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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Living Bipolar: Do you Know Your Triggers?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 12th 2010

on off switchIf you or someone you know or love lives with Bipolar Disorder, it becomes quite clear that there is no easy way to manage it, however, knowing your triggers can help you manage your symptoms and potentially even reduce your dependence on medications.

Knowing your triggers allows you to become more intimate with any signals your mind and body may be sending that a spiral up or down is oncoming. With greater attunement to this, preventative steps can be taken to prevent the relapse. The more and more this is done the greater self confidence you will have to being able to do this in the future. The greater self confidence you have means the less anxiety you'll have around it, which in itself will reduce imbalance.

Although bipolar disorder is often genetic, there is still often an event that sparks the spiral. In this respect, it's important to look at what you may be doing in your life that that could be a trigger.

Here are 3 categories of potential triggers to consider:


Sleep - sleep deprivation is often a trigger into mania

Exercise - exercise can help balance us and lack of exercise may be a trigger either mania or depression.

Diet - What are you eating? Foods high in sugar or an unhealthy diet could imbalance your system and lead to the initial spiral of depression or mania.   

Life Events:

Stress - On a scale of 1 -10 how high is your stress and what are you doing to manage it? Too much stress make someone give up or drive someone into a manic state.

Menstruation  - This effects some women

Seasons - Dark days can trigger a depressive episode for many

Major Events:

Death of a loved one, divorce, birth, work stress, financial stress, moving, etc... - These are all potential causes of a spiral up or down.

Getting to know these triggers can allow you to become aware of them while they're happening and with this awareness you may have more choice as to how to best take care of yourself. This is the very first step...awareness.

This is what I was talking about in a previous post bringing to light recent positive research suggesting Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT ) as a program that helps prevent relapse.

Do you or someone you know live with bipolar disorder? What are the triggers you notice?

As always, please share your thoughts, questions, and stories below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

I am my daughter's trigger - - Mar 15th 2014

My daughter was diagnosed Bipolar I two years ago.  At first, I was instrumental in assisting her management of the new diagnosis and its sympotms.  Then, she was finally becoming stable when she decided that she "needed space" from me for perceived wrongs that I allegedly committed during a highly stressful time in our family, a decade past, dealt with and finished.  It has been two years.  I have tried reaching out, at first through frequent cards which she said she appreciated until her room-mate told me she flew off into a rage whenever she received anythig from me.  So, I backed off.  Then, after receiving a birthday card last year, I called her to thank her and tell her I love her.  She went into a panic attack and told me to not get in touch with her.  After 7 months, we told her that we were discontinuing paying for her cell phone since she was not participating in the "family" plan.  We gave her 6 weeks to figure it out and then she got a new number and shut us off.  I have recently decided that I don't want this silence anymore and so I will reach out every so often.  I sent her cookies for Halloween; no comment to me.  I will send cards, items on her wish list, etc.  My goal is to wear her down and enable her to return to the family.  So, even though I know I am a trigger, I figure, "What have I got to lose?  She is not talking to me now.  Maybe with consistent contact, gentle and not pushy, she can reclaim her awareness of what it is like to have her Mom in her life and cross the bridge I am building."  I truly believe that her rage is her illness and that she the person needs an ally to overcome the distortions of her illness.  I am on a mission. 

A dear friend told me that it is mean to knowingly trigger her.  I think it is mean to knowlingly allow her distorted thinking to continue unabated.  Another friend told me that I may be pushing her away.  When there has been no contact for so long, how will my life be any different?  As long as she does not take legal action, I figure that she is condoning my behavior and I will carry on.


Questions on Bipolar Disorder - - Dec 27th 2010

Could someone hide their bipolar disorder for 3 years?

Is bipolar disorder closely connected with substance abuse?

Can depression lead one to being bipolar?

Can this disorder be completely cured?

Can a bipolar person ask for divorce one minute and say I love you the next minute?

Does being into substance abuse, depressive nature mean the person is bipolar? Or if I person says one thing one minute and another thing another minute, that means bipolar?

Adrenalin for 30 minutes - Bruce Lynch - Jun 7th 2010

If Adrenalin kicks in and stays active for 30+ minutes, I become manic every time. It takes about 2 weeks to come back down.

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