The Holidays Can Cause a Bipolar Mood Swing

December 22, 2021 Natasha Tracy

The holidays can cause a bipolar mood swing. And by that, I mean they can cause a mood episode that wasn't present before the holidays. So, for example, you might have been stable before the holidays, and then depression sets in. You might have been depressed, and then mania sets in. A swing from one mood or euthymia (a state without mood episode characteristics; stability) to another mood is pretty common at this time of year. So, let's take a look at bipolar mood swings during the holidays.

The Holidays and Bipolar Mood Swings

The fascinating thing about bipolar disorder is when you destabilize your mood, it may go up, or it may go down -- and this varies by individual. Some people are more likely to get depressed when destabilized, while others are more likely to experience hypomania or mania. I'm a depression girl, generally. If my stability wobbles at all, it's likely I will become depressed.

That said, it's not always the same. Sometimes I can experience hypomanias due to mood instability. Again, this is fascinating. It makes bipolar unpredictable and a constant moving target.

Why Do Bipolar Mood Swings Happen During the Holidays?

There are many reasons why bipolar mood swings are more common during the holidays. A lot of this depends on how you experience the holidays. For example:

  • If you find the holidays stressful, that can create a mood swing. I have found that intensely stressful situations can cause me to become hypomanic as I try to deal with everything about which I am stressed.
  • If you find the holidays joyous, that can create a mood swing. If the holidays bring you great joy, then your mood may swing up to an unhealthy level because of bipolar disorder.
  • If you find the holidays sad, then, of course, that can produce a mood swing. If your mood is lowered, depression may be the result.

In my experience, these effects tend to happen due to things like an interruption in routine, experiencing new activities, being around people in uncommon ways, haunting memories, dealing with family members, forced socialization with those with whom you disagree, the stress of gift-giving, and more.

Basically, the holidays bring about a perfect storm of reasons for bipolar mood swings.

Why Do Bipolar Moods Swings During the Holidays Matter?

The problem with bipolar mood swings is that they tend to beget more bipolar mood swings. So, even if you swing to the higher side and it feels good temporarily, it's actually not good because there tends to be a depression waiting for you in the new year. And as I always say, the higher you fly, the farther there is to fall and the bigger a crater you will make when you do.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I recommend not allowing the holidays to create bipolar mood swings if at all possible. Stability should be the goal in bipolar disorder, no matter what time of year it is. For more on preventing mood episodes during the holidays, see here.

In all, it's important to plan ahead to avoid bipolar mood swings during the holidays, but it's also important to know that if bipolar mood swings happen anyway, this isn't your fault, and you certainly aren't alone. If this is you, make sure to contact your treatment provider(s) as soon as you see a bipolar mood swing coming so they can help you correct it. Remember, it is easier to stop a bipolar mood swing when it's small -- waiting until a crisis emerges is just a recipe for spending the new year in the hospital.

And do try to enjoy the holidays. Not every moment can be dedicated to bipolar. Even if all you like is the food or the twinkle lights, focus on those and smile. It is just once a year.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 22). The Holidays Can Cause a Bipolar Mood Swing, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

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