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People living with bipolar disorder can lead productive and full lives, but it is important that they adhere to their treatment plan. There are several things that people with bipolar disorder can do to stay healthy.
Bipolar disorder, also commonly referred to as manic-depressive disorder, is a serious mental disorder characterized by manic episodes, in which the sufferer is overly joyful and excited, interspersed with depressive episodes. Symptoms may be severe, and while there is no cure for bipolar disorder, the condition can be managed with lifestyle modification and medications.

Following a Medication Regimen is a Must for People with Bipolar Disorder

Medication is the mainstay of treatment in bipolar disorder. Medication therapy works best when medications are taken continuously and religiously. There are several classes of drugs which may be prescribed for people with bipolar disorder. Mood stabilizers, such as Lithium, are used long term to manage the ups and downs of the disorder, maintaining mood at an equilibrium. Mood stabilizers are the drug of choice for most people with bipolar disorder.

Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed along with a mood stabilizer for people with bipolar disorder. Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft are examples of antidepressants that are sometimes used to treat bipolar disorder. A third class of drugs, known as atypical antipsychotics, is also sometimes prescribed and may be taken in conjunction with other medications.

Many people with bipolar disorder go off their meds and experience a deterioration in their symptoms. Sometimes people quit taking their medications because they like experiencing the euphoria that comes with the manic phase of their condition; however, during the manic phase, they may behave in ways that are harmful and that they later regret. Sometimes people with bipolar disorder stop taking their medications because they dislike the side effects of many of these types of medications, such as drowsiness. Patients who are experiencing intolerable side effects should discuss these side effects with their physician, as an alternative drug may control their symptoms but be better tolerated. People with bipolar disorder should never quit taking their medications on their own as this may lead to a rapid deterioration in their condition.

Psychotherapy Can Help Manage Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Although most people with bipolar disorder are prescribed medications to manage their symptoms, psychotherapy alone or in combination with medication therapy is also used to manage symptoms. People with bipolar disorder need to find a psychotherapist/psychiatrist who is experienced in handling the disorder, is available to the patient and who the patient is comfortable with. Building a good relationship with a trusted psychotherapist/psychiatrist may be life-saving for the bipolar patient.

A good psychotherapist, physician or psychiatrist can help the bipolar patient cope with changes in their life that result from their condition. They can also help the patient plan for new situations and prepare an emergency plan should symptoms worsen suddenly. Having a contingency plan allows the patient to know exactly what actions they can do in the event that they experience a rapid change in condition. This can foster a sense of security in a crisis.

Bipolar disorder can impact all areas of a patient’s life, including personal relationships, finances, work and physical and mental health. It is important that the patient have someone they can talk to about their feelings and experiences who understands the condition, is nonjudgmental and who can offer advice and support when needed. A relationship with a trusted physician or psychiatrist can make all the difference in a bipolar person’s life.

Group support can also be invaluable to a person with bipolar disorder. A support group of peers who are experiencing the same feelings can help the person with bipolar disorder to feel less alone. It is validating to belong to a group who understands exactly what you are experiencing.

A Healthy Lifestyle Can Mitigate Symptoms in Bipolar Disorder

The following lifestyle tips can help the person with bipolar disorder stay physically healthy and mentally strong:
  • Getting enough rest- getting adequate rest is important; sleep problems are common in bipolar disorder, and maintaining a regular sleep routine can help prevent worsening of symptoms. Going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time is important, as a structured routine may help regulate mood.
  • Exercise- exercise can help to relieve stress and can promote healthy sleeping patterns. In addition, regular exercise can help prevent the weight gain that may be a side effect of some medications used to treat the disorder. Yoga, Tai Chi, stretching and aerobic exercise can all be beneficial, both mentally and physically.
  • Eating a balanced diet- during periods of mania or depression, people with bipolar disorder may eat too much or not at all. It is important to maintain healthy eating habits to stay physically healthy, maintain a normal weight and feel good about themselves.
  • Maintain close ties to family and friends- friends and family can be important allies to the person with bipolar disorder. Talking about their condition with friends and family members can help family and friends know how and when to offer help and support.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs- the use of alcohol and drugs may precipitate a manic or depressive episode and these substances should be avoided, particularly for bipolar patients who are taking medications, as these substances are often contraindicated with the use of these types of medications. Caffeine and nicotine may be included here, as they are considered stimulants.
Bipolar disorder is a devastating disorder that can affect a person’s life on many levels, including socially, emotionally, psychologically and physically. However, with proper care, the patient with bipolar disorder can live a full, meaningful and fulfilling life. By taking medications as prescribed, enlisting the support of a trusted doctor, psychotherapist or psychiatrist and following a healthy lifestyle, patients with bipolar disorder can remain physically healthy and avoid severe manic and depressive episodes. The support of family and friends can be an invaluable resource for coping with bipolar disorder