Distraction from Bipolar Symptoms Works

June 26, 2022 Natasha Tracy

Distraction from bipolar symptoms is something I rely on as a coping skill. In fact, it's pretty much an everyday coping skill for me. Bipolar symptom distraction may sound overly simplistic, and sometimes it is (although, not always), but sometimes the simple things just work.  

The Simple Version of Distraction from Bipolar Symptoms

I use distraction as a coping skill when I'm experiencing some kind of pain from, say, depression, anxiety, or a mixed mood state. (Note that anxiety is not technically a symptom of bipolar disorder but is an issue that many with bipolar face.) And the simplest way to distract myself is simply doing something other than what my bipolar symptom wants me to do. My anxiety might want me to pace, for example, but that's something that can actually heighten anxiety. So instead of that, maybe I could do something to keep my body flowing and yet busy, like yoga. My depression would prefer I sit around sobbing, crying, and dwelling on failures -- real or imagined. So, instead, maybe I could clean the bathroom or cook dinner. These things are not hard, but they do keep my body busy and my focus elsewhere.

In short, physically get up and do something else to distract yourself from bipolar symptoms. Do what your bipolar disorder doesn't want you to. Sex, for example, can be a very distracting activity whether you're feeling particularly sexy or not.

The More Complex Bipolar Symptom Distraction

And while distracting yourself by physically moving your body can absolutely help, sometimes it either isn't enough or isn't even possible because of how sick you are. It's at this time when mental distraction from bipolar symptoms may be helpful. Psychological distraction from bipolar symptoms is another coping skill I employ almost every day.

In this case, distraction involves doing what your brain doesn't want you to do. Mental illness symptoms want you to focus on them. Depression wants you to ruminate on negative and troubling thoughts, never finding an answer. Anxiety wants you to worry and be afraid of the future and past. So don't listen to those things. Focus your brain elsewhere. Distract from those symptoms by thinking thoughts that won't harm you.

For me, I have a set of fantasies I play in my head. These are my safe thought-spaces. These are well-traveled thought-paths where the monsters do not linger. Whether I want to actually be thinking about those things or not is not the point. I think about them on purpose, specifically to wall off the other thoughts that are hurting me. There's nothing like indulging in a fantasy to distract yourself from a painful reality. 

(You may find any thought pattern helpful in this way. Maybe you'd like to replay your favorite birthday memory in your head. Maybe you'd like to think about your child's face. Any set of thoughts is okay as long as they don't hurt you.)

Distraction from Bipolar Symptoms Isn't as Easy as It Sounds

And while both of these distraction techniques sound easy -- do what bipolar disorder wants, and think what bipolar doesn't want -- they are actually very hard. This is because bipolar disorder is very big and very strong and manhandling it isn't something it enjoys. The distraction from bipolar symptoms you employ may only work for a few moments at a time, and that is only with great effort. 

But this is okay because bipolar symptom distraction gets easier with time. With time, you will learn what distraction activities are best for you. With time, you will learn what thought-spaces are safe. And with time, they will become easier to slip into.

Do you have any favorite distraction techniques? Share them below.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2022, June 26). Distraction from Bipolar Symptoms Works, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 25 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.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

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

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