Coping with the ups and downs of bipolar disorder isn’t easy. But if you or a family member or friend is struggling, there is help. NAMI and NAMI Affiliates are there to provide you with support for you and your family and information about community resources.
Contact the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or [email protected] if you have any questions about bipolar disorder or finding support and resources.
If you have bipolar disorder, the condition can exert control over your thoughts, interfere with relationships and if not treated, lead to a crisis. Here are some ways to help manage your illness.
Pinpoint your stressors and triggers. Are there specific times when you find yourself stressed? People, places, jobs and even holidays can play a big role in your mood stability. Symptoms of mania and depression may start slow, but addressing them early can prevent a serious episode. Feelings of mania may feel good at first, but they can spiral into dangerous behavior such as reckless driving, violence or hypersexuality. Depression may begin with feeling tired and being unable to sleep.
Avoid drugs and alcohol. These substances can disturb emotional balance and interact with medications. Both depression and mania make drugs and alcohol attractive options to help you “slow down” or “perk up,” but the potential damage can block your recovery.
Establish a routine. Committing to a routine can help you take control and help prevent depression and mania from taking control. For example, to keep the energy changes caused by depression and mania in check, commit to being in bed only eight hours a night and up and moving the rest of the time. Aerobic exercise is a good strategy for regulating body rhythm.
Learn from past episodes. Pattern recognition is essential to spotting the early symptoms of an impending manic episode. Accepting support from family members or friends who can recognize early symptoms is important. Symptoms often follow very specific patterns, and this can be learned and planned for. 2 nights of a small sleep change or the even the repeated use of a certain phrase can be examples of early warning signs.
Form healthy relationships. Relationships can help stabilize your moods. An outgoing friend might encourage you to get involved with social activities and lift your mood. A more relaxed friend may provide you with a steady calm that can help keep feelings of mania under control.
If you live with a mental health condition, learn more about managing your mental health and finding the support you need.
Helping a Family Member or Friend
Recognize early symptoms. You may be able to prevent a serious episode of the illness before it happens. Symptoms of mania and depression often have warning signs. The beginnings of mania typically feel good and that means your family member may not want to seek help. Identify signals such as lack of sleep and speaking quickly that signal impending mania. A deep depression often only begins with a low mood, feeling fatigued or having trouble sleeping.
Communicate. Not everyone enjoys confronting problems head on, but doing so is critical to healthy communication. Make time to talk about problems. But know that not just any time is right. For example, if your family member has bipolar II and becomes angry, it might be safe to try and talk through the situation. But if your friend with bipolar I becomes angry, your reaction may need to be different. It’s more likely that this anger will turn to rage and become dangerous, including physical violence.
React calmly and rationally. Even in situations where your family member or friend may “go off,” ranting at you or others, it’s important to remain calm. Listen to them and make them feel understood, then try to work toward a positive outcome.
Find out more about taking care of your family member or friend and yourself.