Some people with bipolar disorder have alternating symptoms during winter and summer. They may be more likely to experience depression in winter and mania in summer.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that alters a person’s mood, energy levels, and concentration.

Seasonal patterns and other factors may play a role in the occurrence of manic and depressive episodes with bipolar disorder. It is a good idea for people who notice seasonal changes in their symptoms to speak with a healthcare professional.

This article examines whether the seasons affect bipolar disorder and compares symptoms of the condition in winter and summer. It also offers tips on managing seasonal symptom changes and lists questions a person may want to ask a doctor.

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Some people may receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder with seasonal patterns. This means that certain periods of the year, also called seasons, regularly affect their mood episodes.

A person with underlying bipolar disorder may also have pronounced seasonal patterns of manic and depressive episodes.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mental health condition in which a person experiences worsening symptoms at certain times of the year. SAD is a subtype of bipolar disorder.

If a person experiences heightened depressive or manic feelings when the seasons change, it is best that they consult a healthcare professional about treatment options.

Types of bipolar disorder

There are three types of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I: This type involves manic episodes, which can cause irritability or energized behavior that lasts for at least 1 week. Depressive episodes may also occur and typically last at least 2 weeks.
  • Bipolar II: This involves a pattern of depression and hypomanic episodes, which are less intense manic episodes. Symptoms of depression may include people feeling sad or indifferent.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: This refers to recurring hypomanic and depressive symptoms that are less severe or shorter in duration than those of the above types.

Read more about the types of bipolar disorder.

Research suggests approximately 25% of people with bipolar disorder may present with a depressive seasonal pattern.

According to a 2021 study, depressive episodes tend to peak in early winter. Mixed episodes typically peak in early spring or summer.

Autumn and winter may significantly affect a person’s mood due to daylight savings time. The clock changing may affect the circadian rhythm and cause mood and sleep changes.

Another study from 2021 suggests people with bipolar disorder may experience a drop in energy in the fall, followed by a depressed mood. This may manifest as severe depression as the shortest day of the year approaches. People also call this day the winter solstice.

Symptoms during winter

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), a period of depression may include:

It is best for people experiencing any of the above symptoms to speak with a doctor. If they have severe symptoms, they should call 988 or visit an emergency room.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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Research suggests people experience a higher prevalence of manic episodes in the spring and summer. There is also a minor peak in the fall.

Additional research indicates people may have increased energy levels in the spring, followed by sustained good mood. This may lead to symptoms of hypomania or mania.

People may also have fewer depressive symptoms in the summer. Older research suggests people may exhibit the lowest rates of depressive symptoms in summer and the highest rates around winter.

Symptoms during summer

The NHS states that the manic phase of bipolar disorder may cause people to feel:

  • agitated
  • very happy, elated, or overjoyed
  • full of energy, new ideas, and important plans
  • easily distracted and irritated
  • self-important
  • delusional

People may also:

  • not want to sleep
  • speak very quickly
  • take risks
  • do things that are out of character

If a person is experiencing any of the above symptoms, they or a loved one should speak with a medical professional.

Learn more about identifying signs of bipolar disorder.

In addition to medication and psychotherapy, lifestyle changes may aid in managing seasonal mood changes. For example, 2021 research demonstrated that physical activity may help alleviate SAD symptoms and improve mood and energy.

People may also help manage their symptoms with the evidence-backed treatment options below:

Bipolar with depressive symptoms

Bright light therapy may be a promising treatment option for people with bipolar disorder with seasonal variation in symptoms, a delayed circadian phase, and depressive symptoms.

Research from 2013 suggests the medication quetiapine also has a positive effect on bipolar depression.

Additional treatment methods include antidepressants paired with a mood stabilizer or cognitive behavioral therapy.

Read more about treatment for bipolar depression.

Bipolar with mania

Doctors often prescribe an antipsychotic agent for short- or long-term clinical treatment of mania. There is also evidence of the long-term efficacy of lithium, a mood stabilizer.

Other treatment options

Additional medications and treatment methods for bipolar disorder include:

  • Lamotrigine: This helps manage symptoms and recurrence of bipolar depression.
  • Carbamazepine: This supports the management of acute bipolar mania and helps prevent recurrence.
  • Psychosocial management: This involves psychotherapy and may also include social and vocational training. A person can use these in addition to medication.
  • Psychoeducation: This involves people learning about early signs of new episodes and methods to support treatment adherence.
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy: This form of therapy teaches people skills for managing relationships and social situations.
  • Lifestyle changes: These may involve regular exercise, dietary modifications, and stopping the following:

Common questions a person may wish to ask a doctor include:

  • Do I have SAD or bipolar?
  • Will every season affect my bipolar symptoms?
  • Why do some seasonal changes have a more significant effect than others?
  • Is winter or summer worse for bipolar symptoms?
  • Do I need to increase my medication during seasonal changes?
  • Are there any side effects of medications for bipolar?
  • Is there a way to manage my condition without medication?
  • Can you have more than one type of bipolar?
  • What are the most common symptoms of bipolar mania?
  • What are the most common symptoms of bipolar depression?
  • How can I talk with my family or employer about my condition?
  • Is there a cure for bipolar disorder?
  • Can living somewhere with limited seasonal variations help reduce symptoms of bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on bipolar disorder.

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Some people may notice seasonal patterns in symptoms of bipolar disorder, when a particular time of year affects their mood episodes.

Research suggests there may be a peak of depressive episodes in early winter, with mixed episodes peaking in early spring or summer. A person may have more manic episodes in the spring and summer, with a minor peak in autumn.

To manage bipolar disorder symptoms during seasonal changes, it is best for people to continue with treatments a doctor recommends. This may include psychotherapy and medications such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers. Doctors may also recommend lifestyle changes to help with symptoms.