When your loved one with bipolar disorder is stressed, their body will produce more of the "fight or flight" responses than normal.  This will affect the chemicals called adrenaline and noradrenaline, which help the body to fight what it sees as an emergency.  Their blood pressure and heart rate will increase, and even stomach activity will be affected (commonly called "butterflies").  All of this stress can affect your loved one's mood swings.


Other things that affect your loved one physically can also affect their emotional health.  High Blood Pressure and Health Policy, a document unveiled at the European Parliament in Brussels, shows that high blood pressure now affects 25% of the world's adults – about one billion people.  The reports also warns that the figure will grow to 60% by 2025 unless action is taken.[1]


Short term stress can cause the following:

·         headaches

·         indigestion

·         nausea

·         body aches and pains

·         heart palpitations

·         excessive sweating


Long-term stress can aggravate your loved one's bipolar symptoms and cause mood swings.


On an emotional level, long-term stress can cause or increase the following:


·         anxiety

·         fear

·         anger

·         frustration

·         depression

·         suicidal thoughts


Your loved one might even become withdrawn, unable to make good decisions, irritable, agitated, and even cry more often in response to these feelings.


Many people cite increased stress as a trigger to their bipolar episodes.


The holidays are an especially stressful time for people with bipolar disorder.  What you can do to help your loved one best is to be flexible in the planning of activities and be aware of any bipolar symptoms so that you can catch an episode before it happens.


[1] Owen, Sarah and Amanda Saunders; bipolar disorder – the ultimate guide; OneWorld Publications; 2008