Lately, we all have been feeling moody after 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, but for some, their emotions and mood swings become a little more severe. Are the highs “too high” and the lows “too low”? They can be. Whether you have been diagnosed with or you suspect bipolar disorder, you can learn to manage it and find your equilibrium even with so many confusing symptoms and treatments.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Sometimes the normal ups and downs of life don’t really explain our extreme behavior. Bipolar disorder is the new term for being manic-depressive, and it means you swing from extreme highs to extreme lows. Or you may only manifest the depressive side of this disorder. If you also have manic symptoms, you may stay up for days at a time working on projects or engaging in risky behavior, from shopping till you drop to partaking in illicit drugs. There are three basic types of bipolar disorder:
- Bipolar I Disorder: Defined as manic episodes that last at least seven days and depressive episodes that can be at least two weeks. The most extreme mood swings.
- Bipolar II Disorder: Defined by depressive and manic episodes that are less severe than the extreme manic episodes of Bipolar I. Manic episodes may only last up to four days.
- Cyclothymic Disorder: Hypomanic and depressive symptoms that are less severe than bipolar I and II but span a period of at least two years altogether.
Your symptoms may fit into one of these categories or they may manifest in different ways, in which case your diagnosis would be bipolar, unspecified.
Medications for Bipolar Disorder
The first treatment to get your symptoms under control is medication. The exact medication will depend on how your symptoms present themselves. Do you only have depression? Are you having severe and frequent manic moods? Your choices are usually between mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants. Sometimes it takes several adjustments before you and your doctor find the right drug or the right combination to control your mood.
Unfortunately, many people with bipolar disorder often stop prescriptions when they’re feeling better because they think they don’t need them anymore, but your symptoms can come back even worse than before if you suddenly stop your medications. Don’t be lulled into non-compliance because you feel better–always take your medications as prescribed and take them consistently. If you feel like they need adjustment, talk to your doctor but don’t make changes on your own. Medication is the first step, but continued therapy often includes non-pharmaceutical methods in conjunction with medications.
How Else Can You Manage Bipolar Disorder?
Psychotherapy is another tool used to treat bipolar disorder. Psychotherapy means you can talk with a support professional on a regular basis to look into the reasons for your behaviors or symptoms. A therapist can also help you identify your triggers or warning signs that you may be going off the rails, so to speak, and help you head off a manic or depressive episode.
What can you do outside of therapy and medications to help control your bipolar disorder? Living with bipolar disorder often means developing a toolbox of techniques to keep you grounded.
The Importance of Keeping a Routine
To help with managing symptoms of bipolar disorder, try to establish–and keep–a daily routine. Establishing a morning routine, in particular, can make all the difference in the world and help start your day right. That may include breakfast, personal grooming, meditation, and exercise. Exercise can play a large part in successfully managing your bipolar disorder because it reduces stress and takes the edge off naturally. Why not take advantage of all that energy?
You know the old saying “you are what you eat”? If you have bipolar disorder this especially rings true and you want to avoid foods or drinks rich in caffeine or sugar. Both contribute to mood swings. They give an energy spike, but then there is always a correlating fall and you’re off on the rollercoaster.
Don’t get up early one day and stay up all night the next, either. Getting enough sleep is crucial to success in managing bipolar disorder. Irregular sleep schedules and lack of sleep often trigger an episode, so make sure you get a full eight hours every night.
Try journaling or keeping a mood diary. Writing down what you are doing and feeling helps calm the mind but it can also help you and your therapist identify possible triggers. With a written record, you can review behaviors with your therapist and learn to let go of potentially triggering experiences instead of replaying them over and over in your head.
Find support from other people. Living in isolation deepens your depression and support groups can help you find people who understand the challenges of living with this disorder. While you can call your doctor or therapist in an emergency, your family or friends can also help and are usually closer. Be sure to make a list of important numbers and all your medications for emergencies so they know how to help when needed.
Bipolar disorder doesn’t have to rule your life–you can take charge of this sometimes difficult condition. A proper diagnosis and medications are just the first steps to treating bipolar disorder. Psychotherapy can also help, but what about your everyday coping mechanisms when your doctor or therapist aren’t there? How do you translate therapy to real life? Developing your toolbox of techniques and coping mechanisms ensures as much of a balanced life as possible. Journaling and getting those thoughts down on paper where you can review them with a professional to find what triggers you. Healthy living through exercise and a solid diet without sugar or caffeine helps, as well as exercise and enough sleep. You can still have a full and productive life with bipolar disorder and you don’t have to get through this alone. Everlast Recovery helps through counseling and mental health services as well as addiction. Find a supportive family in us. Call (800) 338-6925.