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Bipolar disorder: Recognize the signs of a cycle before it happens

Those who have Bipolar disorder go through cycles of depression and mania, which can vary in intensity. Some will even have what is called "mixed episodes," where they have the characteristics of both depression and mania at the same time. Those with Bipolar, as well as their family and friends, often wish they could predict when a cycle was going to happen. While the condition is unpredictable, some people have learned that their body gives subtle signs that they are about to cycle.

Can you predict a Bipolar cycle before it happens?
Image courtesty of David Castillo Dominici/

Tingling in the brain

As someone who has dealt with Bipolar disorder for several years, it was only a few years ago that I realized my body gave me signs when I was about to shift into mania. One of those signs was a tingling on the brain, which literally felt like someone was giving me small electrical shocks right on my brain. By keeping a mood journal, it became clear that within 12 hours of feeling those shocks, I would switch into severe mania.

Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to predict when severe depression is about to hit.

Headaches and other pain

Some people with Bipolar disorder have reported that before they fully cycle, they will get headaches, joint pain or even sinus pain. There are others who say their vision starts to become slightly blurry before the big switch.

Mood journal patterns

Even though Bipolar is unpredictable, some people (not all) do have a pattern of cycles. Writing in a mood journal can help you and your doctor determine if there is some sort of pattern. Sometimes it is easy to see, while other times the pattern won't become clear until several months of entries can be analyzed. For those that have smartphones, there are several mood apps that can keep track for you.

Even though some people are able to recognize patterns through a mood journal, don't be discouraged if you can't. There are several things that can trigger a cycle or change your patterns. Changes in medication, diet, activity level and stress can all cause a shift in cycles.

Mood changes

When one switches from depression to mania, it is expected that their mood is going to change. But some people notice subtle changes before the switch is completely flipped. They begin to get irritable or start becoming more productive. Paying attention to these subtle changes can warn you of an upcoming cycle.

Changes in sleep and eating

Those who have Bipolar will often experience changes in other things besides their moods. When manic, they tend to require very little sleep. Their eating patterns can also change, going from eating balanced to eating all the time or not feeling hungry. Just like stated above, paying close attention to your body might clue to in to when there is going to be a change.

Everyone with Bipolar disorder is different. Their condition is different, they are on different medications and the severity and symptoms can also differ. Some experience hallucinations while others don't. There are those who are high functioning, living an independent and successful life while others have to be in a group home or hospitalized long-term. While not everyone will have signs that a cycle is about to occur, there are many who do. Pay close attention to your body and maybe it is giving you signs of a depressive or manic cycle coming on.

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