Vicious cycles are often found to play an important role in a variety of everyday psychological problems, but especially in bipolar disorder.  This is when one thing leads to another and then back again.  For example, in alcoholics, one drink may lead to another and another, and afterward they feel ashamed or depressed, only to use that as an excuse to start drinking again. Then it's like a vicious cycle, repeating itself.

 

This can happen to people with bipolar disorder as well.  For example, procrastination is a very common problem for people with the disorder (and, possibly, you as well).  Procrastination can also set up a vicious cycle – the more you delay dealing with your problems and tasks, the more difficult they begin to seem, so you put off doing them further, which is more procrastination.

 

This happens during bipolar episodes, as you can see by the following examples:

 

Someone in a manic episode can feel powerful, attractive, successful, etc.  Because they "feel" energetic, they decline the need for sleep.  Then sleep deprivation makes the manic episode worse, and they are in a vicious cycle.

 

On the other hand, someone in a depressive episode can feel worthless, helpless, hopeless, likely to fail, etc.  This leads to inactivity, more sleep, and isolation, which are all triggers for episodes, so the vicious cycle continues.

 

The first step to breaking out of a vicious cycle is to recognize that you are in one.

 

Other things you and/or your loved one can do are:

 

1.      Avoid stress – this is the biggest trigger to a vicious cycle.

2.      Stay active.

3.      Be productive – but not excessively.

4.      Communicate with each other.

5.      Help each other recognize the other one's vicious cycles.

6.      Consciously face the vicious cycle.

7.      Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts.

8.      Think all the way through things before you do them.

 

The more you and/or your loved one can make fighting vicious cycles a conscious thing, the better off you will be, instead of just reacting, or acting impulsively, which makes a vicious cycle worse.