With its swinging moods, shifting energy levels, sleep difficulties and intrusive anxiety, bipolar disorder can feel overwhelming. Managing it can feel the same.
“There is so much to take care of, so there are so many ways to mess up,” said Julie A. Fast, a bestselling author of books on bipolar disorder, including Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder and Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder.
But you can feel better and get better by taking small, feasible steps every day. “The symptoms of bipolar disorder vary greatly from person to person, and even within the same person,” said Sheri Van Dijk, MSW, a psychotherapist and author of five books, including The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Bipolar Disorder.
That’s why we asked the experts to share general effective ways to manage bipolar disorder. Here are 10 strategies to help.
1. Seek professional help.
If you’re not receiving any treatment for bipolar disorder, contact a practitioner. Medication is crucial for managing bipolar disorder. As psychologist John Preston, PsyD, has noted: “Bipolar disorder is probably the main psychiatric disorder where medication is absolutely essential. I’ve had people ask me if there’s any way to do this without medicine. [My answer is] absolutely not.”
Psychotherapy also is important for better understanding your symptoms and learning effective skills. Learn more in this article on the four keys to treating bipolar disorder.
2. Take medication as prescribed.
Follow your doctor’s precise instructions when taking medication. Don’t ever discontinue medication on your own (which can worsen symptoms and trigger an episode).
Instead, if you’re struggling with troublesome side effects or other concerns, talk to your doctor. Write down your specific concerns and questions, and call your doctor to schedule an appointment.
Remember that you are a team in treating your illness. You have every right to voice your questions and concerns. Doing so helps you find the most effective treatment for you.
3. Organize your medication.
Make it easy to take your medication. Fast fills three pillboxes at a time and keeps them in different places, such as her car, purse and kitchen. (Here are additional strategies on remembering to take your medication.)