How Art Can Help Monitor Bipolar Symptoms

By Taylor Bourassa | Apr. 19, 2016

womanpainting.jpgBeing diagnosed with bipolar disorder may cause some people to feel worthless, hopeless and on edge. They may also experience an increase in stress, anxiety and depression as they go through this significant life change.

One way to deal with these feelings is to practice self-care through art, physical activity or relaxation. Self-care can play a large role in monitoring mood changes and symptoms and progressing on the journey of recovery.

Art as Self-Care

Art is an incredibly emancipating activity that helps with the release of pent-up emotions and may help someone to better understand these emotions. During manic episodes, art may be both a therapeutic tool and a tool to document certain activities.

Art can help people to look back and see how they were feeling, understand what triggered these feelings and determine ways to better monitor these episodes. For instance, with the use of art someone can see that spending time with a certain individual may have spurred a manic episode. This exercise can be done through art journaling, which is documenting the feelings and events that accompany the piece of art.

For a depressive episode, art can be used as a visual journal or reference that helps individuals better understand their behaviors and mindsets. By monitoring and visualizing negative behaviors experienced during manic or depressive episodes, people may be more aware of these behaviors and their onset and be better equipped to change these behaviors through behavior training.

Behavioral Effects

Noah Hass-Cohan and Richard Carr hypothesize in Art Therapy and Clinical Neuroscience that the repeated methods of making art and communicating with others through art could have positive effects similar to cognitive behavioral therapy in changing brain functions. With this knowledge individuals may be able to change their behavior leading up to these episodes. They may avoid certain people, activities and places that place them in a negative situation.

The idea that art can help people is based on its expressive nature and its role in emotional and stress release. From a scientific point of view, what happens in the brain when one participates in art may help explain why it is such a therapeutic activity.

Cathy Malchiodi claims, in her book, The Art Therapy Sourcebook, that art connects the mind and body, which can contribute to feelings of mastery and control. Noah Hass-Cohen and Richard Carr indicate that this helps encourage self-expression and reduce the effects of stressors.

An important aspect of monitoring bipolar disorder, as pointed out by Caroline McNamee in Bilateral Art: A Creative Response to Advances in Neuroscience, is achieving stable mental states, which art can facilitate. Through artistic expression, one not only achieves a therapeutic release but also an understanding of their mental state, particularly related to an episode of mania or depression, and is better able to monitor and manage behaviors.

Comments
cheryl bogue
I have been ignored by local police for 4 years. I have had identity fraud since 2012. They are a group of people who have started a over seas bank account. It says I am a Terrorist and Drug Trafficking. I started a collection on Google plus. Bipolar People.
5/8/2016 8:38:42 PM

Jennifer orndorff
We appreciate advise n support from the missouri group, my step son has moved there and may need support he is. 32years old.JAMO
5/8/2016 4:05:21 PM

Isabel
I have a Masters in Social Work, my career and my life are dedicated to help people help themselves; the sad part is that we suspect the my son is bipolar but he does not want to hear about taking medications. I feel as if my hands are tied...I fear for him...He is very creative, as a child he was identified as being Gifted, has a Bachelors Degree, but has not been able to hold a steady job for years. As his mother I would love to see him succeed at what he loves to do...he is currently attending counseling sessions, I hope this will help him move forward in life; and maybe some day take the prescribed medications if needed.
5/3/2016 2:41:28 PM

Jonni Payne
I am an avid NAMI guru of sorts, a consumer and former In Our Own Voices Presenter I miss my NAMI family ! J J in Lawton, Oklahoma
4/30/2016 3:13:41 AM

W
This is so needed. People need not be artists to reap the benefits.
4/28/2016 7:48:32 PM

Alina Santos
Excellent article.Art is a great way and very creative way to
Deal with all issues and journeys of recovery.
I use it as daily therapy with Special Ed students,and the
Results are Amazing!!
4/27/2016 8:17:50 PM

MeMe
Awesome post! I blogged and shared the link for others to check out as well.
4/28/2016 10:24:57 AM

MeMe Edwards
Awesome and resourceful post! Just share as my first blog post so that others can also check this out.
4/28/2016 10:28:19 AM

Lisa Moore
My beautiful soul of my son Muchael committed suicide on November 13 2015. He had been diagnosed as having the bi polar disorder. I miss him so much. This is the worst sadness that I have ever ever had to deal with. I would like to be a voice some how on this disorder in anyway that is needed. Whether it be local or national or international. I want to be informed and knowledgable with any information regarding this disorder.
4/28/2016 3:27:19 PM

Nancy Buckpitt
My older sister just turned 67 and I and my other sister just found out she has had bipolar for a while. We are trying to figure out how best to help her.
5/4/2016 11:00:21 PM

Johan Li
It is great to have a creative outlet as a healthy person or as someone that struggles with mental illness. Many studies support that art, in many of its forms, are great for young children and the elderly as well. Everyone can benefit. As someone with Bipolar music helped as a child, writing and art as a teen. Thanks to the awareness of some of my teachers, they could point out changes in my writing or artwork. Friends and myself often become frustrated and give up the activities that give us pleasure, but we have to remind ourselves It isn't about the skill or talent, it is just a creative fun outlet. If it isn't doing the job anymore, find another creative pursuit to learn! People of all ages with or without bipolar, I encourage you to find social creative outlets from local walking or bird watching groups, knitting circles, pottery painting, gardening, traditional art, or cooking clubs! We all benefit.
5/23/2016 2:12:11 PM