Living with bipolar disorder can be an isolating experience, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 4.4 percent of the United States population will struggle with bipolar disorder at some point in their lifetimes.
Receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder can feel overwhelming and lonely, but there are plenty of people who have gone before you and achieved long term recovery. Here’s what you need to know to get on the path to success so you can lead a happy and normal life.
What can I do if I think I have bipolar disorder?
The most important thing to do if you think you might be struggling with bipolar disorder is to meet with your doctor. A medical doctor or mental health professional can help you understand your symptoms and discern whether you meet the criteria to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder or not.
A trained professional can help you clarify the behaviors that are concerns and even rule out whether another mental illness is at play. Moreover, a doctor can help you get connected to care for a bipolar disorder diagnosis and recommend the best route for treatment.
Trying to overcome a bipolar disorder on your own can be painful and even lead to severe depression and suicide. It’s important to reach out now.
When do I know when I need care for bipolar disorder?
Even if you feel that you are facing mild bipolar disorder, it’s still worth a conversation with your healthcare team. If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to make a call.
You experience extreme mood swings
You have periods of depression that include feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
You have periods of mania that include elation and high energy
You have trouble regulating or predicting your emotions
You struggle to complete normal, daily tasks
You struggle to focus or make decisions
You go through extreme changes in sleeping and eating patterns
If these symptoms resonate with you, it’s time to chat with a professional about whether a bipolar diagnosis is appropriate.
Will I need long term treatment for bipolar disorder?
While some mental health disorders will fade over time and treatment can be scaled back until it is no longer necessary, bipolar disorder tends to be a lifelong recovery process. According to Mayo Clinic, treatment for bipolar disorder needs to be ongoing, even when it feels like you’ve fully overcome it.
Due to the cyclical nature of bipolar disorders, it’s common for someone to experience a “high” period, where energy levels feel normal and emotional experiences are pleasant again. This can often be confused with full healing and someone may stop medication and therapy, only to be thrown back into a disastrous “low” period once the medication has left the system.
Maintenance will always be critical when you’re recovering from bipolar disorder, however, it will get easier with time. Once medication kinks are worked through and you are making clear progress in therapy, services will be scaled back and you’ll find an easy rhythm of treatment that you can sustain for the long-term.
What are bipolar treatment options that will help me with long term recovery?
While each treatment approach needs to be individualized to meet your presenting symptoms, needs and preferences, the typical course for long term treatment for bipolar disorder includes the following.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy is always the first line of defense for treating mental health disorders in a holistic way. Therapy can occur one-on-one or in group sessions and will give you opportunities to process your behavior and find productive ways to make sustainable change.
In therapy you’ll set goals for your future and discuss concrete ways to achieve them. You’ll have to put in work outside of therapy, but real change will happen in your life when you commit to putting in the work.
Medication is often required to regulate chemicals in the body. Once the system is stabilized, your brain will be better able to function and the highs and lows won’t be so severe. You can live your life with relative emotional predictability and keep sadness at bay.
Medications that are typically prescribed include mood stabilizers, like lithium, valproic acid and carbamazepine. Antipsychotics may be used to minimize the effects of mania episodes in addition to other medications. Antidepressants can help decrease the depressive symptoms and other medications can help kick start your recovery, like anti-anxiety medications to improve sleep.
Lifestyle changes can include adjusting sleep habits, managing a healthy diet, exercising, changing to a less stressful job, finding social support, engaging in meaningful hobbies and so forth. Lifestyle changes should be enjoyable and give you opportunities to practice managing bipolar symptoms.
Rising above negative bipolar disorder symptoms doesn’t happen overnight. Bipolar disorder treatment options can help you live a full and normal life, though, and your journey can start today. Call Tapestry to get the help you deserve.