Bipolar Disorder: how to live with the diagnosis

If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, know this: Although it is a diagnosis that is not going away, it can be very manageable if you know how to take care of yourself. Gaining knowledge is the first key step. Below you will find information to help you understand the disorder and discuss it with others. You will also find information to help tackle the symptoms of the disorder. Lastly, you will gain the basic knowledge that you need in order to live well with bipolar disorder.

A Mental Health Issue is a Health Issue Just Like Any Other

Though times are changing, a mental health diagnosis may still elicit fear, judgment, or even be dismissed altogether. It is important to remember that your diagnosis is a health issue, just like any other. It is not a made-up condition or something you should be ashamed of. Much like any other chronic health disorders, bipolar disorder requires monitoring, treatment, and understanding.

Your diagnosis is something you have a right to discuss or not discuss with those around you. However, if you choose to disclose it and find yourself having trouble explaining it or come up against fear, judgment, or doubt, remember the information above. You may also want to use the information coming up next to help you along.

Medication and the Science Behind Bipolar Disorder

Scientists have yet to achieve a thorough understanding of the brain. However, some information about bipolar disorder has been gathered. One thing we know definitively is that genetics play a role in the development of the disorder. If you have been diagnosed bipolar, it is extremely likely that one or more members of your family has or had the disorder too, even if it was never or has not been diagnosed.

It is also widely believed that bipolar symptoms are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, more specifically disruptions associated with the neurotransmitters noradrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine. Because issues with this area of the brain’s functioning have been pinpointed as a cause of bipolar symptoms, scientists and doctors have found ways to treat and regulate the disorder with medications that address this part of the body, much like doctors prescribe insulin to patients with diabetes.

There is no one drug used to treat bipolar symptoms. Every person is different. However, lithium has proven to be of help to about two-thirds of people diagnosed. Doctors may use another mood stabilizer in conjunction with lithium or try other medications. The most important thing is to find a psychiatrist you trust and be honest with him or her about how you are feeling on any given medication and at any given time. Finding the right medication or combination of medications can take a little time, but partner with your doctor to find what’s right for you.

Counselling and Support Groups

Around two and a half million people in the United Kingdom have been diagnosed bipolar. Around 60 million people have been diagnosed worldwide. Know that you are not alone. If there is something that you are struggling with, chances are others out there are struggling with it too. Some may have even found good ways to deal with the problem. Support groups and organisations devoted to people living with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses exist all over the United Kingdom. A simple Google search will help you find one near you.

Individual counselling or therapy may be beneficial too. However, take care to ask your referring physician for a therapist who is familiar with bipolar disorder and will understand your particular needs.

Tackling Stress and Bipolar Disorder Symptoms with Exercise

It is well documented that exercise helps to relieve stress and improve one’s mood. Exercise boosts the brain’s production of the neurotransmitters known as endorphins, which generally give one a sense of “feeling good”. It also focuses one’s attention on body movements, turning one’s mind away from the various stressors of daily life. Exercise can give one a sense of accomplishment as well, leading to an increase in self-confidence. Importantly, exercise also helps to improve sleep, which is a significant component of tackling both mania and depression.

Family, Friends, and Having Fun

Isolating oneself from others and wallowing in negative thoughts are common pitfalls of depression. It is important to regularly participate in activities you enjoy with the people you enjoy spending time with. However, remember to refrain from drug or excessive alcohol use. Substance abuse is not healthy for anyone. However, it can be particularly harmful to individuals who experience episodes of mania or depression.

Now you are armed with the basic knowledge that you need to live well with bipolar disorder. This knowledge may even improve the well-being of those around you. Invite a friend to go for a jog, walk, or hike with you or maybe to a yoga or spin class. Share the knowledge and benefits of supportive relationships and taking care of your health.

If you live with or are working with someone with Bipolar Disorder, we offer a Bipolar Awareness Training Course to help understand the causes and how to deal with the issue longer term.  The course which lasts around 5 hours can be offered on-site or at one of our approved care training centres.  For more information please fill in an inquiry form here – Bipolar training form.

Further reading;
Bipolar Support UK
Mental Health Awareness Training