What You Need to Know About Cycling

John McManamy | Jan 13th 2016 Apr 10th 2017

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In 1921, Emil Kraepelin defined manic-depression – a term he coined - as including "circular insanity."In essence, bipolar disorder has to do with cycling rather than polarity. This is vitally important to understanding our illness and in managing our recovery. Let’s take a look …

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Nature's cycles govern us

We are, with the rest of life, periodic creatures, beholden for our rhythms to the rotations of the earth around the sun and the moon around the earth. The chemistry of our brains and bodies oscillates in adaptation to the earth’s fluctuations in heat and light, and probably its electromagnetic fields as well. …

Kay Jamison, Night Falls Fast

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Our brains are in perpetual motion

Day slips into night, the moon waxes and wanes—my brain is a veritable I Ching. I may head out into the world cool, calm, and collected, but will my brain be working for me two hours from now when it really matters?

John McManamy, Not Just Up and Down

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It's all about...


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Cycling explains things that polarity can't.

These include: Early-warning (prodromal) or lingering (resideual) symptoms that occur under the diagnostic radar.  Mixed states, where depression and mania symptoms manifest together. How different mood states influence each other rather than occurring in isolation. Seasonal depressions. Difficulties with sleep. Why we may not feel well when we are technically in remission.

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Cycling suggests different approaches to treatment.

We treat the cycle, rather than the symptom of the day. For instance, treating the symptom (say depression with an antidepressant) in many cases may only worsen the cycle and cause great distress.

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Cycling suggests different approached to recovery

A cycling outlook encourages us to be acutely attuned to our current state and situation and to anticipate what may be in store next. This allows us to make the necessary adjustments to head off a disaster, or at least mitigate its worst effects.

We become active participants in our recovery rather than passive bystanders.