How to cope with bipolar disorder

No matter how down or out of control you feel, it’s important to remember that you’re not powerless when it comes to bipolar disorder. Beyond the treatment you get from your doctor or therapist, there are many things you can do for yourself to reduce your symptoms and stay on track.

Living well with bipolar disorder requires certain adjustments. Like diabetics who take insulin or recovering alcoholics who avoid drinking, if you have bipolar disorder, it’s important to make healthy choices for yourself. Making these healthy choices will help you keep your symptoms under control, minimize mood episodes, and take control of your life.

Managing bipolar disorder starts with proper treatment, including medication and therapy. But there is so much more you can do to help yourself on a day-to-day basis. These tips can help you influence the course of your illness, enabling you to take greater control over your symptoms, to stay well longer, and to quickly rebound from any mood episode or relapse.

Living with bipolar disorder tip 1: Get involved in your treatment

Be a full and active participant in your own treatment. Learn everything you can about bipolar disorder. Become an expert on the illness. Study up on the symptoms, so you can recognize them in yourself, and research all your available treatment options. The more informed you are, the better prepared you’ll be to deal with symptoms and make good choices for yourself.

Using what you’ve learned about bipolar disorder, collaborate with your doctor or therapist in the treatment planning process. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions or questions. The most beneficial relationships between patient and healthcare provider work as a partnership. You may find it helpful to draw up a treatment contract outlining the goals you and your provider have agreed upon.

Improve your treatment by:

Being patient. Don’t expect an immediate and total cure. Have patience with the treatment process. It can take time to find the right program that works for you.

Communicating with your treatment provider. Your treatment program will change over time, so keep in close contact with your doctor or therapist. Talk to your provider if your condition or needs change and be honest about your symptoms and any medication side effects.

Taking your medication as instructed. If you’re taking medication, follow all instructions and take it faithfully. Don’t skip or change your dose without first talking with your doctor.

Getting therapy. While medication may be able to manage some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder, therapy teaches you skills you can use in all areas of your life. Therapy can helpyou learn how to deal with your disorder, cope with problems, regulate your mood, change the way you think, and improve your relationships.

Tip 2: Monitor your symptoms and moods

In order to stay well, it’s important to be closely attuned to the way you feel. By the time obvious symptoms of mania or depression appear, it is often too late to intercept the mood swing, so keep a close watch for subtle changes in your mood, sleeping patterns, energy level, and thoughts. If you catch the problem early and act swiftly, you may be able to prevent a minor mood change from turning into a full-blown episode of mania or depression.

Know your triggers and early warning signs

It’s important to recognize the warning signs of an oncoming manic or depressive episode. Make a list of early symptoms that preceded your previous mood episodes. Also try to identify the triggers, or outside influences, that have led to mania or depression in the past. Common triggers include:

  • stress
  • financial difficulties
  • arguments with your loved ones
  • problems at school or work
  • seasonal changes
  • lack of sleep

Common red flags for relapseWarning signs of depression

  • You’ve stopped cooking your own meals.
  • You’ve stopped mixing with friends.
  • People bother you.
  • You crave sugary food such as chocolate.
  • You’re getting frequent headaches.
  • You don’t care about others.
  • You need more sleep and take naps during the day.

Warning signs of mania or hypomania

  • You can’t concentrate.
  • You find myself reading lots of books at once.
  • You’re talking faster than normal.
  • You feel irritable.
  • You’re hungry all the time.
  • Friends have commented on your irritable mood.
  • You have more energy than usual so need to be moving.

Knowing your early warning signs and triggers won’t do you much good if you aren’t keeping close tabs on how you’re feeling. By checking in with yourself through regular mood monitoring, you can be sure that red flags don’t get lost in the shuffle of your busy, daily life.

Keeping a mood chart is one way to monitor your symptoms and moods. A mood chart is a daily log of your emotional state and other symptoms you’re having. It can also include information such as how many hours of sleepyou’re getting, your weight, medications you’re taking, and any alcohol or drug use. You can use your mood chart to spot patterns and indicators of trouble ahead.

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