Bipolar disorder is typically characterized by extreme, unpredictable mood swings, ranging from the dramatic high of mania to the deep low of depression. Coping with these diverse emotional states can pose a monumental challenge for sufferers and the people who care about them. Also known as "manic-depression," the mood swings of bipolar disorder swing between the opposite "poles" of mania and depression. These distinct mood swings, called "episodes," may vary in intensity, ranging from mild to severe. For some people, these manic and depressive episodes may last for weeks or months, while others may experience shorter, more frequent episodes. Getting treatment for bipolar disorder is the most effective way to minimize or prevent mood swings. Experts also suggest that an increased awareness of situations or events that trigger manic or depressive episodes can help reduce their frequency and intensity. Maintaining a mood diary is extremely valuable for tracking your moods on a daily basis, observing how they fluctuate over time to help you become more aware of the symptoms or circumstances that typically precede a manic or depressive episode. Tracking your moods may help you spot increases in energy levels and sex drive that may indicate a pending manic episode. If your energy levels drop progressively, along with your self-esteem and ability to concentrate, a depressive episode may be developing. As well as getting help from a doctor and support from family and friends, knowing what your triggers are may help you head off an episode and keep a change in mood from turning into a major crisis. You may also find that healthy lifestyle changes can help you manage episode triggers. For example, too much or too little sleep may trigger a shift in mood. Try sticking to a regular sleeping schedule. A warm bath or calming music may help if you have trouble sleeping. Try to steer clear of stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, which can keep you awake and also pose a risk of triggering an episode. It's also important to avoid self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, which may potentially worsen depression symptoms, affect your medication's effectiveness or trigger a mood episode. If your days tend to be on the erratic side, you may find that establishing a regular routine may reduce stress and help provide a comforting sense of stability. Regular exercise helps reduce stress levels, relieves depression symptoms and may also help reduce manic energy. Episodes of mania or hypomania and depression may not always be preventable, but remaining vigilant about tracking moods, staying on medication, and keeping in touch with your mental health professional, can help you better cope with mood swings and lead a more fulfilling life. If you or someone you know is affected by bipolar disorder, please see a mental health professional. Learn more from additional videos on this site.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012