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Managing bipolar disorder

Treatment can help.

Bipolar disorder can keep you swinging between the twin poles of euphoria and despair.

Sometimes you're so energetic, confident and ambitious that you can't keep up with your thoughts and ideas, and impulsiveness outstrips good judgment.

Other times you feel so sad, guilty, hopeless and fatigued that you wonder if you want to go on.

This disease of extremes, also known as manic-depressive illness, can disrupt life at work, school and home. For all these reasons and more, treatment is essential.

Medicines to level out moods

Most people who have bipolar disorder get some relief from medications, according to Mental Health America. Those medications may include lithium, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants and anticonvulsants. 

Before you start taking any medicine, be sure to tell your doctor about all the other medicines you take, including over-the-counter medicines and herbs or dietary supplements.

Also ask about the possible side effects of the medicines your doctor suggests. These can include:

  • Weight gain.
  • Nausea.
  • Tremors.
  • Changes in sex drive or ability.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Hair loss.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Difficulty with physical movements.

If the medicine you're taking causes side effects, tell your doctor. A change in dosage or switching medicines may help.

Therapy and support

Combining medicines with therapy or counseling is the ideal approach for long-term control of bipolar disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Your doctor may suggest:

  • Education on the illness, its treatment and signs of relapse.
  • Therapy that helps you learn how to control negative thought patterns and behaviors.
  • Therapy for family members to help reduce household stresses. Bipolar disorder can increase household stress, and stress at home can also make bipolar symptoms worse.
  • Therapy to help you learn to form better personal relationships.
  • Counseling to help you develop regular daily routines. Setting regular times for meals, sleeping, walking and exercise can help prevent episodes of mania.
  • Support and self-help groups to help you learn how to cope with the illness, feel accepted and avoid isolation.

Helpful steps at home

In addition to medications and therapy, you can take steps at home to help control bipolar disorder:

Keep a diary. The NIMH suggests keeping a daily diary of mood symptoms, treatments, sleep patterns and life events. This can help you, your family and your doctor understand how bipolar disorder affects you. It can also help your doctor tailor a treatment plan to your needs.

Watch for warning signs. In your daily life, try to avoid stress and pay attention to early signs that your mood may be headed for an extreme. Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in how you're feeling or acting.

A long-term team effort

Treatment for bipolar disorder works best when it's consistent and long term, according to the NIMH. So even if you feel fine, it's still important to follow your doctor's directions closely.

With good care from yourself and your doctor, you'll be best equipped to live a full, happy and healthy life despite bipolar disorder.

reviewed 6/10/2019

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