As with many other conditions, mood swings in bipolar disorder often present with early warning signs. Learning to recognize yours, or your loved one’s, can alert you to seek early intervention and hopefully prevent the full-blown episode from developing.
The key here is that everyone is different, although there are some common signs to watch for, including:
• Decreased need for sleep or any changes in sleep pattern (A decrease in sleep might be a warning sign for a manic episode, and increased sleep could be the first sign of a blossoming depression.)
• Changes in appetite
• Increased irritability
• Changes in activity level, either increased or decreased
• Impulsive behavior, increased spending, sexual activity, or gambling (Many with bipolar disorder will also describe impulsively saying things they shouldn’t, like telling your boss he’s stupid, or your wife that she’s fat, as they become hypomanic.)
• Increased spending, especially on things that are too extravagant for your budget
• An increase in alcohol or drug consumption
• Shifting enthusiasms, suddenly deciding to switch jobs, or becoming completely absorbed in some new scheme or project
• Feelings of being overwhelmed or stressed out
• Fear of relapse
• Unfamiliar experiences and situations, especially those that may disrupt your normal daily rhythms
As discussed previously, getting a handle on or identifying warning signs of a relapse can be helped through the use of detailed life charts or mood charts, i.e., mapping out the mood swings over the course of your life and making notations of what was going on (various stresses), how you were feeling, sleeping, eating, etc. More importantly, knowing your warning signs can help you make the interventions necessary to prevent a full-blown episode from developing, often through the use of relapse prevention strategies.