With longer days and increased sunlight during the spring, many people are happy to welcome the springtime after long, cold winter months. But for people with bipolar disorder, the increased reactivity and sensitivity to light changes lead to disruptive circadian rhythm shifts. Sometimes, these shifts can turn spring cheerfulness into mania. Mania according to the DSM-IV is, “A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood and abnormally and persistently goal-directed behavior or energy, lasting at least 1 week and present most of the day, nearly every day (or any duration if hospitalization is necessary).” If left unchecked, manic episodes can have a severely negative impact on daily life, often disrupting or stopping day-to-day activities completely.
If your loved one is living with bipolar disorder, it's possible to help them navigate seasonal patterns and cope with mania. Here's how to look after their well-being.
What are the symptoms of spring mania?
The main symptom of bipolar disorder is extreme mood shifts from emotional highs to emotional lows. Manic episodes involve high energy levels, restlessness (hypersomnia), or irritability. Meanwhile, depressive episodes involve feelings of sadness, fatigue, and low energy levels.
It's important to remember that bipolar disorder is a chronic mental health condition, and that a severe episode of either mania or depression can have far-reaching consequences. Returning to daily life after a manic episode is a particular challenge though, and some people may experience intense depressive episodes after spring mania.
Some common symptoms of spring mania include:
- Making risky, impulsive decisions
- Being unusually talkative
- Increased irritability
- Running on a shortage of sleep
- Inappropriate behavior during social activities
- Disconnected, racing thoughtsAppetite changes or interrupted sleep patterns
How can you help someone with bipolar disorder?
Manic episodes can be incredibly difficult, but social support can make all the difference. Here's how to talk to your loved one about their mental health, help them navigate mania, and show your support.
- Start the conversation. Talking about mental health might feel intimidating, but it's important to offer your emotional support. Ask about their experiences with bipolar disorder and seasonal changes. By talking about mania, you'll gain a better understanding of what things are like during a manic episode and encourage them to ask for help when they need it.
- Ask what you can do. If your loved one has experienced mania before, they'll probably have an idea of what helps and what doesn't. Ask how you can help during seasonal variations. If they don't know, try exploring options together.
- Offer support with self-management. If your loved one doesn't know what helps, start by helping them identify their triggers and warning signs and putting together a self-management plan to help them manage their bipolar symptoms. Some common mania prevention strategies include psychotherapy, light therapy, medication, and self-care.
- Take care of yourself. During hypomania or mania, your loved one might behave differently—and they might have trouble seeing their behavior as a problem. If this happens, it's essential to set boundaries. For example, you might end the conversation if they're rude to you, or you won't participate in any impulsive behaviors they have.
Seeking mental health care can feel overwhelming, especially if you're living with bipolar disorder. During the rapid cycling between depressive episodes and episodes of mania in early spring, it might feel impossible to keep up with psychotherapy.
Whether you're dealing with intense mood swings, low energy levels, or other bipolar symptoms, you don't have to do it alone. With online psychotherapy, you can access comprehensive mental health treatment from the comfort of your own home, so you won't have to worry about commuting to the therapist's office or showing up to in-person appointments.
At Charlie Health, we offer high-quality mental health treatment for adolescents, young adults, and their families. Our virtual intensive outpatient program (IOP) combines individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and access to psychiatric support (if needed) to create a personalized treatment plan for every client. Our compassionate clinicians are here to answer your questions, explore your treatment options, and help you heal.