Bipolar Disorder is believed to be caused by a problem with the neurotransmitters in the brain, a chemical imbalance in the brain, and probably also has genetic/hereditary cause as well. The best hope we have for stabilization of the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder is medication; however, even with medication, there are still problems with break-through episodes. Following are some episode triggers:

Problems with Sleep/Changes in Sleep Patterns/Sleep Disorders:

Research has shown that twenty to sixty-five percent of patients with Bipolar Disorder who had a manic episode had previously experienced a social rhythm disruption. "Social rhythm disruption" is a disturbance in the sleep/wake cycle caused by a change in routine, whether as simple as staying up late to watch television or chatting on the Internet, or as severe as being unable to sleep because of a death in the family—in addition, of note is the fact that social rhythm disruption only leads to a bipolar mania episode and not bipolar depressive episode. Other bipolar patients had a diagnosed sleep disorder before they were diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and change in medication led to problems with sleep, thus leading to a bipolar manic episode. In addition, once the internal clock of the bipolar person has been upset, their sleep deprivation, despite bipolar medication, can be a trigger to send them into either a bipolar manic or a bipolar depressed episode. Manic, because they may feel less need for sleep, thus sending them spiraling even further into the sleep-deprivation cycle, or into depression because they cannot turn off their depressive or negative thoughts, thus sending them even further into depression.

Stress and Changes in Regular Routine:

An increase in stress, whatever the cause, can be a trigger to a bipolar episode. In addition, any change in regular routine can upset the balance for a person with Bipolar Disorder; however, an extreme change in regular routine, or increased stress leading to change in that routine, can lead to social rhythm disruption and affect the bipolar person’s sleep cycle, as discussed above. Whether it is due to stress-related sleep-deprivation, a general problem with sleep (either too much because of depression or too little because of mania), social rhythm disruption and a problem with the sleep/wake cycle, or because of other causes that are not sleep-related, increased stress and/or changes in regular routine can be triggers to a bipolar episode. Mood stabilization is the major goal of medication taken to control symptoms of Bipolar Disorder; however, self-care, in the form of regular routine and control of stress, are other ways people with the disorder attempt to maintain mood stabilization for themselves; therefore, increased stress and/or changes to that routine can trigger an episode.

Going off Medication:

Some people with Bipolar Disorder get frustrated having to take medication and decide to stop taking it; however, you need to know that going off your medication will be an almost instant trigger to an episode, and is a very dangerous thing to do. Untreated Bipolar Disorder is a severe disabling condition and, in its extreme, can even affect daily functioning itself. At first, you may feel no affects and may even feel better, but without medication, the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder will reappear, and you will go into an episode. Most frightening is the fact that ten percent of people with Bipolar Disorder will commit suicide. Without treatment, this figure is even higher.