Bipolar disorder (BD) is characterized by recurrent episodes of depression and (hypo)mania. People with BD employ a variety of approaches to avoid mood swings, including medications, therapy and mindfulness techniques.1 For many with BD, sticking to a regular routine can be invaluable.

While holidays often disrupt end of year schedules, this year COVID-19, which has impacted employment, health care, and social supports also must be considered. According to a recent study, changes due to the pandemic have had a more significant effect on people with BD. When compared to people without BD, those with the disorder reported greater levels of pandemic related stress, problems with falling asleep and sleep duration and the quality and stability of their moods.2

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Holiday Recipe for Disaster: Overstimulation

The excesses of the holiday season can easily lead to overstimulation and overindulgence for anyone. But for people with bipolar disorder, anxieties around holidays coupled with the present isolation of COVID-19 can trigger mood swings and depression.

“Holidays are challenging,” says Michael Strober, MD, distinguished professor of psychiatry at the University of California. “People may be avoiding difficult times or emotional memories associated with past holidays, including feelings of loss that might relate to the holiday season.”

While you should talk to your therapist about any issues surrounding the holidays, a little pre-holiday planning can help you avoid “holiday kryptonite” that can leave you feeling out of control.

Updated: Jan 20, 2021
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