How to Cope in California’s Fast-Paced Lifestyle
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong mental health disorder characterized by intense mood swings that cycle between manic/hypomanic (abnormally happy or irritable mood) and depressive (sad) episodes. It impacts emotions, energy, and everyday functioning, making it difficult for people to live normal lives. Comprehensive mental health treatment plans including medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and support groups can help individuals coping with bipolar disorder manage their symptoms.
Every person will experience bipolar disorder which presents the need for tailored bipolar disorder management treatment. Effective therapy treatment begins with seeking help from a mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychiatrist. They can correctly diagnose bipolar disorder or other mental health disorders through thorough psychological and physical exams. Therapists will use various types of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, to find which treatment approaches work best for each person. Seeking bipolar disorder supportive therapy can also help individuals adhere to treatment plans and make the necessary lifestyle changes to manage their symptoms for a lifetime.
Understanding Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder mood episodes can range in severity. There are three different diagnoses: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia disorder. Bipolar disorder I is characterized by more severe manic episodes, individuals with bipolar II will have mild to moderate manic episodes but more severe depressive episodes, and cyclothymia disorder will cause milder episodes but more frequent. Bipolar II disorder is the most common one, but harder to diagnose as it is often mistaken for major depressive disorder. Individuals with bipolar disorder can also struggle with co-occurring mental health disorders like anxiety and ADHD. In severe cases, individuals can also experience psychosis with hallucinations and delusions.
Bipolar disorder symptoms will differ between manic episodes and depressive episodes. Every person will also experience bipolar symptoms differently. Individuals can experience several episodes throughout their lifetimes, with periods of normalcy between.
Manic episode symptoms:
- Rapid speech
- Racing thoughts
- Excessively happy, excited, or hopeful
- Increased energy
- Reduces the need for sleep or going days without sleeping
- Impulsivity and poor judgment
- Reckless, risk-taking behavior
- Delusions of grandeur include feeling highly important, talented, or powerful
- Sudden mood changes, like going from being joyful to angry and hostile
Depressive episode symptoms:
- Lack of motivation
- Overwhelming sadness
- Feeling worthless or hopeless
- Fatigue or low energy
- Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
- Insomnia or sleeping more
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Facts About Bipolar Disorder
Mental health disorders are among the most common health conditions in the U.S. with more than 1 in 5 adults living with a mental illness. Bipolar disorder is a fairly common mental health disorder. The National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) found that about 2.8% of adults in the U.S. had bipolar disorder in a given year. It can occur at any age, although it often develops between the ages of 15 and 19 and rarely develops after age 40. Prevalence between men and women is fairly equal. However, women and people with bipolar II disorder are more likely to experience periods of rapid cycling compared to men with the same condition. People with bipolar disorder on average have a 9.2-year lower life expectancy, and as many as 1 in 5 patients with bipolar disorder die by suicide.
The severity and frequency of symptoms varies between people. Some people may have a couple of episodes in their lifetime and are stable in between, while others have several episodes within a year. Bipolar disorder is also often misdiagnosed with other mental health disorders such as depression, ADHD, or schizophrenia at first.
Bipolar disorder can also hurt several areas of a person’s life. Predicting frequency and intensity of mood episodes is almost impossible which causes people living with the disorder to wonder how they will constantly wake up feeling each day. Individuals can also have difficulty with interpersonal relationships as their mood swings can cause them to lash out, feel like “they’re too much,” or be too depressed to engage with their loved ones. They can also isolate themselves during depressive episodes.
Bipolar disorder also affects a person’s ability to work, go to school, or be successful in their career path, as racing thoughts, shifting energy levels, and interpersonal skills can cause issues at work. It also affects their sleep, either struggling with insomnia or sleeping too much. Not getting enough sleep can leave a person feeling groggy or in a haze. People with bipolar disorder are also more likely to engage in drug and alcohol abuse to self-medicate symptoms that can lead to a substance use disorder.
Managing Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder management is possible through individualized treatment plans encompassing several treatment methods. Effective treatment plans can comprise a combination of medication, therapy, support groups, and lifestyle changes. It is essential to keep up with treatment plans and never stop medications abruptly, as that may trigger an episode.
Bipolar Disorder Medication
Medications are an essential part of bipolar disorder management. They are not a cure but can help balance moods, thinking patterns, and energy levels so you can do what you need and want to do. Bipolar disorder distorts how you see yourself and the world, but with the help of the right medications, you can see things more clearly and objectively.
There are several types of medications available for the treatment of bipolar disorder. You may need to try different medications or a combination of medications to find what works best for you. You may also need to keep taking these medications for years or decades to manage symptoms. Medications should always be taken under the supervision of a doctor and should never stop abruptly as that may trigger a manic or depressive episode. Sometimes, people may stop taking their medication because they have not experienced a manic or depressive episode in a long time, which indicates that the medication is working and preventing symptoms’ recurrence.
Some types of bipolar disorder medication include:
- Mood stabilizers: These medicines treat and prevent manic and depressive episodes. They also help stabilize your mood and keep them from interfering with school, work, or interpersonal relationships. You can still experience mood changes throughout the day on mood stabilizers as they treat full episodes of mania or depression. Examples of mood stabilizers used in treating bipolar disorder include lithium, lamotrigine (Lamictal), divalproex sodium (Depakote), and carbamazepine (Carbatrol). Common side effects include frequent urination, increased thirst, nausea and vomiting, loss of coordination, seizures, and blackout.
- Antipsychotics: Used in both short-term and long-term treatments, antipsychotics help to treat bipolar symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, or mania. Sometimes they are used alongside mood stabilizers to decrease symptoms of mania until mood stabilizers take effect. They also help regulate brain circuit function and treat abnormal thinking patterns common in bipolar disorder. Examples of antipsychotics include quetiapine (Seroquel), aripiprazole (Abilify), and clozapine (Clozaril). Common side effects include dry mouth, drowsiness, weight gain, and blurred vision.
- Antidepressants: These medications are often used as a supportive medication to other bipolar disorder medications as they do not treat mania or mood changes. They can also trigger a manic episode if used alone. However, antidepressants like escitalopram (Lexapro) and sertraline (Zoloft) can help individuals with more depressive-type bipolar disorder. Some side effects include sleepiness, nausea, agitation, and reduced sex drive.
Bipolar Disorder Supportive Therapy
There are several types of bipolar disorder supportive therapy available to fit each person’s needs. Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” is one of the most effective and common treatments for bipolar disorder. There is no one-size-fits-all therapy treatment for bipolar disorder; a therapist may use different types of psychotherapy to find what works best for you. They may also use a mixture of therapeutic approaches to help you manage bipolar disorder symptoms. Some types of bipolar disorder supportive therapy include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is an evidence-based psychotherapy technique widely used to treat bipolar disorder. It aims to help people recognize and change negative thinking patterns and behaviors that are contributing to their symptoms. Therapists can help you learn about your mood episode triggers, develop coping skills for them, and strengthen emotional regulation skills. Various out therapeutic techniques fall under CBT, such as dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) which aims to teach emotional regulation, interpersonal skills, and reduce impulsive behaviors.
- Psychoeducation: This treatment involves informing patients and their families about bipolar disorder. It can help patients learn about the importance of sticking to their treatment plans, how to spot early warning signs of an episode and understand the root causes of their disorder.
- Family-Focused Therapy: Like other mental health disorders, bipolar disorder can affect your relationships with loved ones. Family-focused therapy can help improve relationships, teach family members about the disorder, improve conflict management, and improve communication skills.
Mindfuli is an online platform for effective mental health therapy and counseling. We provide California residents an affordable and flexible option for getting bipolar disorder treatment. After filling out a quick questionnaire, our Care Pairing TM Technology will match you with a personalized list of therapists and counselors you can choose from. Patients can set up appointments online through video conferencing, voice-only therapy, or online chat at the most convenient times. Mindfuli can help you get the right type of bipolar disorder treatment and be on your way to managing symptoms.
Essential Coping Skills for Bipolar Disorder
While medication and therapy are the cornerstone of effective bipolar management, there are several ways you can make changes in your life for coping with bipolar disorder. Some essential coping skills for bipolar disorder include:
- Regular exercise: Getting daily exercise can help you manage all types of mental health disorders. Exercise helps to release endorphins and other mood-stabilizing hormones while also helping you expend extra energy.
- Healthy diet: A healthy diet consists of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with minimally processed foods. Eating a balanced diet can provide essential vitamins and minerals needed to regulate biochemicals and hormones which are responsible for mood.
- Mood tracking: Keeping track of your moods and their triggers can help you identify oncoming manic or depressive episodes so you can take steps to prevent them in the future.
- Avoiding alcohol and other drugs: Substances like alcohol and drugs can make your symptoms worse. It is important to ensure you do not abuse substances or use them to self-medicate symptoms.
- Stress reduction techniques: Stress is a major trigger for bipolar disorder episodes. It is important to find ways to reduce stress which work for you such as yoga, exercise, creative activities, spending time with friends, deep breathing, and meditation.
- Maintaining a routine: Keeping a daily routine can improve all mental health symptoms. Creating predictable scenarios through habits allows your mind to know what to expect, reduce stress, and alleviate anxiety which can be triggers for episodes.
FAQs About Coping with Bipolar Disorder
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes extreme mood swings, changes in energy, and ability to function. People with bipolar disorder can experience extreme highs, referred to as manic or hypomanic episodes, and extreme lows, depressive episodes. Bipolar disorder also causes unique thinking patterns which cause challenges in processing information, effective communication, and rational decision-making. Those with bipolar disorder can experience severe impacts on various areas of their lives including interpersonal relationships, school or work performance, and normal day-to-day functioning.
How is bipolar disorder typically diagnosed?
Bipolar disorder diagnosis begins by visiting a mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychiatrist. They may begin by conducting several physical examinations, such as bloodwork and brain scans, to rule out any other condition, such as hypothyroidism, which may be causing symptoms. If they do not find any underlying issues for your symptoms, they will conduct a psychiatric examination that looks at symptoms, experiences, and family history to correctly diagnose bipolar disorder and/or other mental health disorders.
What medications are commonly used to treat bipolar disorder?
There are several medications available for the treatment of bipolar disorder. Depending on the type and severity of symptoms, mental health professionals will determine which drug(s) and doses are appropriate for each case. Common medications used to treat bipolar disorder include:
- Mood stabilizers: These medications are used to control manic or hypomanic episodes by decreasing abnormal activity in the brain. Mood stabilizers include lithium (Lithobid), carbamazepine (Carbatrol), and divalproex sodium (Depakote).
- Antipsychotics: Adding antipsychotics to a treatment plan can help manage symptoms of depression and/or mania, which include quetiapine (Seroquel), olanzapine (Zyprexa), and aripiprazole (Abilify).
- Antidepressants: Used to manage depression but because they can trigger a manic episode, they are usually prescribed along with a mood stabilizer.
How can therapy help in managing bipolar disorder?
Talk therapy or psychotherapy is a vital component of any comprehensive treatment plan for bipolar disorder. While medication is often the backbone of a treatment plan, therapy can help individuals manage their symptoms much more effectively than through medication alone. It can help identify and change negative thoughts, emotions, and behavioral patterns common in bipolar disorder. Therapy can provide educational and emotional support for living with bipolar disorder. People can learn how to improve their interpersonal skills, emotional regulation, and lifestyle changes to successfully manage symptoms for a lifetime. One of the most effective, evidence-based therapies used for bipolar disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
What lifestyle changes can help in coping with bipolar disorder?
The most effective step in managing bipolar disorder is getting professional help. Mental health professionals can provide the necessary medication and therapy needed to manage symptoms, as well as guide you through lifestyle changes that can improve symptoms. Healthy lifestyle changes can improve overall health, which allows you to manage stress and triggers more easily while also helping the brain to regulate the biochemicals and hormones necessary for mental health. Some lifestyle changes which can help in coping with bipolar disorder include:
- Getting enough sleep, at least 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep a night.
- Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains while limiting processed foods and sugar.
- Regular exercise improves overall mental health, which can be just walking outside.
- Managing stress through meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or creative projects.
- Avoiding drugs and alcohol, which can worsen mental health symptoms.
- Maintaining a routine, such as getting up and going to bed at the same time every day.
Can a person with bipolar disorder lead a normal life?
With the right comprehensive treatment plans, anyone with bipolar disorder can lead a normal life. Because every person experiences bipolar disorder differently, it is important for treatment plans to be individualized with a combination of medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and support groups. Through treatment, individuals can expect less severe or prolonged symptoms, healthy relationships, and productivity in all areas of their lives. The key to successfully managing bipolar disorder is consistency. Keeping up with your treatment and lifestyle changes can help you live a happy, normal life.
If you or someone you love is struggling with bipolar disorder symptoms, Mindfuli offers effective online therapy and counseling in California. Using a quick questionnaire, we will expertly match you with therapists and peer support counselors who meet your needs and preferences. You can choose from three levels of services that fit your budget and needs. Therapy and counseling sessions are done through video conferencing, voice-only contact, or online chat. We can get you started with your first appointment in as little as 48 hours by calling 888-703-3004 or contacting us online to learn more tips on coping with bipolar disorder.