Triggers are a big part of bipolar disorder.  These are things (situations, events, people, etc.) which can instigate, or start, a bipolar episode.  If caught early enough, however, you can stop your loved one from going into a full-blown episode.  The trick is to learn what your own loved one's triggers are.


One of the hardest things about discovering triggers is that they can have many layers.  It may not be just one single trigger that starts the episode but, rather, one trigger leading to another, and another, etc. until you meet "the straw that broke the camel's back," per se.


At first, it may be difficult for you to learn what your loved one's bipolar triggers are.  Sometimes they are small, almost unnoticeable things (unless you're looking for them).  Sometimes they are things that wouldn't bother you at all, but upset your loved one greatly.  Sometimes they are masked behind other bipolar symptoms.


Given time, however, you will be able to determine what your loved one's specific triggers are.


There are some triggers that are common to most people with bipolar disorder, so you can start here:


·         What goes into your loved one's body

Food, drink, and even drugs can be very strong triggers.  If your loved one has a problem with anxiety, for instance, drinks that contain caffeine can be a trigger to more anxiety.  If your loved one has a problem with depression, alcohol (being a depressant by nature) can make that depression worse.  Drugs, even some over-the-counter drugs, can make your loved one's condition worse as well.  Addiction is a common problem for people with bipolar disorder.


·         Spending and Financial Decisions

When headed for a bipolar manic episode, your loved one may begin spending more money and/or making poor financial decisions.  If you are having financial problems to begin with, this can be a trigger in itself.


·         Upsetting or Stimulating Media

Your loved one needs to be careful what they watch and listen to, as this can be a trigger for some people.  For example, if your loved one has a problem with anger, an upsetting news broadcast or violent movie can aggravate that anger.


·         Interpersonal relationships/other people

Certain people can be a trigger as well.  Confrontations can be triggers to symptomatic behavior.  If you notice that your loved one gets nervous or stressed when they are around certain people, then they will have to avoid these people.  If there is a strained relationship between the two of you, it must be resolved in order not to trigger more bipolar symptoms.


·         Self-maintenance and self-control

Your loved one should be an integral part of maintaining their own stability.  If you see that they stop grooming themselves, for example, this could be a sign that they are being triggered.  Another sign might be that they stop doing their normal routine.  Also watch for signs of missing doctor, psychiatrist, and therapist appointments.


·         Medication

Medication is crucial to your loved one's stability.  If they begin showing signs of a bipolar episode, check to make sure they are taking their medication.  When someone with bipolar disorder goes off their medication, or there is a problem with their medications, it can be one of the biggest triggers to an episode.


·         Sleep

Your loved one should be going to sleep at the same time every day and waking up at the same time.  In addition, they should be getting 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.  If you start noticing their sleep habits change, it can be a trigger.  Too much sleep can be a sign of a depressive episode, while loss of sleep can be an indication of a manic episode.


·         Too many responsibilities or obligations

Some people, bipolar or not, have problems with saying, "No."  But for someone with bipolar disorder, this can become a trigger to an episode.  If you notice that your loved one may be over-obligated or has more responsibilities than they can handle, they may also begin showing symptoms of a bipolar episode, and you will know that this is a trigger for them.


·         Environment

Your loved one needs to be in as stress-free an environment as possible.  Some people get anxious when the environment around them is too noisy (in a restaurant, for example), or too cluttered and disorganized (your home, for example).  Your loved one may even get stressed being in a crowded grocery or department store.  If so, this is a trigger for them.


·         Routine

A stable routine is the best thing for your loved one.  They may get upset if that routine is changed, even slightly.  They may be used to things being a certain way, and have come to depend on that.  If your loved one is showing signs of instability, look and see if something has changed in their routine.


Your loved one may have triggers that are not on this list.  You will know they are triggers by the way your loved one acts when certain events happen, they are in certain situations, or they are around certain people