Why Bipolar Mood Instability Happens During the Holidays
Many people can find enjoying the holidays challenging, but for those with bipolar disorder, the holidays can also cause bipolar mood instability. This is a special challenge over and above what the average person faces. While average people may worry about seeing a brother who hates them or an alcoholic aunt who is a mess, people with bipolar disorder risk a bipolar relapse. Here are some of the reasons why the holidays cause bipolar mood instability for those with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Mood Instability and Mania/Hypomania
The holidays can be merry and bright. They can be merry and bright and loud and stressful and intense and overwhelming. The holidays can expose us to so much stress and stimuli that it causes mood instability to the point of hypomania or mania. This can happen because we sleep less (What's the Deal with Sleep and Bipolar?), because we get overstressed, because we socialize so much, because there is so much alcohol flowing or simply because our typical routine is interrupted. I think of it like being trapped in a world of swirling Christmas lights. It absolutely can make you feel crazy.
I know that for me, when I’m overstimulated with stress and anxiety, my hypomania tends to magically appear. It often appears in a minor way and then causes a lack of sleep which makes it worse. Soon I’m in a hypomanic or mixed mood only noticing it when it gets really bad.
Bipolar Mood Instability and Depression
Bipolar depression is another type of mood instability that is common during the holidays. This can come about if you’re not looking forward to the holidays but feel compelled to participate in them anyway. Anyone in that situation might feel uncomfortable or down, but for a person with bipolar disorder, this can rapidly progress into a full-blown depression. I know that some years, sitting around my family’s dinner table on Christmas day can be more an exercise in self-control and dissociation than it is either bright or merry.
But I also find the disruption in my bipolar routine is likely to lead to bipolar depression during the holidays. Again, this is often because of a sleep disruption and an overly-emotional environment. Many people do find that family triggers unpleasant emotions but the difference for those with bipolar disorder is that it can, again, turn into a full-blown episode.
And for me at least, I often keep it together during the holidays and then fall into an endless hole when it’s all over. I know that the drive home often uses up many, many tissues.
The next article will outline how to avoid bipolar mood instability over the holidays.
For more help with bipolar mood instability over the holidays, see:
Check out Natasha Tracy’s book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar and connect with her on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.
Image by Flickr user Kathryn.
Tracy, N. (2016, December 20). Why Bipolar Mood Instability Happens During the Holidays, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, March 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2016/12/why-the-holidays-cause-bipolar-mood-instability
Author: Natasha Tracy
The holidays are extremely lonely for me. I have been single for awhile (I lost my partner to schizophrenia) and live alone. All of my friends are in relationships. I am not in the same state as my brother and mother, and do not have any human children, although I have fur children. I feel that holidays are for couples and families. I never feel like I belong anyway, but it's so much worse on holidays. The last thing I want to do is look at all of the pictures of happy families and couples, or be the odd one out in person. It's just another reminder of my aloneness - all of the men I liked, but never loved, or boyfriends who I loved but who ultimately didn't love me enough to stay. Endless despair. The holidays are absolutely the worst for me. Every one. Every year. I end up fantasizing about walking into traffic.
Under a blanket alone with the illnesses. No children. The awkward thumb amongst the many fingers in my family. The less seasonal reminders, the better. Mute the commercials, avoid eye contact and remember the other sibling with kids and grandkids. My gift though is I am 7 years sober.
Hi. This Christmas was especially rough on me. Don't know why. The parties just freak me out. So much anxiety. I need my down time. The day after Christmas I start to feel better.
I have been very ill this Xmas. Part anxiety because I hate this time of year. My doctor told me to double my meds, but I feel like I have had a brain seizure. This is my first real manic episode for some time,& has left me feeling like a shell.