9 Ways to Keep Bipolar Disorder Under Control

  • Sad woman against window
    9 Ways to Keep Bipolar Disorder Under Control
    The extreme swings in mood and energy levels that come with bipolar disorder can hamper day-to-day living. Most people diagnosed with bipolar disorder will need to manage it for the rest of their lives, so having a plan that limits mood swings is the key to your well-being. Here are nine rules to live by.

  • Pill in hand
    1. Take Your Meds
    Although there's no cure for bipolar disorder, sticking with your prescribed medications can, over time, reduce mood swings and other symptoms. Common medications include mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, and antidepressants. They can all have side effects, which might tempt you to stop taking them, but that can make your symptoms worse. Talk with your doctor about ways to manage side effects or try alternate drugs; never simply abandon your treatment plan.

  • Taking notes
    2. Keep a Daily Life Chart
    Living with bipolar disorder can mean unpredictable changes in your daily mood, sleep patterns, and medication side effects. By keeping a daily log, you and your doctor can get a better sense of how you're doing. In many cases, as changes occur, your doctor can adjust or switch medications to keep your symptoms under control. Try a pocket-size calendar or notebook for your daily log.

  • Man at counseling session
    3. Make the Most of Talk Therapy
    Medication is important for keeping bipolar disorder in check, but so is talk therapy. Also called psychotherapy, this part of your treatment plan can give you the education, guidance, and support you need to cope with symptoms, recognize a relapse, and avoid dangerous behaviors.

  • Senior woman sleeping
    4. Get Into a Daily Rhythm
    During bouts of both mania and depression, sleeping and eating habits can change. You can better control symptoms of mania and depression by doing your best to keep to a regular schedule. A change in your sleeping or eating habits could be an early warning sign of a relapse, so tell your doctor about any such changes.

  • Woman sitting against wall
    5. Guard Against Risky Behavior During Mania
    One of the dangers of a high mood swing is the likelihood of making bad decisions. You may feel overly confident and have a very high opinion of yourself, but these feelings can be deceptive. Remember that during a manic mood, your thoughts may be racing, impulsive and unrealistic. You may also be easily distracted. This can lead to dangerous and reckless behavior that can take physical, emotional and financial toll on your life.

  • man-with-hand-on-head
    6. Guard Against Dangerous Thoughts During Depression
    When you feel depressed, you may have trouble concentrating and making good decisions. It's important to recognize if you're having thoughts of death or suicide. Up to 15% of people with bipolar disorder commit suicide. The risk is highest among people who are not getting treated and are in a depression mood swing. If you have suicidal thoughts, call 911 immediately.

  • two pints of beer in pub
    7. Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
    Abusing drugs or alcohol is very common in people with bipolar disorder. You may be tempted to blunt symptoms of depression by drinking or to use a controlled substance when you're feeling high during mania. Called "self-medicating," these behaviors only make symptoms worse and, when you are doing well, can trigger a relapse.

  • Woman with migraine
    8. Take Care of Other Medical Problems
    Diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and migraine headaches are just some of the health conditions more common in people with bipolar disorder. Left untreated, these conditions can make you feel worse. Also, ask your doctor to check for hypothyroidism, which means having an underactive thyroid gland. The common bipolar medication lithium can lead to low levels of thyroid hormone, which drives energy levels down and triggers rapid mood changes.

  • middle-aged-couple-in-counseling
    9. Put Together a Treatment Team
    The professionals who help you keep bipolar disorder in check include your primary care doctor and your psychiatrist; they're responsible for medications and medical care. Psychologists, social workers, and counselors can help you with talk therapy and emotional support. Make sure you also have a good support system of friends and family. You might want to consider joining a bipolar support group to share your experiences with people who understand just what you're going through.

9 Ways to Keep Bipolar Disorder Under Control

About The Author

  1. Bipolar Disorder, National Institute of Mental Health (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/complete-index.shtml)
  2. Bipolar Disorder (all sections), University of Maryland Medical Center (http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/what_bipolar_disorder_000066_1.htm)
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Last Review Date: 2019 May 25
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