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Subject: Gaming-Induced Bipolar Mania rss

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Scott McKay
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Hi. First of all, if there's a specific forum for this sort of thread, feel free to move it.

I've been fighting depression for around 30 years with my best allies in the last 15 years being board gaming and my friends in that hobby. Apparently, a big reason that I have had only moderate success is that I actually have bipolar disorder (diagnosed several months ago).

I have what is called bipolar II which means, rather than going from a depressed mood level of 0 or 1 to a manic mood level of 9 or 10 (as with a person with bipolar I), I only go up to a 7 or 8. Also, besides euphoria, I can experience agitation which feels like anxiety, manic perfectionism which looks like OCD, and other symptoms. You can see why it was hard to diagnose.

Not knowing what was going on, I have always tried to fight the depression and ride out the hypomania as long as possible, but eventually have always crashed. I've learned that what I need to do is also try to prevent the manic episodes to stop the cycle.

As I mentioned, getting together with friends for a game or three has been my best tool in fighting the depression part. I find it easier to motivate myself to get out the door to do that than... anything, really. And once I'm involved in a game, my mood always improves. Board gaming engages my brain in a way that nothing else does; it's like it switches to a completely different page.

Now here's the problem: I'm one of those people who always wants to play one more, whether I've played one game of Room 25 or spent the whole weekend at a local Con. Also, in both of those situations, and whether or not the one more game is played, my brain is totally fired up afterwards and I am unable to sleep, with thoughts and ideas spinning and spinning through my mind. Apparently, THIS IS VERY VERY BAD! sauron

So, board gaming helps me out of depression but invariably triggers mania. What to do? Anyone else deal with this?

Btw, I have tried a few medications but haven't found the right one yet. But even when I do, that will only be a part of it; I will need to monitor my moods and modify behavior.

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Dan Mansfield
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I wish I could offer some real advice other than to consult with your physician. It's great that you have a solid support group in your friends, but the best advice you can get will likely come from a health professional, rather than here on BGG. My ex-wife was bipolar, so I'm familiar with the symptoms.

If you can explain in as much detail how you feel and what you've done in the past (in terms of battling the swings) to your physician, that person will be better informed to help you take the necessary steps to managing the symptoms so that you can do the things you enjoy with your friends.

Good luck.
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Derry Salewski
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Sredni Vashtar wrote:
I wish I could offer some real advice other than to consult with your physician. It's great that you have a solid support group in your friends, but the best advice you can get will likely come from a health professional, rather than here on BGG. My ex-wife was bipolar, so I'm familiar with the symptoms.

If you can explain in as much detail how you feel and what you've done in the past (in terms of battling the swings) to your physician, that person will be better informed to help you take the necessary steps to managing the symptoms so that you can do the things you enjoy with your friends.

Good luck.


Peer and community supports are very important for coping with mental health symptoms.

It's not like an IANAL situation. Just being nice and talking about issues is very helpful. You're allowed to. No-one will sue you.
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I have depression and occasional anxiety attacks, and although I find gaming helps my mood generally, it does not do much to assist with depressive episodes. So my advice may not be all that helpful, but here goes:

Gaming seems to work for you, but maybe the hyper episodes cause sufficient harm that you need to reconsider. Be open to the idea, no matter how distasteful.
Having said that, does your counselor have a complete picture of all the benefits you get from gaming? It isn't simply that you "switch to a completely different page" - there is also social interaction, friendship, stimulation. Make sure the counselor understands.
I've never dealt with mania, so I don't know what might work, but behavioral therapy helped me. Is it possible to ease-off after game days? Maybe by talking through the session rather than squeezing-in the last couple of games? Listening to podcasts? Mini-painting?

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Reed Dawley
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As someone with Aspergers syndrome I find that gaming forces me in a good way to be social. At the same time I get to watch people and see how they react to things and check out their strategies and such. Helps me observe humans being human. I find every part of it to be super interesting.

My bad side of the coin is I spend way too much time thinking about games and when I can't play I tend to acquire. My brain spins and wants to play more and play new games and talk to everyone about games. This ends with me either feeling like I am pushing games on people or boring people to death. Now I try to channel it as much as possible, write reviews, session reports, critiques or anything else even if not for public consumption. This lets the words out of my head and lessens them bouncing around like a pinball. I also break games down for digital coding for my own use, even if I don't actually build the game. These things help channel that rogue energy into constructive rather than destructive ends.

You can't change your brain chemistry any more than a diabetic can will themselves to produce insulin. You can alter the way it is handled and seek to understand what you personally need to do to channel that excess energy. Look at it as an adventure, a creative odyssey or whatever positive framework you can put on it and it will do wonders. If it is seen as negative it tends to be more self-fulfilling and worrisome.
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Osiris Saline
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Hey Scott, I have similar episodes caused by anxiety & old "treated & helped but it won't remove it from your life entirely" MH problems. In games, and outside of the well advised "ask your physician" advice, I've found that these two pre-emptive things help:

1 - Become aware of what triggers these off in your own thought patterns/actions, and what other people do to contribute. When does your brain go into 100 miles an hour, and what warning will your gestures/thought slips give you that it's going to happen. Triggers may be lodged away from actions in the group/your own thoughts BUT if anything (even a certain game mechanic!) noticeably changes you, it's worth keeping an eye on.

2 - In your core game group with understanding friends (it's awesome you have 'em!) ask them when they know you get a little more animated/fired up, and if they notice it, to just give you a subtle arm tap/gentle toe poke under the table so you can possibly prevent the episode from developing into a huge concern that night. People around you will generally notice your energy/disposition change way before you do yourself so if they can privately make you aware of it it'll help so much.

Of course this relies on you also developing some safe/calming coping strategies, but being aware of the triggers for such things is incredibly important.

If you know you're going into a full deep episode, if your friends can allow you to walk away from the table for 10 minutes to catch some fresh air (no music or caffeine during breaks) then it might calm your brain down to a manageable level if it's caught early enough. Of course this is difficult at cons, but in your own personal game environment I'd advise it.

Best of luck regardless of what you try/arrange, I know how tough it can be.
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Russ Williams
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Darth Gamer wrote:
Now here's the problem: I'm one of those people who always wants to play one more, whether I've played one game of Room 25 or spent the whole weekend at a local Con. Also, in both of those situations, and whether or not the one more game is played, my brain is totally fired up afterwards and I am unable to sleep, with thoughts and ideas spinning and spinning through my mind. Apparently, THIS IS VERY VERY BAD! sauron

So, board gaming helps me out of depression but invariably triggers mania. What to do? Anyone else deal with this?

Possible idea: try to finish a long gaming session with a simple familiar wind-down "comfort" game that is less stimulating? E.g. in my old weekly group we often finished the evening with the simple dice game Bluff as a way of winding down the evening, with plenty of chatting along with the playing.
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Leo Chell
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I have a similar issues including the bipolar and gaming being one of the things that can really help me out of my depressive isolation stages. And I get very caught up in games and almost always want 'just one more'. Best advice I can offer is learn to recognise that tipping point. There will be tells that you're heading towards mania, for me it's fidgety expressiveness if that makes sense. Recognise that point and learn to call it a day there (I'm still struggling with that bit).

Something else that really works for me at both ends of the spectrum is Lego or (as it's cheaper) nano block model building. It gives me a focus that requires my concentration. I can do it on my own in silence. I find it seriously helps me re-find my balance.
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Keith B
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Get some solo-able games and play when you get home from your game day.
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Stephen Williams
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Darth Gamer wrote:

Now here's the problem: I'm one of those people who always wants to play one more, whether I've played one game of Room 25 or spent the whole weekend at a local Con. Also, in both of those situations, and whether or not the one more game is played, my brain is totally fired up afterwards and I am unable to sleep, with thoughts and ideas spinning and spinning through my mind. Apparently, THIS IS VERY VERY BAD! sauron

So, board gaming helps me out of depression but invariably triggers mania. What to do? Anyone else deal with this?


I don't have the same condition or anything similar to it, but I do know that when I find my head spinning with ideas about board games, it helps me to sit down and design them out. Few ideas get beyond the "text file full of bullet points" stage, but it helps release that creative energy and - who knows - maybe something will come of it one day.

This is just a shot in the dark, but maybe the same could help you calm down? Just start brainstorming your own board or card game in the style of whatever has you all worked up and type out as much as you can, until you find yourself getting tired and/or bored. Just so we're clear, engaging in this sort of design process is not necessarily a promise to yourself or anyone else that a final product will ever come out of it. You're doing this for you, and if it doesn't end up going anywhere, that's fine. Your goal was to vent the mania, remember. As long as it does that, you're good.

If you want to try this idea, I would advise against telling other people you're working on your own game. Not because it's shameful or some national secret, but I personally find it annoying when someone continually asks me "how is project X going?" when I stopped working on that roughly a week after they heard I had started... whistle
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Scott McKay
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Hey, thanks for the feedback.

Yeah, of course the first thing is to follow my doctor's advice. I was just wondering if others had experience with this particular aspect. And I am supposed to start therapy soon. I will definitely emphasize to my counselor how important gaming is to my and try to find a healthy way to include it.

I really like this idea of redirecting my thoughts and energy after a game session. It's probably better to stay up til 1:00 doing something productive rather than just lying in bed trying to sleep until 4:00. I do have game design ideas and that is often the sort of thing that is buzzing in my head after a game so maybe indulging it for a while and getting stuff on paper would help. Also, I've never written a review; to be honest, I find the prospect quite intimidating. Maybe writing a review of a game I've just played would kinda 'close it off' in my head. I suppose I wouldn't need to post it if I wasn't satisfied. Perhaps switching to something tactile like painting minis or playing with Lego would be more calming. Good ideas. Trial and error I guess.

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Cris Whetstone
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Thanks for sharing. It's brave but it's also good to see people can share these days without the fear of being judged as often as they were just 20-30 years ago.

I cannot offer any direct help but I would suggest finding local support groups. I'm sure you'd find people that have your same issue with their favorite hobby or interest. They would probably have some coping mechanisms you may not have thought of.

Best of luck.
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Homo Ludens
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As a fellow gamer with Cyclothemia I can empathise with your situation.

Gaming is triggering mania and you may wish to look at why this may be so in your case. Is it the social interaction? Elation of winning? Do all types of games trigger mania equally?

I wish you well in figuring it all out and finding a way to manage the condition.
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I suggest that you learn meditation; it has helped many people suffering from depression and bipolar disorder. Together with proper medication, meditation makes it possible to live a fairly normal life. It won't cure you, but it will improve your situation.
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Dan Hughes
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I have found the Sleep With Me podcast very useful when my mind has been racing at night. Mindfulness/meditation techneques can be very useful too.

I think making a diary of your moods, including the hypomania would be vey useful. And pay particular attention to what was going on internally and externally just before you tipped into a hypomanic episode. if you can learn the warning signs you can maybe head it off at the past by moving to a low stimulus environment/activity.
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Pablito A
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Darth Gamer wrote:
Hi. First of all, if there's a specific forum for this sort of thread, feel free to move it.

I've been fighting depression for around 30 years with my best allies in the last 15 years being board gaming and my friends in that hobby. Apparently, a big reason that I have had only moderate success is that I actually have bipolar disorder (diagnosed several months ago).

I have what is called bipolar II which means, rather than going from a depressed mood level of 0 or 1 to a manic mood level of 9 or 10 (as with a person with bipolar I), I only go up to a 7 or 8. Also, besides euphoria, I can experience agitation which feels like anxiety, manic perfectionism which looks like OCD, and other symptoms. You can see why it was hard to diagnose.

Not knowing what was going on, I have always tried to fight the depression and ride out the hypomania as long as possible, but eventually have always crashed. I've learned that what I need to do is also try to prevent the manic episodes to stop the cycle.

As I mentioned, getting together with friends for a game or three has been my best tool in fighting the depression part. I find it easier to motivate myself to get out the door to do that than... anything, really. And once I'm involved in a game, my mood always improves. Board gaming engages my brain in a way that nothing else does; it's like it switches to a completely different page.

Now here's the problem: I'm one of those people who always wants to play one more, whether I've played one game of Room 25 or spent the whole weekend at a local Con. Also, in both of those situations, and whether or not the one more game is played, my brain is totally fired up afterwards and I am unable to sleep, with thoughts and ideas spinning and spinning through my mind. Apparently, THIS IS VERY VERY BAD! sauron

So, board gaming helps me out of depression but invariably triggers mania. What to do? Anyone else deal with this?

Btw, I have tried a few medications but haven't found the right one yet. But even when I do, that will only be a part of it; I will need to monitor my moods and modify behavior.



Regular sleep is one of the most important factors in managing bipolar.

I'd look at finding afternoon gaming times or force yourself to quit a bit early. You could also take some meditation classes to help you learn to calm your brain so you can get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

You might to something like this...

Game, take a walk (burn off energy), eat a light snack, mediate, then off to bed.

Most bipolars cannot short themselves on sleep without ending up in trouble.

Being bipolar is a pain in the ass. Our lives are not normal and normal people don't get it.
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Chris Knight
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Wow. What a lot of great responses. You are all rad!

I want to echo what many have suggested, which is to end the night of intense games early, and do something that is calming and mindful to wind down. A mellow game with the group, a solo game, legos, reading, podcasts... all good suggestions.

And Pabs is right: a regular sleeping schedule, where you get lots of it is key. I struggle with depression and my wife is Bi Polar and we both get into trouble when we are not getting enough, regular sleep.



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Chris Knight
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Darth Gamer wrote:
Hi. First of all, if there's a specific forum for this sort of thread, feel free to move it.


I, for one, am glad this is posted in general gaming, so folks will see it.

That said, you (any and all of you) might want to check out my favorite corner of BGG...

Depression, Anxiety and Gaming (Support Group)
and
Depression, Anxiety and Gaming
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Osiris Saline
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Gee Whiz wrote:
Darth Gamer wrote:
Hi. First of all, if there's a specific forum for this sort of thread, feel free to move it.


I, for one, am glad this is posted in general gaming, so folks will see it.

That said, you (any and all of you) might want to check out my favorite corner of BGG...

Depression, Anxiety and Gaming (Support Group)
and
Depression, Anxiety and Gaming


Thanks so much for sharing these links.
*joins guild*
 
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Andrei Savva
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At least you admit it. So many use boardgames as a getaway from everyday life frustrations. So many boardgamers tend to adopt unhealthy habits (excessive shopping, hoarding of games, extreme attachment to items that are simply... items). I cannot relate to your situation and cannot give you any advice, as I am not a proffesional, but I totally understand why boardgaming (or posibly any other pleasant activity) could be used to fuel a disfunction.
I am a relatively sane guy, and still had a period when I was surfing the internet all day at work, reading information on boardgames. Because I was bored and disconnected from my job. Previously I would surf the internet on different topics, but now I had an excuse - I love boardgames, it is my passion, I need to read this 100th review, I have to see some more photos, I have to check what's new in the store (so I could research more on it).

Playing boardgames it's good, it's fun, everybody should do it. But some use the "feelgood" of the boardgames to compensate the fact that without the boardgames... they don't feel so good. Instead of figuring it why, trying to understand it, change it or accept it, they get a "happy pill", buying a boardgame, playing some sessions, watching a review on youtube. All these examples are absolutely good, positive things to do, and are an healthy exercise of your hobby/passion. But when we use them as a cover up for other frustrations, as a distraction to evade life and it's reality of possible frustration and pain, that's trouble.
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Ian Williams
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My girlfriend is bipolar, although she doesn't have the obsessive (perhaps not the best word) side of mania that you seem to. She loves board games as a way to drag her brain away from worse thoughts. I love that these are issues we can discuss on here, and it really helps me understand what she goes through.
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A Paula G
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Scott, thank you for sharing your situation, and I hope that you can continue your progress toward feeling better.

In case this technique will help you, here is what I do to calm down for sleep when my mind is racing at bedtime:

1. Find or write a long block of text, and commit it to memory. The ideas expressed in the text should be complex and related to each other. The sentences should be rich with details. The topic should be engaging to you but not promote strong emotions or a feeling that you need to take immediate action.

2. When it's time to sleep, silently "say" the text perfectly word for word, with as much rhythm as the words permit. Breathe as if you are talking out loud. Try to visualize the words as if you are reading them. Also, picture the meaning of each phrase, and picture how the phrase relates to the whole text.

3. As you get further into the text, slow down the rhythm. If you get to the end of the text before you fall asleep, start over even more slowly. If your mind shifts to some other topic, start over at the last sentence before the stray thought intruded (or the beginning of the text if you lost track). If you make a mistake, start over at the beginning of the sentence and "say" it correctly before you continue.

4. If you get through four passes of the text and still are not sleepy, get up and do something non-verbal, like a jigsaw puzzle or Lego build. Continue to repeat your text to engage your mind and prevent other thoughts from reducing your calmness. Remember to keep the lights low.

Some ideas for calming texts are
- poems and song lyrics
- sacred scriptures and prayers
- lists of related items (for example, dog breeds within their AKC classes, or presidents and their years of service)
- scientific or mathematical tables or formulas (such as the periodic table of the elements)
- musical chord progressions
- philosophical statements or creeds

Best wishes to you!
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Reed Dawley
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That is good really good information. Having a sleep ritual is a very important part of being non-neurotypical, in my case anyway. No TV in the bedroom, no bright screens, no distractions. I work third shift so I add a totally dark room for mine which is fun at 0730. I turn on my two white noise machines, open my old kindle (white text on black background, lowest light setting) and I read a book I have read a dozen times before. Enough to engage but not enough that I need to keep reading. Then I check for what I can only call eye stickiness. When I close my eyes can I feel them wanting to stay closed, when I hit that point I know to set my book down and nod off. If I dont go out in half an hour I get up and go do something else and try again in awhile. Staying in bed when you cant sleep and tying to force yourself to sleep and looking at the time and thinking "If I fall asleep now I can get six hours of sleep" does not help at all. I find myself spending a lot of time monitoring and moderating my sleep patterns. I have a three hour REM cycle so I need sleep in pretty much 3.5 hour blocks. I am better with four hours than with five.

Things I do when I get up from non sleeping (that will get my mind to a calm place):

Paint basics on miniatures, like flesh, grab some bugmans glow and some primed dudes and just splash it on. I dont worry about splashing over or being super detailed because I will just be painting the clothes anyway.

Take a bubble bath, very calming.

Sit out on the balcony and relax

Meditate, I have been working on my Metta lately which is turning out nicely.

Do dishes/clean up/sort or sleeve cards (mindless tasks that need to be done)
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shumyum
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Just a thought:

I wonder if some sort of physical activity is in order that is sort of game-like. Yes, that would be called a sport, but try to find one that is both complex and has not much at stake.

Maybe chopping wood, or orienteering or those xtreme obstacle course things. Would be great to find something to do with a group but is not really a team sport or a competition (even with your self: the whole "personal best" thing is a great way to become too obsessive).

Anyway: something that occupies your mind, provides some easy socialization AND makes you tired might be the way to go.

PS Thanks for posting everyone. This is a very interesting discussion among other things.
 
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Sounds like your brainstorming from time to time, could actually lead you to create and design an entirely new game actually.
Write down ideas, rules, make cards, make up dice things, get some colours out, make a nice board, take it to your local gaming club, playtest it with your buddies, get their opinions and views, everything on what & not works.
You never know, but one day there actually is a game company out there that may be interested in your gameidea.
Just don´t forget to sleep X hrs a night.
 
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