Dedication is Important for Coping with Bipolar Disorder
If you are truly seeking how to treat bipolar disorder, it is important for you to realize that you won’t change overnight. Coping with manic depression is a long process that you must be dedicated to. Don’t allow yourself to feel discouraged if you slip up and have a manic or depressive episode. It happens to the best of us.
“My recovery from manic depression has been an evolution, not a sudden miracle.” – Patty Duke
Education is important in treating bipolar disorder
Before you even begin to learn how to manage bipolar disorder, you should know what it is. For example, you should know about the difference between hypomania and mania, the levels of severity, the symptoms of mania, and the symptoms of depression
The top treatment for bipolar disorder
Now that you have an understanding of what manic depression is, you are ready to explore the many ways to treat bipolar disorder. There may not be a cure for it yet, but there are numerous ways to minimize bipolar disorder symptoms. Most people with bipolar disorder are on medication for it. A mood stabilizer may be prescribed, as well as anti-anxiety and anti-depressant pills. It is common for medications to be mixed for those suffering from bipolar disorder. For example, I was put on a mood stabilizer, anti-anxiety, and anti-depressant. However, some people are put on an anti-psychotic, particularly those who have bipolar I disorder, or suffer from severe manic episodes.
Typically, an anti-depressant alone is not prescribed to someone with bipolar disorder, because it can trigger mania. An anti-depressant is given with a mood stabilizer for bipolars who struggle with depressive episodes. However, depression can be efficiently treated through other means, which will be elaborated on later.
Another thing that you should know about bipolar medication is that you will most likely experience unpleasant side effects for about a month. Some examples of the side effects are:
- Weight gain
- Weight loss
- Increased thirst
- Metallic taste in mouth
- Abnormalities in thyroid function
- Kidney problems
- Blacking out
- Feeling detached
Not every single one of these possible side effects applies to each medication. It is your responsibility to look up the various side effects your medicines may have. All you have to do is type the drug’s name into Google and you will find the manufacturer’s website, which should provide you with the necessary information about the medication. Even if your doctor or psychiatrist goes over some of the side effects, you should still look it up.
Warning: Never stop your medication cold turkey!
If you no longer want to take your medicine, then you will have to slowly wean yourself off of it under the supervision of your doctor. When you suddenly quit taking your medication for bipolar disorder, you can suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms. You can also go into mania or depression.
Possible Withdrawal Symptoms From Abruptly Quitting Bipolar Medication
Depends on which medication(s) you are on
- Electrical shocks
In addition, you should always stick to the prescribed dosage. Don’t cut your pills in half. Don’t take an extra pill, just because you think you may need it. Deviating from your assigned dosage can have a bad impact on your health.
Lastly, when beginning a new medication, you should keep a daily log of what side effects you may be experiencing and how you are feeling. This can help you determine with your doctor whether or not the drug is working for you.
What Is The Most Effective Treatment For Bipolar Disorder
Keep a Mood Chart
Monitor bipolar symptoms carefully
- Attentively watch for slight changes in energy level, sleeping pattern, thoughts, and mood. Catching it early on can help you prevent an episode or minimize the severity of the symptoms.
- Each day you should also rate how your mood was. Did you feel normal? Were you slightly high? Severely low? Rate yourself on a scale between -5 and 5 with -5 standing for severely depressed, 5 representing severe mania, and 0 being normal or neutral. It is ideal that you do this at the same time each day.
- You should also take note of the circumstances surrounding each episode.
- After about a week or so, you should be able to look back at your mood chart and search for patterns and early warning signs of depression and mania each.
- Learn about your triggers and early warning signs. Once you have discovered about what triggers a bipolar episode for you and what the early warning signs are, you will be able to either avoid having the episode altogether or lessen the severity.
Common Warning Signs of Depression
Bipolar Risk Factors
- Needing more sleep, including taking naps
- Feeling irritated
- Loss of energy
- Lower self esteem
- Decreased sex drive
- No longer wanting to be around others
- Caring less about other people
- No longer feeling like doing anything
Madness is to think of too many things in succession too fast, or of one thing too exclusively.” – Voltaire
Common Warning Signs of Mania or Hypomania
Bipolar Risk Factors
- Taking on multiple projects
- Reading more than one book
- Trouble concentrating
- Talking faster
- Feeling irritated
- Higher self-esteem
- Increased sex drive
- Having more energy than usual
- Feeling hungrier than normal
The quicker you act when you notice warning signs of either depression or mania, the better off you will be. Because individuals are different, the specific actions or coping techniques that you use may not be the same as someone else with bipolar disorder. Likewise, the specific warning signs that you experience may differ from someone else’s. Experiment with some of these ideas and learn what works for you and for which type of bipolar episode. The coping mechanism that helps with depression may not work as well for mania.
After you have figured out what your unique early warning signs are, determine what you are like when you are mildly manic, moderately manic, severely manic, mildly depressed, moderately depressed, and severely depressed. Remember that you may not experience severe mania, so you wouldn’t have to record your symptoms for that category.
Strategies for Preventing or Overcoming Depression
Bipolar depression is a reduction in energy level
When you notice early warning signs of depression, it is important to take action. The quicker you do, the better off you will be. Even if you have already fallen into a state of depression, you can still utilize the following strategies to help you snap out of it sooner.
Increase your Activity Level
One of the symptoms of bipolar depression is a decrease in energy level, whereas mania is an increase in energy level. By engaging in more activities when you are feeling down, it helps counteract the lower energy level. Additionally, it serves as a distraction. If you sit around refusing to do the things that need to be done or even avoiding fun activities, you begin to think more. And when you are in a depressed state of mind, your thoughts aren’t exactly positive. You begin to think about how horrible of a person you must be, how much of a failure you are in life, how ugly you are, etc. Once those thoughts start, it’s as if a vicious depressive cycle begins. Don’t allow yourself to get to that point where you keep thinking negative things about yourself. If you catch yourself thinking a bad thought, stop yourself and reverse it. For example, if you are thinking “I am such a stupid person,” stop yourself and then think “I am a smart person because I am constantly learning.” It may sound weird, but it can help sometimes.
Create a Positive Notebook
Write down all of the positive things about yourself in a small notebook. This can include physical features, personality traits, accomplishments, and more. Here is an example of what your list may look like:
- Beautiful eyes
- Great smile
- Graduated high school
- Graduated college
- Donated money to charity
- Fed a stray cat
- Adopted an animal
- Wrote a good book
- Outgoing person
- Helped my brother overcome a rough breakup
- Make people laugh a lot
- Very compassionate
- Great cook
No matter how little something may seem, if it made you feel good about yourself, you should include it. Even giving a homeless person a warm meal can make an impact. He could be more touched than you even realize. He may even remember your act of kindness for the rest of his life. I have some memories of little things that strangers did for me that have remained with me and will for the rest of my life. Likewise, I have done nice things for people I didn’t know.
Now this isn’t something that can be completed in one sitting. Throughout your life as you make more accomplishments and do more things that you feel proud of, your list will become longer. When you begin to feel down or are depressed, take out this book and read all of the wonderful things about yourself. It will help remind you why you aren’t a horrible person, even if you feel that way at the moment.
Do Something Enjoyable
When you are engaging in activities, don’t just do the house chores; also make room for something fun. For example, play a video game, hang out with a friend, skate, swim, go see a movie, etc. It’s very important for anyone, including people who are not bipolar, to maintain a balance between completing necessary tasks and having fun. Neglecting responsibilities is just as bad as forgetting to have fun.
Strategies for Preventing or Overcoming Mania (or Hypomania)
Relax When you are about to become manic or hypomanic, you have the opposite problem that you do when you are depressed. While depressed you have lower energy, whereas you have an increased energy level during mania/hypomania. Therefore, it makes sense that you would do things that lower your activity level. Relaxing is one great way to do this. Plus, it is beneficial for your health! Everyone can benefit from making room in his/her life to relax. Moreover, there are endless relaxation techniques that you can choose from.
One way to relax is to lay down and close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose slowly and deeply. Then clench your toes and hold it for a few seconds and then relax those muscles. Repeat it a few more times, while still breathing deep and slow. You will repeat this process for your calf muscles, thighs, butt, hands (make fists), arms, back, and shoulders (hunch your shoulders up towards your neck). Just after doing this through once, you can feel the difference. Your muscles are more relaxed, thus you have less tension and also feel more laid back. You can repeat the whole process if you need to. Doing this technique has even helped me reduce the pain of headaches.
Studies have shown that 30 minutes of relaxation each day can help improve your mood and reduce periods of depression.