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Sherry Hoover, MA, LPC
Seasonal Effects On Bipolar Disorder
Potomac Psychological Center, LLC

Seasonal Effects On Bipolar Disorder

About 10% of the population suffers from spring madness or winter blues, which has been used to describe seasonal mood changes. Now imagine having a mood disorder on top of that. According to the Medical News Today approximately one-fifth of people with bipolar disorder are more sensitive to changes in temperature and light cycles that come with seasonal shifts in weather.

About 2.6% of Americans suffer from bipolar disorder. The average age for the onset of the disease is in the early twenties. Bipolar disorder has many definitions, one of the easiest is an affective disorder characterized by periods of elevated mood, or mania and depression.

Mania can show up in many ways like reduced need for sleep, racing thoughts, distorted judgment, and high energy or feeling “up.” Depression may feel like being “blue,” excessive sleep, and lack of interest in usual activities. At this time there is no single cause, but it is known that both genetic and environmental factors play a role.

Seasonal effects can still occur in a person who has bipolar disorder and is on medications. There are some things to look for during the changes of season.

The fall cycle can start in some areas in September and go into full gear once November comes, the depressive slumps can be felt as days grow shorter. Some symptoms may include feelings of sadness, need for more sleep, decreased energy, lack of motivation to do anything, isolating and weight gain.

The spring cycle can trigger the mania with the longer days of sunshine and can extend well into the month of June and beyond. Some signs to look for are decreased need for sleep or feeling “rested” after a few hours, high energy levels, pressured speech, procrastination, high risk behaviors such as spending too much money, weight loss due to decreased appetite and feelings of euphoria.

During this time it is important to work with your healthcare professionals on possible medication changes and therapy for help with some different coping strategies. Keeping routines is helpful especially in regards to eating, exercise and sleep. It is important to eat healthy foods, decrease or avoid alcohol, decrease stressors and asking your doctor if trying melatonin may help with sleep to regulate circadian rhythms.

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