Helping Yourself When You Have Bipolar Disorder

Untreated bipolar disorder can cause you to experience dramatic mood shifts and changes in energy level as well as the ability to think clearly. Symptoms of this form of mental illness usually get worse if not treated. With a good treatment plan that includes medication, talk therapy, and a healthy lifestyle, it is possible to control your symptoms of bipolar disorder and better manage your daily life.

The mood and energy changes characteristic of bipolar disorder are much more dramatic than everyday ups and downs. During a manic episode, you may feel much more energetic and excitable than usual. At the other extreme, you may fall into depressive episodes in which you sleep too much and feel sad, hopeless, or empty.

Bipolar disorder is a serious brain disorder that can disrupt your life and make it difficult to have healthy relationships or keep a job. Without treatment, you may live with emotional extremes and intense, uncomfortable episodes of mania and depression. You may feel like you have little or no control over your own emotions or your life.

Helping yourself when you have bipolar disorder can at times seem like a daunting task. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but treatment is possible, which can help you to successfully manage the effects of this condition. Treating bipolar disorder usually involves:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Education and learning as much as you can about the disorder
  • Medication
  • Activities such as exercise or meditation that may help to improve symptoms but not replace treatment

Talk Therapy in the Treatment of Bipolar Disorder


Talk therapy is an important part of the treatment of bipolar disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that can help you replace unhealthy thought patterns with more positive ones. Psychotherapy may also help you recognize what triggers emotional episodes and to learn better coping skills.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy may help you establish a daily routine for better mood management, which may include meal times, sleeping, and waking. By implementing regular routines, particularly sleep schedules, there may be some improvement in the number or intensity of manic episodes.

You may benefit from talk therapy on an individual basis as well as therapy in a group or with a family focus. You may also benefit from participating in more than one different type of therapy.

Medications Used to Treat Bipolar Disorder


There are several different types of medication that are used in the treatment of bipolar disorder and they are an essential part of treating this disorder. Bipolar disorder ranges in symptoms and severity, and your doctor will work closely with you to determine which medication or combination of medications will be best for you.

Some bipolar medication choices that your doctor may recommend include:

  • Mood stabilizers such as Lithium
  • Anticonvulsants such as valproic acid and carbamazepine
  • Second-generation antipsychotics such as quietiapine

If you have difficulty sleeping or problems with anxiety, your doctor may prescribe benzodiazepines, but this is usually only done on a short-term basis. If you are experiencing a lot of depressive symptoms, your doctor may prescribe a medication for bipolar depression rather than a traditional antidepressant that could trigger manic episodes.

You will need to stay in close contact with your doctor so that he or she can evaluate how well your medication is working. It’s important not to abruptly stop taking medication just because you think your symptoms are gone, or because you feel it isn’t working. It may take some time and several tries to find medication that works for you.

Getting Treatment for Severe Bipolar Disorder


When symptoms of bipolar disorder continue to be intense and include severe episodes of mania or depression, inpatient treatment provides the best chance for successful diagnosis, medication management, and recovery. Staying in a residential facility gives you the opportunity to detach from your day to day life and responsibilities while your mood swings are brought under control.

While in a residential facility, you will receive medical supervision around the clock, which reduces opportunities for self-harm. It also allows doctors to observe that you are taking medication exactly as prescribed so that mood swings can be stabilized.

Hospitalization may be recommended if you are suicidal or become detached from reality. You may also need inpatient treatment if you have a problem with substance use disorder along with bipolar disorder.

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Helping Yourself When You Have Bipolar Disorder


Consider keeping a journal or chart of mood swings and recognize when they don’t seem under control. This may help you identify when treatment needs to be adjusted. Exercise, stress management, and establishing a routine for sleeping and eating may also be helpful. Don’t drink alcohol or use recreational drugs.

To keep your symptoms under control, it’s important to stay on your medication and follow all instructions given by your doctor. Not following your treatment plan puts you at high risk for return of your symptoms.