Anxiety Management Strategies for Highly Sensitive People with Bipolar

Last Updated: 9 Dec 2020

If you experience sensory overload from certain physical sensations, people, or environments, it’s important to pay close attention to what overwhelms you and triggers stress.

highly sensitive person anxiety bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder can often be complicated by anxiety—whether as a symptom of bipolar itself or as a separate condition. If you are also a highly sensitive person, or HSP—someone who experiences sensory overload, can become overwhelmed seemingly “easily,” and has a rich understanding of the world around them and within them—it is wise to pay attention to what causes you to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Left unmanaged, this tension, overstimulation, and anxiety can result in a mood episode. Here are some ideas to consider if you are a person living with bipolar, anxiety, and hypersensitivity.

#1 Recognize What Overwhelms You

It’s important to understand and be aware of what overwhelms you, personally. Each of us is different, and you may be sensitive to specific physical sensations, people, or environments that cause distress for you, but do not bother others. Try not to be hard on yourself for your sensitivity; instead, try to manage your level of anxiety by recognizing your triggers. Knowledge is power; the more aware you become about what makes you feel agitated, how stress affects you, and what you need to do in order to alleviate it, the healthier and more stable you will be.

#2 Incorporate Stress-Reducing Activities into Your Routine

Managing stress is key, says Deborah Ward, journalist and author of Sense and Sensitivity: Why Highly Sensitive People Are Wired for Wonder. Highly sensitive people and those with mood disorders can become easily overstimulated by noise and other sensory input, which can cause a lot of tension. Once you recognize that you’re experiencing excess stress, fortunately, there are many different ways to track, manage, and work through stress: journaling, meditation, grounding practices, breathing techniques, talk therapy, getting adequate sleep and nutrition, and so on. Try a few of these or other healthy options, then pick—and stick with—what works for you.

#3 Observe Your Thoughts

If your bipolar anxiety manifests as racing thoughts (typically on the negative side), try to remind yourself that these thoughts are part of anxiety, so there is no need to believe them. They are just thoughts, after all. Stand back and make note of the role that your negative thought loops play in causing you stress, and the settings that tend to inspire these loops. When you’re depressed, these thoughts will be dark and critical, and if you are a sensitive person, you could be replaying that loop over and over. First, as the observer, try to find ways to distance or distract yourself from these thoughts and the emotions it stirs up, then work toward controlling your thoughts.

#4 Take Care of You

If you have anxiety and are also sensitive to the energies and emotions of others, it’s extremely important to take care of yourself first. Do things that will boost your confidence and self-esteem. When you notice that you’re feeling excited, angry, or anxious, you can learn to recognize how your body reacts to these feelings, again as an observer. In addition to following a healthy diet and exercising (especially outside in nature), meditation, massage, and deep breathing are all beneficial coping strategies.

Extra Ideas from Others Living with Hypersensitivity

  • Adjust TV/sound system settings to equalize the volume, such as knocking down the treble.
  • Use noise-canceling headphones.
  • In loud settings or when in public, find a quiet place to go for a breather every half hour.
  • Cut out or reduce your intake of stimulants like caffeine and nicotine.
  • Breathing exercises—slow inhales and lengthened exhales, holding for a count of three or five—help when you’re feeling stressed.
About the author
Tanya Hvilivitzky has spent almost 30 years in the communications field—a career that has included stints as an investigative journalist, magazine managing editor, corporate communications director, and researcher/writer. She has been with bp Magazine and esperanza Magazine since 2016, serving in roles such as interim editor and, currently, the features editor. She also writes for the bpBUZZ section of, where she synthesizes complex information into a format that both inspires and informs. As an award-winning writer/editor, she received the Beyond Borders Media Award for her 2012 investigative exposé about human trafficking. Her work on this important topic also earned the Media Freedom Award “Honouring Canada’s Heroes” from the Joy Smith Foundation to Stop Human Trafficking.
  1. Thank you bphope these are some some positive and very informative words of thinking well needed God Bless you…

  2. Thanks for this…. sent it to my daughter. She is super hyper- sensitive and often needs breaks to decrease stress and her over-reactions to it……

    I work with special needs, hyper-sensitive children also so this is good for me to read.

  3. Thank you so much for this article. As a HSP with PTSD, depression and anxiety, I find the suggestions very helpful.
    I’m a recent member of a trauma support group and we were just discussing tools to use when we are triggered.

  4. I thank you Madame

  5. Hola from Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico! I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013 at the age of 51. In fact, I spent my 51st birthday evening in the isolation(yes it was padded)room of a hospital psych ward. It took me a about 10 months of a combination of disability from my stressful career, medications, therapy, stress management to break the grip that mania had on me. Since then, I first took a demotion at work to a much less stress filled position within the company and have continued with medication and therapy as needed. I retired fully in 2017. Throughput this journey I have found that I am very sensitive to and react badly to noisy environments or just any random loud noises. The best remedy for me is to put on my noise canceling headphones and listen to my favorite music. I also do 45 minutes of yoga/ stretching each morning. Additionally, most afternoons ,I go to my room and turn off and block out the lights and turn on my fan to cancel out most of the noise. I try to lay quietly and focus on my breathing for 45-60 minutes. While I still suffer from very occasional hyper mania episodes , I now recognize the symptoms and have tools in place to protect me from a full manic breakdown.

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