There are a variety of methods you can use to help yourself with bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression). Individuals should take an active role in their own treatment and self-care because feeling better and getting better is an active, daily process. While medications and psychotherapy are usually recommended to treat bipolar disorder, there are additional steps a person can take to improve their condition.
1. Learn More
Learning more about bipolar disorder is the easiest thing a person can do to help themselves. There is a wealth of information online, but there are also some very good self-help books that provide an in-depth understanding of bipolar disorder and techniques that can be used to improve your daily life.
2. Get Support and Understanding
During a manic phase you may be quite unaware that your actions are distressing or damaging to other people. Later, you may feel guilty and ashamed. It can be especially difficult if those around you seem afraid or hostile. It helps if you provide people with information about bipolar disorder.
After going through a manic depressive episode you may find it difficult to trust others, and may want to cut yourself off. These feelings are to be expected after experiencing such difficulties, but it may be far more helpful to talk through your emotions and experiences with friends, family, careers or a counselor.
There are now many support groups — both in the real world and online — where people who have gone through similar problems can come together to support each other. For instance, check out Psych Central’s Bipolar Support Group.
3. Manage Your Own Condition
Self-management involves finding out about bipolar disorder and developing the skills to recognize and control mood swings early, before they become full blown.
It can be very difficult at first to tell whether a bipolar “high” is really the beginning of a manic episode or whether you are just feeling more confident, creative and socially at ease. It can be a strain watching out for symptoms all the time, particularly when you are first learning about the effect bipolar disorder might have on your life.
There are various guides to self-managing bipolar disorder. They may feature checklists and exercises to help you recognize and control mood swings, like mood diaries, tips on self-medication, and practical tips for dealing with depression and mania. Self management is by no means instant, and can take some time to use effectively. However, you may find you need to rely less on professionals, and have more control over mood swings. This can lead to greater self-confidence and lessens relapse.
The easiest thing you can do today to begin better managing your own condition is by keeping a daily journal of your moods in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Write it down on a piece of paper, day after day. There are even tools like our depression quiz and our mania quiz that can you track these moods online.
4. Get Routine in Your Day-to-day Life
Routine is important, as well as good diet, enough sleep, exercise and enough vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. Gentle stress free activities also help, like yoga or swimming. You could also try complementary therapies, such as reflexology and massage.
People sometimes underestimate the importance of a daily routine. They feel, “What’s the use?” The use is that it keeps your body active, which in turn helps you feel better emotionally. The mind and body are interconnected — ignoring one will have an effect on the other.
5. Keep Work Life at Bay
While work is important to many of us, if for no other reason than it helps to pay our rent and food bills, it also needs to be placed into proper perspective with regards to your health and well being. When we are emotionally out of balance, it can affect our work performance (as well as many other areas in our lives, such as relationships with our significant other, family and friends).
It’s important to take things slowly and avoid stressful situations. If you already have a job, you might want to find out if you can return on a part-time basis to start with. If you are a student, most colleges and universities will offer good support and advice. Give yourself time and space to get back into the full world of job stresses and such.
Bipolar disorder need not be chronic and it can be possible to recover. There is a growing recovery movement among bipolar disorder survivors. Developing countries have a far higher non-relapse rate than industrialized countries. Great recovery tools are hope, love, support and work.