist pants.
Remove yourself from noxious orders or keep a cloth with you that has a scent you like on it to bring to your nose when you can’t get away from a smell.
What are some of your triggers and how do you deal with them?
Everyone has the potential to grieve losses in their life. Those with bipolar disorder don’t have a right to say they grieve more than others. However, they are at risk for extreme mood episodes as a result of a significant loss in their life, making their grief dangerous and potentially life threatening.
The loss doesn’t have to be a death. It can be a job, a relationship, or a tragedy without death like a severe illness or injury. It doesn’t have to involve someone who is personally known but can be related to a collective loss or tragedy of a famous person or someone in their community.
When a person with bipolar disorder experiences a loss, at a minimum, daily tasks may fall by the wayside. Worst case scenario the person becomes completely immobilized, ignores their most basic tasks such as hygiene and nutrition and starts having thoughts of harming him or herself.
Some ways to cope with a loss if you have bipolar disorder is to make sure you keep taking your medicine as prescribed.
Stay away from alcohol and recreational drugs which can bring you down even further and lower your inhibition when trying to stay safe.
Talk to someone about your feelings.
Journal about your thoughts and feelings.
Go to a support group.
Talk to your doctor.
Go to a therapist or counselor.
Go for a walk.
Spend time with animals or children.
Take a hot bath.
Take the time and care you need to ride out the emotions knowing they will pass.
Do not “should” yourself or judge or talk negatively to yourself about anything you’re not able to do while going through this time. This is the way your brain was made and it is not something you chose. Acceptance and self compassion are key to experiencing less suffering during these times.
What are some other ways you can or have coped with loss in your life?
Everyone has bad days, but when yours start to negatively affect your relationships it may be a sign of bipolar disorder. I can be irritated for no apparent reason for days at a time and this is often a symptom of mixed mania for me where I am hypomanic and depressed at the same time. My baseline is low depression so when I get a burst of creativity or energy that I have trouble acting on I get irritable quickly.
If this happens to you, learning mindfulness and anger management techniques might be helpful. It also might be a good idea to discuss it with your doctor.
Nine months ago I posted an article on Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) and I ended it with “More to come…” Well, more never came. I had started reading a DBT workbook around this time and joining in on a weekly DBT Twitter space as well, which is what inspired me to write about the topic. I quickly got bored with the book and as a result also lost interest in the space on Twitter and didn’t give the article or topic a second thought.
Having grandiose ideas and abandoning them before they are finished is a common symptom in people with bipolar disorder.
“Having a house full of half-completed projects is a hallmark of bipolar disorder. People who can harness their energy when they are in a hypomanic phase can be really productive. Those who can’t often go from task to task, planning grand, unrealistic projects that are never finished before moving on to something else.
In honor of World Bipolar Disorder Day I am going to discuss numerous things bipolar disorder has given to and taken away from me. I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar type 2 disorder 15 years ago. I knew nothing about the disorder or how it would affect my life for the next 15 years. While there are positives that have come about due to having bipolar, the negatives far outweigh them.
What Bipolar Disorder Has Taken From Me
The ability to work a paying job
Since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I have tried various ways of staying gainfully employed. I have worked full-time outside of the home and part time from home for a healthcare employer, as well as part time outside of the home and from home for myself. In each situation my bipolar symptoms, especially anxiety (social, general and panic), anger/irritability, and depression, have left me unable to cope with the demands.
I even started a photography business since photography is my favorite hobby, but the business side of it and dealing with people was more than I could handle and bipolar symptoms were triggered. So, I had to quit or continue to suffer the negative health consequences.
My ideal body weight
Bipolar medications have caused me to gain at least 20 pounds over the last 10 years. Couple that with the fact that my previous career involved a lot of exercise that I no longer get and the weight keeps piling on. My rapid cycling moods make sticking to an at-home exercise routine or diet regimen nearly impossible.
The ability to be a stable parent
Unfortunately, my bipolar disorder has negatively affected my children. There have been times where, because of anxiety and depression, I have been unable to get out of bed to be there for them or to attend their activities, and even worse, times where I have been hurtful with my words to them due to hypomanic irritability. I worry that they have picked up their own anxieties from growing up in a household filled with mine.
The ability to socialize and be in public places without extra medication
Bipolar anxiety has left me with an extremely sensitive nervous system that becomes overstimulated with what is typical input for most people. For me, the noises are always too loud, lights too bright, smells too strong, and people too close. I have to take one or two additional medications to cope with all of these stimuli.
Spontaneous changes in my routine
Maintaining mood stability requires that I adhere to fairly strict schedules with my sleep, medications, food intake, and social calendar. I go to bed at the same time each night. A rare late night out can wreak havoc on my mood for days afterwards.
I take my medications on a strict schedule. Forgetting a dose can cause troubling side effects such as light-headedness and nausea.
I eat three meals a day because going too long without eating can affect my moods greatly.
Finally, I have to plan ahead for social events. Any last minute plans or changes to plans can send me into a tailspin.
Parts of my creativity
Before going on certain bipolar medications, I was prolific at writing, especially poetry and mental health blogs. I also painted a lot. I believe antipsychotics dried up those creative wells for me. I just don’t have the same drive and imagination for it anymore.
The ability to stick with something long term
I will often enthusiastically start projects such as writing a book, starting a new blog, beginning an exercise program, creating a house cleaning schedule, starting a new diet, reading a book, or learning a new skill, but after a few weeks my mood will shift and I will abandon whatever it is I began. It’s a pattern I’ve had for nearly my whole life, starting long before I even knew I had bipolar disorder.
Outdoor summer fun
Some of the bipolar medications I take make it difficult for my body to regulate its temperature. Therefore, I’ve had to give up many once enjoyed outdoor activities when the weather is too hot, such as spending the day on the lake with friends, watching the kids’ baseball games, lounging for hours at the pool, going for walks, and doing yard work.
The irritability that comes along with bipolar mood fluctuations has caused me to do or say things that most people might think but never act on and this has caused rifts in some of my friendships.
I also think that because of bipolar disorder my inhibitions can be lower at times in a way that makes it feel like I can’t control what comes out of my mouth and I find myself blurting out comments or answers that are inappropriate.
Paranoia has also caused me to embarrassingly ask friends if they are mad at me or don’t like me anymore which is just awkward for everyone.
Peace of mind
With bipolar disorder’s mood changes and the secondary emotions that can come with it, such as anger, irritability, and anxiety, I am always on edge and wondering what is coming next. Everything internally feels so unpredictable that I can barely ever relax and feel secure about my health. Even when things are going well I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Lasting peace of mind seems to forever elude me.
What Bipolar Disorder Has Given to Me
An opportunity to stay home full time and work on my physical, mental, and spiritual health
Because I am home most days by myself, I am able to spend a lot of time learning, reading, writing, reflecting on things, and participating in hobbies, support groups, spiritual groups, and going to as many doctors’ appointments as I need to to reach towards my fullest potential in all areas of my health. If I did not have bipolar disorder, I would be working full time and not have the time to do all of these things.
The ability to truly help my children, who also suffer from mental illnesses
My kids have had multiple physical and mental issues over the years that have required many daytime doctor and therapy visits that I would have not been able to do if I was working a full-time job. Bipolar disorder has forced me out of the work place thereby allowing me to be home for them during some of the most critical and crucial times of their lives.
The ability to support others with mental health issues in real life and online with greater compassion and open-mindedness
Sometimes you can’t imagine what others are going through unless you’ve been through it yourself. I have been through a lot of trauma and heartache including hospitalizations due to suicidal behavior thanks to bipolar disorder. You just can’t help others in the same way when you haven’t experienced these depths of despair as you can when you have. I have something valuable to offer others because of my trials.
What About You and Bipolar Disorder?
What are some things bipolar disorder has taken from you and/or given to you? Share your experiences in the comments.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy’s (DBT) premise is that two seemingly opposite things can be true at the same time. For example, my parents did the best they knew how when raising me and they negatively affected my emotional development.
DBT trains the mind to think with a good balance between reason and emotion, calling this the “wise mind.” It also can keep you out of all or nothing or black and white thinking. There are many shades of grey with everything in life.
There are four main tenets of DBT. They are Distress Tolerance, Mindfulness, Emotional Regulation, and Interpersonal Skills.
Distress Tolerance and Radical Acceptance
Distress Tolerance includes an idea called “Radical Acceptance” where you fully acknowledge the present moment reality. This does not equal condonement. Radical acceptance places you in a position of being able to make a plan to elicit changes in your life because you cannot change anything if you aren’t fully engaged in the acceptance of what currently is.
Distress Tolerance skills include distraction and self-soothing. Distract by engaging in pleasurable, non-destructive activities, focusing on helping others, doing chores, counting breaths or anything you can see, or distract by removing yourself from the situation.
Self-soothe any of your senses: smell, sight, sound, taste and touch. Use any input that makes you feel good that is non-destructive and not harmful to you or anyone else.
Above all, make sure to use the “Rest” technique in any situation that is upsetting to you at the start. Relax (R), Evaluate the facts (E), Set an intention (S), Take action (T). The intention and take action steps could include some ideas from the distress tolerance skills.
Comorbidities in people with mental illness means they have another disorder in addition to their mental illness. This is quite common. I, for example, have bipolar disorder and chronic migraine.
Comorbidities do not have to be a mental disorder paired with a physical disorder. They can also be two or more mental disorders or two or more physical disorders.
Having more than one disorder has its challenges. For example, a person with both multiple sclerosis and depression would be treated for both conditions, but it would be important to take into consideration the overlap between medications that would be prescribed by different doctors.
For this reason, people with comorbid disorders should take good notes of their symptoms, medications and their side effects, and anything they and their doctors discuss at each appointment so that unwanted interactions are avoided. It is also important to have excellent communication with all providers so that everyone knows what everyone else is doing.
If you have comorbidities, you must be a persistent advocate for yourself to get the proper treatment plan in place to treat all of your disorders so that you can reach and maintain optimal health, both physically and mentally. By following the aforementioned suggestions you can be on your way to better health no matter how many comorbidities you have.