Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, affects a multitude of people every year in devastating ways. Bipolar disorder consists of alternating moods expressed in manic and depressive episodes. There are several different types of bipolar disorder, which include bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymia, and others (“Bipolar Disorder Guide”).
In mania, a person may have an unusual amount of energy, a decreased need for sleep, irrational behaviors including spending sprees and irresponsibility, self-centeredness, and rapid or loud speech, among other possible symptoms (“Bipolar Disorder Guide”).
Bipolar depression is characterized by a prolonged loss of interest in normal activities, change in weight, feelings of sadness or worthlessness, loss of energy and motivation, a marked decrease in productivity, and may often include thoughts or plans of harming one’s self. (Bipolar disorder). Changes in sleep patterns may be present during both mania and depression; other symptoms may be present as well (“Bipolar Disorder Guide”). For further information about this mental illness, including symptoms, treatments, advice, and recommendations, visit the Mayo Clinic website on bipolar disorder.
However, the diagnosis of this disorder does not have to include a dismal prognosis. An interview with a stable, employed professional with bipolar disorder has provided the following wealth of wisdom. When implemented, these tips may assist a person with bipolar disorder in decreasing the presence of symptoms and/or episodes.
Don’t stop taking the prescriptions from your doctor to treat bipolar disorder, even if you feel better. The interviewee’s experience is that many initial side effects will diminish or subside after several weeks of taking the medication. Staying on medication has been the most important element in establishing and maintaining stability in the life of the bipolar professional upon whose experience this article is based.
Regardless of how you feel, do something useful. While bipolar depression may cause you to want to stay in bed, avoid the world, or be a channel (or Web) surfer all day long, make a point to do something productive every day. Doing something good will help you feel better.
Try to go to bed, get up, and have mealtimes at about the same times every day whenever possible. If you have insomnia, use relaxation techniques to help you relieve stress. If you have a decreased need for sleep due to mania, refuse to get up; continue to rest instead because your body needs it.
Take good care of yourself. If you have the desire and the funds to get a massage or a pedicure, then go for it. If enjoying the outdoors is your niche, or if you want to see a live sporting event, then treat yourself. Self-care should include regular exercise, which, according to WebMd’s article, “Exercise and Depression”, is a natural way to combat depression. Also as part of self-care, avoid alcohol and drugs; they contribute to instabilty and addictions.
Your support system should include a psychiatrist, a counselor or therapist, and compassionate and supportive friends and family. Support groups are also an excellent option where available, and online support communities are growing as well. An excellent online support group online can be found at Daily Strength, but others are also active, including the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Other online communities of bipolar support are also available by searching on Facebook.
Constantly condemning yourself will only lead to more cycling. Accept who you are and any mistakes that you have made. Remember, you are you, and while you may suffer from a mental illness, that circumstance affects but does not define who you are.
Certain circumstances, events, seasons, people, conflicts, memories, and other elements may collectively or individually cause you to “flip the switch.” Recognize the triggers and avoid them whenever possible.
Establish personal ways of coping with and managing mood swings. This tip is especially important when triggers cannot be avoided. Therapy, medication, journaling, prayer, meditation, goal-setting, self-care, encouraging thinking and self-talk, and utilizing your supports are all invaluable to your success. Always try to focus on the positive, and reject negative thoughts when they come into your mind. Faith in God has also been a source of strength for many people with bipolar disorder, including the person interviewed for this article.
Find out everything that you can about your disorder. Learn to recognize your individual indicators of episodes, and use this knowledge to prepare for and manage the episodes when they come. Inform trusted family and friends about your disorder, your triggers, and how to help you. For further reading, a list of books about bipolar disorder, including sufferers’ loved ones, is available.
Plan with your support system what actions to take when an episode is no longer manageable. This plan should include protocols for what to do if and when you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, refuse to take medications, become irrational or non-functional, or demonstrate other extreme behaviors.
While bipolar disorder can be debilitating, many people diagnosed as bipolar go on to lead happy, healthy, and even stable lives. If you take the necessary measures to manage the illness, so can you.
Disclaimer: This article is based on an interview with a person who has successfully managed bipolar disorder. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disorder or disease. For medical concerns or advice, contact your health professional.