Living With Bipolar Disorder

No magic cure, no surefire end to major mood disorders exists, but you can live a pleasant and fulfilling life. In addition to taking medication, you can make minor lifestyle choices that strengthen your ability to cope with your disorder and to avoid episodes.

Become an Expert on Your Illness

Read books, attend lectures, talk to your therapist, and become knowledgeable about the symptoms and treatment of bipolar disorder and its effects on you and your family.

Make a Contract with Yourself

Therapists who specialize in mood disorders often recommend that you write a treatment contract. This is a specific agreement that you create during a period of wellness. It helps you, your family, friends, and therapist recognize events that trigger the onset of an episode and the symptoms that indicate mood swings.

How Do I Feel Today?

Another tool that some therapists recommend is a mood chart, in which you record your moods and their changes over a period of months. Think about it: getting to know yourself better, and taking an interest in your emotional life in this way can be very helpful. Tracking your mood swings can help you develop the capacity to observe the subtle changes in your mood and be more objective about these changes.

Take Care of Your Body

There’s no getting around it: caring for your body will make a big difference in your mood swings and your mental health. Going to bed at the same time every night and waking up about the same time every morning is a start towards creating a regular rhythm in your life. Eat a low-fat diet. Exercise every day. Do not use alcohol or illicit drugs.

Self-Management

People who have experienced hypomania often know the signs and can help prevent or minimize an episode by:

  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine
  • Trying to bring on a sense of calm (complementary therapies such as aromatherapy may help)
  • Avoiding major decision-making
  • Avoiding spending sprees if you feel an episode coming on.

Join a Support Group

Joining a support group for bipolar or mood disorders can be extremely helpful. Also, the support of understanding friends and family is critical. Hardly anyone gets better at anything without the support, attention, and concern of others. Join a support group, and tell your friends and family how they can help you.

Without Treatment, Bipolar Could Get Worse

Without treatment, symptoms of manic depression can worsen and may lead to adult, child or teen suicide. Statistics on teen suicide indicate that any teen who has been depressed for six months or more is in danger of developing additional problems and should get help immediately. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15 to 24-year-olds and the sixth leading cause of death in 5 to 14-year-olds. The number of attempted child and teen suicides is even higher.

What Families Can Do
If you are a family member or friend of someone with bipolar disorder, here’s how you can help both of you:

  • Learn about the disease and its warning signs.
  • Ask the person how you should respond when you see symptoms emerging.
  • Encourage him or her to seek treatment.
  • Encourage him or her to avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Learn the early warning signs of suicide and take any suicide threats very
    seriously.
  • Join a support group for families and friends of people with bipolar
    disorder.

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