Why bipolar episodes tend to rise in the spring

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SALT LAKE CITY — The change of seasons can be really hard for people who struggle with their mental health. Winter months can lead to more depression, and the shift to spring can lead to more bipolar episodes.

Dr. Kristin Francis, a psychiatrist at Huntsman Mental Health Institute, said bipolar disorder is when someone has episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.

"Mania is a unique set of mood symptoms that is characterized by a decreased need for sleep, so people don't sleep and they feel great," she said.

Francis said mania can present itself through more risky behaviors, personality changes, making a lot of new goals, or spending more money.

"You don't often recognize it. You feel really good. In fact, you might feel great especially if you've just been coming off of feeling depressed in the winter," Francis said.

Celeste Gibson said she can attest to that; she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was 15 and said the change of seasons leads to more manic episodes for her.

"I always say April and May (are) the worst months of my life," Gibson said. "That's typically because I'm just erratic and so just not clear-headed at all."

Through the years, she said she has learned to recognize when she feels a manic episode coming.

"Definitely my body tells me, and being able to connect more with my body has helped me a lot in that aspect," she said.

It's very easy to overpour your cup and give it all away, and that leaves you with nothing,

–Celeste Gibson

To cope, she said she does pottery, plays with her dogs, and tries to get more sleep.

She recommended others find time to prioritize their mental health.

"It's very easy to overpour your cup and give it all away, and that leaves you with nothing," she said. "You need something for you, so you feel good waking up the next morning."

She said the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder made her nervous to tell people about her diagnosis. But she never let it hold her back from following her dreams of owning her own massage business and hopes others help end the stigma as well.

"Now I am totally fine to tell people. I think they see me in a very different light; they think, wow, she owns a business, she's running stuff," Gibson said. "You just have to be able to cope and be better with it."

Francis said if you think you are having a manic episode, to contact your medical provider immediately.

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly referred to Dr. Francis as a physiologist instead of a psychiatrist.


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Ayanna Likens
Ayanna Likens is an Emmy award-winning special projects reporter for KSL-TV.


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