Managing bipolar disorder

Here, we outline how you can recognise your own personal bipolar triggers, and help you understand your emotions to manage bipolar disorder.

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Managing your bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder symptoms typically include mood swings, which can vary between the highs of mania and the lows of depression. They might make you feel as though you don’t have control over your thoughts and behaviour, and they can interfere with your day-to-day life.

However, it’s important to understand there are lots of things you can do to manage your symptoms, develop coping strategies and improve your wellbeing.

Spotting bipolar triggers

There are a number of things that can trigger a bipolar episode. Being able to recognise your own personal triggers can help you to understand your emotions more, leaving you in a better position to avoid your triggers, where possible. It can also help you to recognise when you might need more support when it comes to managing your bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder triggers can include:

  • Feeling stressed and overwhelmed
  • Not having enough sleep
  • Significant life events such as changing jobs, having a baby, getting divorced or going through a bereavement
  • Changes in season
  • Conflict with family and/or friends

Everyone’s triggers are different. It’s really important to try to understand what affects you the most, so you can keep yourself on track.

Bipolar coping strategies

If you have recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it can be difficult to know how to react. However, it’s entirely possible to cope well on your own.

Here, we have compiled a list of coping tips for bipolar disorder, to help you manage your symptoms and make you more confident in your ability to live with the condition.

Learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder

Try to learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder treatment and symptoms, the different types of bipolar disorder, as well as the causes of bipolar disorder. This can help you to gain a better understanding of your condition and what to expect moving forwards.

If you’re unsure about anything, it’s important that you ask a medical professional, such as your GP or a treatment provider you’re familiar with, any questions you have about your bipolar disorder diagnosis. If you choose to research more about bipolar disorder online, be wary of what you’re reading and try to only consume information from reputable sources.

Trust and engage with the process

Once you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and are able to start treatment, it’s crucial to have belief that your condition will improve.

Trust the process and engage with treatment. Having confidence that you’re able to take positive steps towards managing your bipolar disorder is an important part of the recovery process.

Build a support network

Try to surround yourself with positive influences and people who will support you in your recovery. These might be family, friends or a partner.

Being around people who support you and have your best interests at heart is really important for maintaining a stable and positive lifestyle. This will help you to effectively manage your mood and associated symptoms.

You could also join a bipolar disorder support group such as Bipolar UK’s eCommunity. This will give you the chance to talk to individuals who are going through the same as you, receiving support and encouragement. Bipolar UK also have information on local groups that you could join.

Take your medication as advised

Make sure you know when you need to take specific medication, and be personally responsible for this. Not only is medication an important part of the treatment process, but taking this responsibility can help you to feel more in control.

Make healthy life choices

Try to make healthy life choices where possible. Make sure you eat healthily, drink plenty of water, exercise, take time out to relax and get enough sleep. Looking after yourself physically will benefit your mental wellbeing, reduce stress and help you to control your mood swings.

Avoid alcohol and drugs

Avoid drinking alcohol or taking drugs. These substances can give you a short-term high but will ultimately make you feel even worse in the long term. Drugs and alcohol can exacerbate your emotional and mental issues when you have bipolar disorder.

Keep a mood diary

It can be useful to keep a diary of your emotions and feelings over time, so that you can reflect on your mood swings when you need some perspective. It can also help you to spot any patterns in your moods. Bipolar UK have some useful resources that are free to use.

Plan ahead for a crisis

Have a plan in place in case you ever find yourself in crisis. Despite your best efforts, there might be times where you’re feeling overwhelmed and as though you’ve reached crisis point.

Have a list of people you can contact if this happens. These might be people in your personal support network, a therapist or a medical professional. Let them know in advance what kind of support you need when you’re feeling out of control.

If you need emergency medical help, dial 999.

Treatment for bipolar disorder

While the above tips can help you to manage your bipolar disorder more effectively, it’s important to understand that it’s a complex mental health condition that often requires professional support.

At Priory, our experts will work with you to develop a treatment plan based on your individual needs. This will usually be a combination of medication and therapy, as well as regular reviews with a consultant psychiatrist.

With our support and your own coping skills, it’s possible to manage your bipolar disorder effectively, and lead the fulfilling and healthy life you deserve.

Page clinically reviewed by Dr Ian Nnatu (MB BS, PG DIP (CBT), MSc, FRCPsych, MRCPsych) Consultant Adult Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital North London

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