Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness that causes severe mood swings. These moods alternate between joyful, energetic highs (mania) and sad, weary lows (depression). Changes in mood may occur several times a week or just a few times each year.
There are several different types of bipolar disorder. These include:
Bipolar I disorder. People with bipolar I experience at least one manic episode before or after a depressive episode or mild manic episode (called hypomania).
Bipolar II disorder. People with bipolar II have at least one major depressive episode that lasts two weeks or longer. They also have at least one mild hypomanic episode that lasts more than four days. In hypomanic episodes, people are still excitable, energetic, and impulsive. However, the symptoms are milder than those associated with full-fledged manic episodes.
Cyclothymic disorder. People with cyclothymic disorder experience at least two years of hypomanic and depressive episodes. The mood swings tend to be less severe in this form of bipolar disorder.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
While there are various types of bipolar disorder, the symptoms of depression, mania, and hypomania are similar in most people. Some common symptoms include:
deep feelings of sadness or hopelessness for a long period of time
having little to no interest in activities that were once enjoyable
difficulty focusing, remembering things, and making decisions
restlessness or irritability
eating too much or too little
sleeping too much or too little
thinking or talking about death or suicide
overly joyful or outgoing mood for an extended period of time
talking quickly, rapidly transitioning between different ideas during a conversation, or having racing thoughts
being distracted easily
picking up many new activities or projects
having difficulty sleeping due to high energy levels
acting impulsively and partaking in risky behaviors
The symptoms of hypomania are the same as mania, except for two key differences:
With hypomania, mood swings usually aren’t severe enough to interfere significantly with a person’s daily activities.
No psychotic symptoms occur during a hypomanic episode. During a manic episode, psychotic symptoms may include delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia.
There’s no cure for bipolar disorder, but you can manage your mood by following a treatment plan and making lifestyle modifications. In severe cases of depression, temporary hospitalization may be required. Most of the time, however, you’ll be able to manage your bipolar disorder symptoms with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. There are also some easy lifestyle changes you can make to help yourself feel better during depressive episodes.
How to Boost Your Mood During a Depressive Episode
Coping with a depressive episode can be difficult. The symptoms of depression can make you lose interest in activities you usually enjoy and make it challenging to get through the day. But there are things you can do to fight the negative effects of depression.
Here are seven ways to boost your mood during a depressive episode:
1. Stick to a healthy routine
When you feel depressed, it’s easy to get into bad habits. You may not feel like eating even when you’re hungry, or you may continue eating even when you’re full. The same goes for sleeping. When you’re depressed, you’re more likely to sleep too little or too much.
Unhealthy eating and sleeping habits can make your depression symptoms even worse. Establishing a healthy daily routine can make it easier to maintain good habits. You should consider:
eating meals and snacks at set times throughout the day
increasing your intake of vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains
getting around seven to nine hours of sleep each night
waking up and going to bed at the same time every day
2. Structure your day
Just as scheduling your eating and sleeping can help ward off depressive symptoms, so can structuring the other activities in your day. It can be helpful to create a list of daily tasks that you check off as you complete them. It’s also useful to keep a calendar and sticky notes to help you stay on track.
When scheduling your daily tasks, be sure set aside enough time for resting and relaxing. Being overly busy can exacerbate depressive symptoms and cause frustration. It’s best to prioritize your time, taking extra care to make sure you attend all your medical appointments.
3. Don’t be afraid
When you’re not in a depressive mood, you may find pleasure in doing certain activities, such as reading or baking. When you’re feeling depressed, however, you may not have enough motivation to do anything. Despite your lack of energy, it’s important to push yourself to partake in activities you usually enjoy. Doing the things that make you happy can alleviate your depressive symptoms.
Don’t be afraid to do the activities that usually boost your mood. While you may fear that you won’t enjoy certain activities as much when you’re depressed, that doesn’t mean you should avoid them. Once you start doing these activities again, you’re likely to feel much better.
4. Stay active
Researchers believe certain types of exercise can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. This includes low-to-moderately intense walking, jogging, or biking. For best results, experts say you should exercise at least three to four days a week for 30 to 40 minutes at a time.
5. Don’t isolate yourself
When you’re depressed, social situations can seem overwhelming. You might feel like being alone, but it’s important not to isolate yourself. Being alone can increase the symptoms of depression.
Get involved in social activities, such as local book clubs or athletic teams. Spend time with friends and family or chat with them regularly on the phone. Having the support of friends and loved ones can help you feel more comfortable and confident.
6. Find new ways to relieve stress
Trying new things may be one of the last things you want to do when you’re in a depressive episode. However, doing so can help alleviate your symptoms.
For example, if you’ve never gotten a massage before, you may want to consider scheduling an appointment at a local spa. Similarly, yoga or meditation may be new to you, but they can be beneficial activities to try during depressive episodes. These activities are known for being relaxing. They can make it easier for you to cope with any stress or irritability you may be experiencing.
7. Join a support group
It can be helpful to join a support group for people with bipolar disorder. This can give you the opportunity to meet other people with the same condition and to share your experiences during depressive episodes. Ask your mental healthcare provider about support groups in your area. You can also find numerous different bipolar disorder and depression support groups by searching online. Visit the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance website for a list of online support groups.
Getting through a depressive episode can be challenging, but it’s possible. Remember that there are many ways to boost your mood and relieve symptoms. Don’t hesitate to call your doctor or mental healthcare provider if you need help.
by Timothy J. Legg, For HealthLine