Bipolar disorder, also known as manic
depression, is a life-long illness affecting the chemistry of the brain. In classic cases, it causes severe mood
swings from manic episodes of extreme highs to depressive episodes of debilitating lows, with relatively normal
periods in-between. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 2 million people age 18 and older
have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for
bipolar disorder at this time. But as with any chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart disease or epilepsy,
proper treatment, management and understanding of the illness is crucial. Most people with bipolar disorder can
lead full, productive and satisfying lives by taking crucial steps to control and manage their
Some key steps to consider if you or a
loved one have bipolar disorder include:
Find a mental health professional you
trust: A person diagnosed with bipolar
disorder needs to establish a relationship with a trusted mental health professional where an open and honest
exchange can take place.
Take medication as prescribed: This is first and foremost the most important step in taking
control of bipolar disorder. It is the one element that needs to be strictly adhered to. In order for medication
to work effectively it must be taken consistently and for the long term. It may be tempting to stop taking
medication as symptoms lessen and one starts feeling better. However, this could have devastating
Reduce Stress: Mental health professionals typically believe that increased
stress can trigger an episode of manic depression. Finding time to relax, sharing extra responsibilities, or
simply talking to someone during a stressful event may help to bring on an increased feeling of
Do not become isolated: Do not try to "handle" bipolar disorder alone. Seeking out
the comfort and understanding of family and friends is central to a person's treatment. It can be very helpful
to join a bipolar disorder support group because the people there understand the feelings and difficulties of
living with the illness. They can lend insight and encouragement to a person confronting a
Maintain a healthy lifestyle: It is important to establish regular healthy routines such as
exercising the same time every day, going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each
morning. Maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep, because erratic sleep patterns can increase the
symptoms of bipolar disorder. Do not use caffeine or recreational drugs.
Become an expert on bipolar disorder:
Become involved in understanding the symptoms
and treatment of bipolar disorder and the effects it can have on family and friends. Consult a qualified
mental health professional with questions and concerns. Read books about the illness or listen to lectures by
experts. Learn as much about bipolar disorder as possible because knowledge is a powerful tool in taking out
the mystery of the illness.
Enhance life with enjoyable things:
Make it a priority to engage in things that
bring about feelings of joy, happiness, and accomplishment. Hobbies or activities that enhance a sense of
peace or relaxation serve one well in dealing with the confusion of bipolar disorder.
A diagnosis of bipolar disorder does
not have to mean the end of one's world; rather it can be considered a new beginning. One that, at last,
provides an explanation and ultimate relief from some of the unexplained and destructive behaviours a person
might exhibit, freeing them to live rich and fulfilling lives.