If you have bipolar disorder, one of the best things you can do to help manage your illness is learn all you can about the disorder. You can do this by reading books, going to lectures and talking to your doctor. Learn how to understand the symptoms and recognize when you need to seek help.
You may also want to find support from others who have the illness. Support groups are available in most areas and are an important part of treatment. Support groups provide emotional support, education, understanding, accountability and self-awareness. Participants develop a bond with others because they share common gound.
Talking to other people who have learned successful coping strategies with the illness is extremely helpful in dealing with bipolar disorder. The Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association is a good place to look for a support group in your area.
Other helpful hints for managing bipolar disorder include:
- Communicate openly with your doctor. You may want to keep a diary of you daily moods or checklist of symptoms to share with your doctor.
- Remain open to feedback from loved ones who may recognize early symptoms of an episode before you do.
- Try to keep stress in your life manageable when possible.
- Sleep well. Establish stable patterns by going to bed around the same time each night and get up about the same time in the morning. Poor sleep can trigger mood symptoms. If you have trouble sleeping or are sleeping too much, be sure to tell your doctor.
- Maintain a regular pattern of activity. Don’t push yourself to hard or try to do too many things at once. Try to work a predictable schedule with hours that allow you to get uninterrupted sleep. If symptoms interfere with your work, ask your doctor or therapist for help. Sometimes it is important to discuss these problems openly with employers. Your company may have a confidential Employee Assistance Program to assist you in dealing with your illness at work. If so, make an appointment.
- Avoid alcohol or mood-altering drugs. They can interfere with your medications and bring on symptoms. If you have a problem with drugs and alcohol, ask for help and consider joining a self-help program such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
- Remember that even small amounts of alcohol, caffeine and some over-the-counter medications for colds, allergies or pain can interfere with your sleep, medicine and mood.