Living better with bipolar:Treating Bipolar Disorder with medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes, but sticking with treatment can be a challenge.Unfortunately, treating bipolar disorder tends to get worse if you don’t get the proper care, says Carrie Bearden, PhD, an associate professor in the departments of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, and psychology at UCLA. “The episodes will only get more frequent and severe the longer their illness is untreated.”The good news is that there are many things you can do that help. Here are 10 tips for Treating Bipolar Disorder symptoms under control.
Don’t skip meds:“[Medications] can help you live a much more normal life if you choose to take them,” says Cara Hoepner, a nurse practitioner who also has treating bipolar disorder. But it isn’t necessarily easy. Lithium is a commonly used drug, but it requires monitoring with blood tests to make sure the dose is correct, as higher levels can be toxic. And skipping doses of lithium or any drug due to side effects or other reasons can precipitate a relapse. There are ways to deal with side effects; some are even transient, lasting for only a week or two, says Hoepner.
Get the right amount of sleep:People with treating bipolar disorder often have problems sleeping. Hoepner says about 25% of them sleep too much at night or take long naps, and about one-third have insomnia even when they aren’t having an episode.Irregular sleep patterns can precipitate a manic or depressive episode.
Set an alarm and get up at the same time every day, Hoepner says. Even if you don’t have to get up for work, try to schedule regular morning activities such as walking or exercising with a friend (because exercise is important too).
Use therapy too:“Therapy is really, really important,” Bearden says. Some patients, if their mood is stabilized, see a psychiatrist only every month or two. But Bearden recommends more regular therapy, typically cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help people get on a good schedule and understand and interpret events and thoughts.She also recommends interpersonal therapy, which can be helpful in maintaining stable friendships, relationships, and family interaction—often a problem with people who are bipolar.
Know the side effects:Depending on the type, Treating Bipolar Disorder medications can have side effects like pancreatitis or kidney problems, or more commonly metabolic syndrome (characterized by weight gain, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance).The best way to combat side effects is to know as much as you can about the drug you are taking and watch for potential problems, Bearden says.Some medications can’t be taken with certain foods, drugs, or alcohol. Ask your doctor about potential side effects and read about the medication to stay informed.
Be wary of triggers:Stress, social isolation, sleep deprivation, and deviation from your normal routine can trigger episodes of depression or mania. Be cautious during life changes like starting a new job, going to college, or getting a divorce.Also be aware that you can encounter problems even when it’s not a major event. “It doesn’t have to be a fight or a major disruption in your day,” Hoepner says. “Anytime you are out of balance, it can be a trigger.”