How to deal with bipolar disorder

Whether you or a family member or close friend is the person with mental illness, it’s a tough situation to deal with. A full and satisfying life is very possible, but it won’t be easy. You have to learn to work closely with your psychiatrist and counselor, how to deal with medication and its side effects, and how to cope with exacerbations.

The family of a person with mental illness is going to need a lot of support and professional guidance. Finding doctors and counselors who deal well with the condition, and who you trust, can be difficult.

Dealing with the reactions of friends and acquaintances can also be difficult. Employment problems and financial difficulties are likely to crop up too.

It takes time and persistence to learn to live well when you or a loved one has a major mental illness. It can be done. One step at a time.


Step 1

If you have been diagnosed with or suspect bipolar disorder, talk with someone you trust about the condition. This will help you begin to feel less isolated. It is important to find a psychiatrist with whom you can work well. You may need some help to do this.

The local chapter of NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) may be able to assist you.

Step 2

If medication is prescribed, take it exactly as your doctor recommends. This is the only way it is possible to tell whether the medication will work for you. Write down any side effects and discuss them with your psychiatrist. Also write down any bipolar symptoms you may still be experiencing. Your doctor cannot help you if you don’t tell him what is going on.

Step 3

Seek the help of a counselor or social worker who has experience in dealing with bipolar disorder. You will need to discuss the emotional impact of the diagnosis and treatment, and of any financial or relationship problems the condition has caused.

Everyone in the family should see a counselor for at least the first few months. Bipolar disorder causes changes in behavior that need to be understood by everyone close to you, and they may need help coping with these changes.

Step 4

Set up a support team consisting of your psychiatrist, your counselor, and at least one trusted friend or family member who can alert you to an increase in symptoms.

Sometimes a person with bipolar disorder doesn’t recognize or want to admit that the condition is causing problems. This is when you need to listen to your support team. If medication is adjusted right away, you probably won’t need hospitalization, or it will be brief.

Step 5

Be kind to yourself and to your family and friends. Learning to cope with bipolar disorder is a major undertaking. You will make mistakes. Your loved ones will make mistakes. It is important to simply acknowledge the mistake and go on from there.

Step 6

Keep to a regular schedule. Working very long hours or at night may disrupt your natural rhythms and make your condition worse. You may need to find a job that is less stressful, or to ask for an adjustment to your current job.

Step 7

Keep your sense of humor. Laughter is healing, so enjoy a comedy with your loved ones. Play board games or take walks together. Stay active in the things you enjoy that contribute to your health and sense of well being.

Step 8

Take one day at a time. Mistakes do not have to be permanent. They simply remind us of our humanity.

If you follow your doctor’s advice, take care of yourself and work with your support team, one day you will look back and see how far you’ve come.

Things Needed
• A psychiatrist and a counselor with experience dealing with bipolar disorder
• Medication taken as prescribed
• A support system
• Persistence and courage

Tips & Warnings
• Seek help before symptoms get out of control.
• Take medication as prescribed.
• Tell your doctor about symptoms and side effects.
• Develop a plan for dealing with problems.
• Have a close friend or family member help monitor symptoms.
• Never give up.


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