What are Triggers and How Do They Affect Bipolar Disorder?

What are Triggers and How Do They Affect Bipolar Disorder?

A list of bipolar triggers and how triggers affect mood stability associated with bipolar disorder.

Gold Standard for Treating Bipolar Disorder (part 16)

Bipolar triggers are behaviors and outside events that lead to bipolar disorder symptoms. As you probably know from experience, these triggers can be positive or negative. You often have control of them, but some are just part of everyday life.

The more you control your bipolar triggers, the greater chance you have of finding stability. This can lead to a significant reduction in medications as well as more of an ability to work and maintain stable relationships. It can't be stressed enough that triggers are the main environmental cause of bipolar disorder mood swings and must be monitored and reduced as much as possible. You can note all triggers on your mood swing chart as related to a particular mood swing.

Triggers come in many forms- from the positive, such as:

  • a new relationship
  • the birth of a child
  • a promotion at work
  • graduating from college
  • an exciting vacation

to the negative:

  • sleep changes due to work schedules
  • troublesome relationships
  • a death in the family
  • or most significantly, drug and alcohol abuse. Of all of the triggers, these two are the most detrimental.

Common Bipolar Disorder Triggers

  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Argumentative, negative and aggressive people (if this describes you, reducing your bipolar disorder symptoms can help with the problem)
  • Stressful work- especially work with constantly changing hours
  • Travel - especially travel with time zone changes
  • Relationship problems
  • Non-supportive family members and friends
  • Excessive media exposure to stressful world events
  • Social isolation
  • Medication side-effects

You can create your own list once you monitor your mood swings more carefully. If you continually walk into the triggers you know affect bipolar disorder, success in managing and hopefully ending symptoms is less likely than if you avoid the triggers, no matter how difficult this may be. Think of one thing from the above list that you can change today. Or maybe you have one of your own that you have wanted to avoid. You do have choices when it comes to ending mood swings. Looking for, and managing the triggers that cause stress and unhappiness, can significantly reduce your symptoms. This an especially powerful tool if you currently get less than optimal relief from medications.

next: My Thoughts are Terrible. What Can I Do? (part 17)

APA Reference
Fast, J. (2009, February 13). What are Triggers and How Do They Affect Bipolar Disorder?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Last Updated: June 2, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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