Identifying and Tracking Bipolar Symptoms
The erratic nature of this chronic disorder also means that everyone's experience looks a little bit different so identifying and tracking bipolar symptoms can be important. Bipolar symptoms of mania, hypomania, depression and mixed episodes all cause some level of discomfort or disruption of functioning. By being able to identify, understand and track your bipolar symptoms, you increase your chances of being able to keep yourself healthy. Knowledge is power.
Identifying Your Bipolar Symptoms
Depression can feel like a heavy fog. It is characterized by feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, loss of interest in your normal daily activities, fluctuations in your sleeping patterns, lacking energy, trouble with thinking or concentrating and even thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts (What is Bipolar Depression?). If it sounds scary, that's because it is scary. In contrast, there's mania.
Mania is defined by euphoria, irritability, decreased need for sleep, excessive talking and a pumped up sense of self (Bipolar Mania and the Impact of Manic Symptoms). There's also the danger of engagement in risky behaviors like spending too much money, unsafe sexual encounters and the use of drugs and alcohol.
Hypomania is a less severe version of mania and can sometimes be a precursor for a manic episode. At this time, you might see some of the symptoms of mania, like pressured speech but still be able to maintain some control and it may have minimal impact on your daily functioning.
Mixed episodes can be really rough. Imagine cycling through symptoms of depression and mania together. At the very least it is confusing and frustrating to feel such a lack of control.
Tracking Your Bipolar Symptoms
I track my sleeping patterns regularly. When I notice periods of consistently less sleep, I take steps to get myself back on a more stable sleeping pattern. That's the beauty of knowing which symptoms affect you the most. Days of irregular sleep leads to irritability, inability to focus and flight of ideas for me. Awareness of my hit-or-miss sleeping patterns caused me to explore and learn about developing healthier sleeping habits and feel better about my slumber.
There are different ways to track and increase your awareness of symptoms. A quick and easy way is to keep a journal. Jot down the date, time and details associated with any fluctuations in your mood. For some folks, a mood chart is a better display of information. You can use the HealthyPlace mood chart, which will help you track mood, sleeping patterns, medications and allow you to make extra notes (HealthyPlace Mood Journal).
Life charting takes a look at your whole journey or as much of it as you can remember. Take a piece of paper and draw a straight line horizontally across the page. Depressive episodes are charted below the line. Manic episodes are charted above the line. Write down the date and some details. Connect the events. Hopefully, you'll be able to identify some patterns in your mood and behaviors.
Identifying your symptoms and knowing how to manage them doesn't happen overnight. It requires attention, awareness, and action. Your loved ones and team of professionals can help you by providing extra insight on what they notice as well. Start by tracking symptoms, evaluating patterns, and then trying strategies to manage them.
Dexter, G. (2017, January 6). Identifying and Tracking Bipolar Symptoms, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/bipolarvida/2017/01/understanding-and-tracking-bipolar-symptoms
Author: Geralyn Dexter
Thank you so much for reading! I'm glad to hear that you find the articles to be helpful! We pride ourselves on being a trusted source for information on various mental health conditions. More to come :)
Absolutely! The tracking of symptoms can be useful with any mental health condition. It helps us to see patterns and to identify what is helpful and what is not so helpful. Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder I was struggling mostly with anxiety and used journaling and charting to track my mood. I gained tons of insight this way.
Thanks for reading!