Triggers of Bipolar Disorder

By | April 25th, 2023

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), bipolar disorder is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, with roughly 2.5% of the global population suffering from the condition. For many, bipolar disorder emerges during their late teenage or early adult years.

The severity of a person’s bipolar disorder can range from mild to so severe that it leaves the person debilitated, making them unable to perform even the most basic of tasks.

For those suffering from bipolar disorder, it’s important to remember that professional treatment and help are available. Evolve Wellness in California can help address the triggers of bipolar disorder through our unique telehealth treatment. With telehealth treatment, you can get the help you need from the comfort of your own home.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

triggers of bipolar disorderBipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings, ranging from episodes of elevated and irritable mood (mania or hypomania) to episodes of depressed mood (bipolar depression). These mood episodes can significantly disrupt daily life and affect relationships, work, and overall well-being.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition that requires lifelong management, and without proper treatment, it can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. In fact, studies have shown that the suicide rate among those suffering from bipolar disorder is anywhere from 10-30 times higher than it is among the general population.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder has distinct mood episodes that can be categorized into three main types: mania, hypomania, and depression.

Mania and Hypomania

Mania and hypomania share the same symptoms which include:

  • Elevated mood
  • Feeling upbeat, euphoric, or irritable
  • Increased energy
  • Racing thoughts
  • Poor judgment
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Unusual talkativeness

With mania these symptoms are often severe enough to cause a disruption in the person’s daily life. They may be unable to go to work or school, or they may find themselves in risky or unsafe situations such as excessive spending, risky sexual behaviors, or reckless driving.

Hypomania is a more mild form of mania, meaning that during hypomania the person may still be able to go about their daily life with little to no interruption.

Bipolar Depression

Bipolar depression can be characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Emptiness
  • Sadness
  • Tearfulness
  • Guilt
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep issues
  • Hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlensess
  • Slowed behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

Triggers of Bipolar Disorder

Triggers are events or factors that can lead to the onset or worsening of mood episodes in individuals with bipolar disorder. While triggers can vary from person to person, there are several known triggers that can exacerbate the symptoms of bipolar disorder or trigger a manic or depressive episode in individuals who are already predisposed to the condition.

Changes in Sleep

Changes in sleep patterns are not only one of the more common symptoms of bipolar disorder, but it can also be a fairly common trigger.

Both sleep deprivation and disruptions in sleep patterns, such as irregular sleep schedules or changes in time zones, can trigger manic or hypomanic episodes in individuals with bipolar disorder. Sleep disturbances can also lead to increased irritability, mood swings, and difficulties in managing stress, which can exacerbate the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

It’s important for people suffering from bipolar disorder to prioritize structured sleep habits including:

  • Having a consistent sleep schedule
  • Avoiding caffeine and stimulating activities before bedtime
  • Creating a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Creating a conducive sleep environment

Prioritizing healthy sleep habits can not only help the person’s overall well-being but it can also reduce the risk of triggering manic or depressive episodes.

Relationship Issues

If you or a loved one is battling bipolar disorder, understanding and being able to recognize these triggers can go a long way in getting the professional help you need to address your condition.

Relationship issues, including conflicts with family members, friends, or romantic partners, can be significant triggers for bipolar disorder. Not only can these conflicts trigger an episode, but they can also be the result of currently being in a manic or depressive episode.

Stressful situations in relationships such as breakups, divorces, conflicts, or loss of loved ones often lead to increased emotional distress which, in turn, can trigger mood swings.

It is important for those with bipolar disorder to be aware of the impact of relationship issues on their mental health and take steps to manage them effectively such as:

  • Seeking support from a therapist or counselor
  • Practicing healthy communication and conflict resolution skills
  • Setting healthy boundaries in relationships
  • Taking time for self-care and self-reflection

Substance Abuse and Addiction

While substance abuse and addiction may not cause bipolar disorder, turning to drugs and alcohol as a way of self-medicating can help cause an episode to occur or even make an existing episode worse.

Regular drug and alcohol use can disrupt the mood stabilizers in the brain which can intensify the symptoms of bipolar disorder. They can also interfere with sleep patterns, impair judgment, and negatively impact relationships, all of which are both symptoms and triggers of bipolar disorder.

Even those who may be taking antidepressants to help manage their bipolar disorder may experience manic episodes.

For those battling substance abuse and addiction on top of bipolar disorder, it is important to seek treatment right away to address both conditions simultaneously (this is known as dual diagnosis treatment).

Co-occurring disorders are often treated using a combination of:

Season of the Year

For roughly 20% of people with bipolar disorder, their symptoms are tied to both the weather and the time of the year. This is what’s known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Those with SAD are more likely to suffer from depressive episodes in the winter and manic or hypomanic episodes in the spring and summer.

The main reason for this is the changes in daylight hours. A person’s circadian rhythm, which is the body’s internal response to changes in a day, is affected by the amount of sunlight they get each day.

The decrease in daylight during the fall and winter months can disrupt the body’s internal clock and impact mood-regulating neurotransmitters in the brain, potentially triggering depressive episodes. During the spring and summer months, the increase in daylight can trigger manic or hypomanic episodes.

For those suffering from SAD, or those with bipolar disorder that are affected by the change in seasons, light therapy has been proven to be particularly effective.


Postpartum depression is a serious and fairly common condition that can develop in women after giving birth, whether they have a history of bipolar disorder or not.

For those with bipolar disorder specifically, the hormonal fluctuations that take place both during and after pregnancy can disrupt the balance of mood-regulating chemicals in the brain. This can trigger manic, hypomanic, or even depressive episodes.

Bipolar disorder is also strongly associated with postpartum psychosis, a severe mental illness characterized by an inability to respond emotionally to one’s newborn, or by thoughts of harming one’s baby.

It’s also important to note that while it is often assumed that postpartum depression can only occur in the mother (the person giving birth), the father may also experience symptoms of postpartum depression.

Job Loss

Even for those who do not suffer from a mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder, losing a job can be incredibly stressful.

For someone with bipolar disorder, the loss of financial stability, routine, and a sense of purpose that comes with having a job can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and depression. All of these can trigger a manic or depressive episode.

Putting money away for a “rainy day” may help make the transition process after the loss of a job less stressful.

Death of a Loved One

Grief and loss, such as the death of a loved one, can be a significant trigger for bipolar disorder episodes. The emotional impact of losing a loved one can lead to intense grief, sadness, and emotional instability, which can trigger episodes of depression or mania.

While the grieving process is never easy for anyone, for someone with bipolar disorder, it can be debilitating.

Get Help Treating Your Triggers of Bipolar Disorder at Evolve Wellness

what triggers bipolar depressionManaging triggers of bipolar disorder is a crucial part of effectively managing the condition and maintaining stability in daily life. If you or a loved one is struggling with bipolar disorder in California, it is important to seek professional help from a qualified mental health professional, such as the ones here at Evolve Wellness.

We are a telehealth mental health treatment center based out of Corona, California that specializes in providing evidence-based and personalized care for individuals with a variety of mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder.

Since we are a telehealth facility, there is no need to have to travel to get treatment. You can get the treatment you need from wherever it is most comfortable and convenient for you whether that’s at home, at work, or on the go.

For more information about our telehealth treatment, or to learn how we can help you manage your bipolar disorder, contact us today.

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