Preventing Summertime Bipolar Mania

Summer provides the perfect seasonal landscape for plenty of gratifying socially engaging activities.  There always seem to be plenty of weddings, family reunions, parties, holiday vacations, and a variety of leisure and recreational activities. While the extended daylight hours may induce increased levels of vivacity and vigor, those with bipolar disorder need to be wary of the signs of summertime mania.  Just like the darker days in winter can trigger a spell of depression to come creeping in, spring and especially summer provide the flip-side in terms of mania provocation.   During a manic episode, a bipolar individual is overwhelmed with euphoria.  They may feel excessively happy or confident, even if the situation doesn’t call for it. This extreme enthusiasm may precipitate risky behaviors such as excessive shopping, gambling or impromptu sexual encounters.

More often than not, however, an extreme level of irritability is experienced.  Mania sometimes escalates to psychosis including hallucinations and delusions, wherein hospitalization is required.  Manic episodes last for a minimum of one week and the feeling is typically experienced for most of the day.   According to the APA (American Psychological Association), bipolar disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are mutually exclusive conditions. SAD is a seasonal form of unipolar depression experienced in the shorter days of winter only.  In contrast, bipolar disorder is a chronic illness characterized by major depressive and manic episodes of varying lengths and severity with the capacity to disable temporarily or permanently, having a lifetime morbidity risk of approximately 1%.

The medical director of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and professor at Harvard University Medical School, Ken Duckworth, MD, has reportedly stated: “If you do not experience the manic highs during the spring or have a history of them, you probably do not have bipolar disorder.”

According to a study by Dr. Frank Bellivier et. al, “disruptions in sleep and circadian rhythms are observed in individuals with bipolar disorders (BD), both during acute mood episodes and remission.”

Interestingly, some of us are predisposed to have our circadian rhythms go askew if not carefully governed. Per Everyday Health, one of the most prominent developing theories has to do with circadian rhythms — the “biological clock” — the body’s internal, rhythmic response to changes in a 24-hour day, especially sunlight. This response is controlled by a complex set of genes commonly referred to as “clock genes.” If some of these genes are abnormal, you may have a higher risk of developing seasonal bipolar disorder, according to a study published in August 2015 in Frontiers in Psychology.

Signs You May Be Experiencing Bipolar Summertime Mania:

  • Requiring little to no sleep.
  • Not feeling hungry.
  • Extreme irritability.
  • Being unusually enthusiastic about a specific project or goal-directed activity at once.
  • Suddenly becoming uncharacteristically social or gregarious.
  • Sudden lack of impulse control, engaging in risky, compulsive, or addictive behavior with disregard to the impact of one’s financial, social, or physical wellbeing.  e.  compulsive shopping, multiple sexual partners, gambling, drinking, illicit drugs, cutting, eating disordered behaviors, etc.
  • Inflated ego and/or self-esteem.
  • Pressured speech.
  • Becoming easily distracted, Racing thoughts/flight of ideas.
  • Feeling as though you may not actually need your medicine and that this is “one’s normal”, considering stopping taking prescribed psychiatric medication, disregarding the flip-side of this feeling, especially if one were to suddenly stop

Ways To Prevent Summertime Bipolar Mania

  • Maintain (or re-establish) a routine. Your wake, eat, activity, sleep cycle should be kept as consistent and unvaried as possible.
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep.
  • Re-regulate your circadian rhythm.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Assess your caffeine intake.
  • Have a benchmark to evaluate your lifestyle and personal habits.
  • Know how to watch for and recognize your own signs for impending hypomania.
  • Be cognizant of your limits for social engagements including other personal and professional commitments.
  • Make a plan. Meet with your psychiatrist and or psychologist and make an updated proactive treatment plan for the upcoming summer in preparation.  This can include adjusting medication, increasing therapy sessions, and asking family and friends for increased support.

 

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