Bipolar disorder is a very serious mental illness that causes symptoms of both mania and depression. Clinical mania causes profuse and rapidly changing ideas, exaggerated sexuality, extreme happiness, intense irritability and decreased sleep, while depression is characterized by extreme hopelessness and feelings of worthlessness, sometimes accompanied by thoughts of suicide.
Effective treatments, combined with the support of family, friends and professional bipolar support groups, can provide bipolar disorder coping skills and prevent the potentially devastating complications of this condition.
Coping with Bipolar Yourself
Although major mood disorders can’t be magically cured, proper treatment and small lifestyle choices can aid you in managing bipolar disorder. Consider the following ways of coping with bipolar disorder:
Learn about your illness. Read books, attend lectures, talk to your therapist, and educate yourself on the symptoms and treatment of bipolar disorder and how it affects you and your loved ones.
Make a contract with yourself. Therapists will often recommend that you write a treatment contract. This aspect of managing bipolar behavior will help you, your family, friends, and therapist recognize triggers and symptoms that indicate mood swings.
Ask yourself how you feel everyday. Some therapists recommend recording your moods and their changes on a chart. Coping with bipolar is easier if you’re familiar with the trends and subtle changes that suggest oncoming episodes.
Take care of yourself. Caring for your body can aid you in managing bipolar disorder. Go to bed and wake up at the same times, eat low-fat foods, exercise regularly, and eliminate alcohol or illicit drug use.
Embrace self-management. Exercise bipolar disorder coping skills and manage your episodes by:
- Avoiding major decision-making during an episode
- Avoiding spending sprees if you feel an oncoming episode
- Avoiding stimulants like caffeine, drugs and alcohol
- Bringing on a sense of calm (complementary therapies like aromatherapy may help)
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Seeking help from your support system.
Seek out family help and bipolar support groups. A support group for bipolar or mood disorders can be extremely helpful in managing bipolar disorder. The support of understanding friends and family is equally critical when you’re coping with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Symptoms Untreated
Left untreated, bipolar symptoms can worsen, often leading to divorce, job loss, substance abuse or suicide. Any teen that has been depressed for six months or more is in danger of developing additional problems and should get help immediately, as reported by Teen Depression (2010).
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 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 (2008).
What Family Members Can Do
If you’re a family member or friend of a bipolar disorder sufferer:
- Ask her how you should respond to symptoms.
- Encourage him to avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Encourage her to seek treatment.
- Join a support group for families and friends of bipolar patients.
- Learn about the disease and its warning signs.
- Learn the early warning signs of suicide and take any suicide threats very seriously.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2008). Facts for families: Teen suicide. Retrieved August 2, 2010, from http://aacap.org/page.ww?name=Teen Suicide