Top 10 tips for living better with bipolar

Effective remedies for treating bipolar disorder:

If you or someone you know suffers from bipolar disorder, seek help right away. The earlier you begin treatment, the better your chances of getting and staying well. You can treat bipolar disorder with medication, therapy and lifestyle changes, but sometimes diagnosis is tricky and sticking with the treatment is a challenge in its own as it requires a long term treatment to see improvement in symptoms.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

There are two major types of bipolar disorder.
Type I causes periods of mania that often alternate with periods of depression. These periods might last for weeks or months.

Type II causes periods of depression that alternate with a less severe form of mania called hypomania.

Unfortunately, bipolar disorder tends to get worse if you don’t get the proper care, the episodes will only get more frequent and severe the longer the illness remains untreated. Individuals with Bipolar disorder experience extreme mood swings. They tend to lose their inner balance, finding themselves at the far ends of the emotional spectrum.

They may even find themselves alternating between periods of exuberant elation or mania, when anything seems possible, and periods of deep despairing depression that leaves them in bed for weeks and unable to function in their day-to-day lives.

The good news is that there are many things you can do that help. Although bipolar disorder is a disruptive, long-term condition, you can keep your moods in check by following a treatment plan. 

Effective bipolar treatment relieves symptoms, reduces the frequency and intensity of mood swings, and helps you live life on your own terms. In most cases, bipolar disorder can be controlled with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy). 

Here are top 10 tips for keeping bipolar symptoms under control.

1) Be aware of your illness and treatment options
Learn everything you can about bipolar disorder. Become an expert on the illness. Study up on the symptoms, so you can recognize them in yourself, and research all your available treatment options. The more informed you are, the better prepared you’ll be to deal with symptoms and make good choices for yourself. 

Be a full and active participant in your own treatment. Using what you've learned about bipolar disorder, collaborate with your doctor or therapist in the treatment planning process. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions or questions. 

The most beneficial relationships between patient and healthcare provider work as a partnership. You may find it helpful to draw up a treatment contract outlining the goals you and your provider have agreed upon.

2) Don't skip prescription medication
Prescription medication is often the first line of Bipolar disorder treatment once it is diagnosed. Medications can help you live a much more normal life if you choose to take them. The most commonly prescribed drugs are:
  • Lithium (Lithobid)
  • Anti-seizure medications such as valproic acid (Depakene) or topiramate (Topamax)
  • Mood stabilizers such as lamotrigine (Lamictal)
  • Anti-psychotics such as rispiridone (Risperdal) or olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • Anti-depressants such as fluroxetine (Prozac) or quetiapine (Seroquel). 
However, there is some controversy regarding whether antidepressants should be prescribed for Bipolar disorder as they have the potential to trigger manic episodes. All of these medications have various side-effects, some of which can be quite serious. 

For example, some anti-psychotic drugs increase the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Also Lithium taken in higher levels can be toxic. But if you skip any dose of prescription meds it may precipitate a relapse. So, research all options and talk to your doctor about all the side effects you experience. There are ways to deal with side effects: some are even occasional lasting for short period.   

3) Be wary of triggers
In order to stay well, it’s important to closely monitor the way you feel. By the time obvious symptoms of mania or depression appear, it is often too late to intercept the mood swing, so keep a close watch for subtle changes in your mood, sleeping patterns, energy level, and thoughts. 

If you catch the problem early and act swiftly, you may be able to prevent a minor mood change from turning into a full-blown episode of mania or depression. Know your triggers and early warning signs—and watch for them. It’s important to recognize the warning signs of an oncoming manic or depressive episode. 

Make a list of early symptoms that preceded your previous mood episodes. Also try to identify the triggers, or outside influences, that have led to mania or depression in the past. Stress, social isolation, sleep deprivation, and deviation from your normal routine can trigger episodes of depression or mania. 

4) Have faith, don't give up
Bipolar disorder -- or manic depression, as it used to be called -- may not have a cure. But plenty of people with this condition do well; they have families and jobs and live normal lives.
    With good symptom management, it is possible to experience long periods of wellness. Believing that you can cope with your mood disorder is both accurate and essential to recovery. Depression and manic-depression often follow cyclical patterns. Although you may go through some painful times and it may be difficult to believe things will get better, it is important not to give up hope.

    Learn all you can about your illness. This allows you to make informed decisions about all aspects of your life and treatment. Become an effective advocate for yourself so you can get the services and treatment you need, and make the life you want for yourself.

    Its your personal responsibility to take action to keep your moods stabilized. This includes asking for help from others when you need it, taking your medication as prescribed and keeping appointments with your health care providers.

    5) Learn to relax and have fun
    Stress can trigger episodes of mania and depression in people with bipolar disorder, so keeping it under control is extremely important. Learn how to relax. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and guided imagery can be very effective at reducing stress.

    Know your limits, both at home and at work or school. Don’t take on more than you can handle and take time to yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Studies show that a daily relaxation practice of 30 minutes or more can improve your mood and keep depression at bay.

    Go to a funny movie, take a walk on the beach, listen to music, read a good book, or talk to a friend. 
    Make leisure time a priority. Do things for no other reason than that it feels good to do them. Doing things just because they are fun is no indulgence. Play is an emotional and mental health necessity.

    Appeal to your senses. Stay calm and energized by appealing to the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Listen to music that lifts your mood, place flowers where you will see and smell them, massage your hands and feet, or sip a warm drink.

      6) Psychotherapy
      Another extremely useful Bipolar disorder treatment is Psychotherapy. This form of therapy can be extremely useful in helping you manage your Bipolar disorder. Your psychologist may help you uncover the triggers of your bipolar episodes such as high stress or too little sleep, or may assist you in changing certain behaviors during manic or depressive states.

      7) Get the right amount of sleep
      People with bipolar disorder often have problems sleeping. Getting too little sleep can trigger mania, so it’s important to get plenty of rest. For some people, losing even a few hours can cause problems. However, too much sleep can also worsen your mood. The best advice is to maintain a normal sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at around the same time each day.

      Irregular sleep patterns can precipitate a manic or depressive episode. Sleep early and get up early in the morning make a routine. Even if you don't have to go to work. Set an alarm and get up at the same time every day, try to schedule regular morning activities such as walking or exercising with a friend because exercise also important.

      8) Get around good peoples
      One of the biggest difficulties with Bipolar disorder is that those suffering from the disorder are often unaware of the severity and disruption caused by their alternating mood states. In the throws of a manic episode, the individual is usually convinced that there is absolutely nothing abnormal about his or her behavior, and may even assert that they have never felt better.

      For this reason, it is often family, friends or health care practitioners who notice that there is a serious problem and suggest professional help. Left untreated, the effects of Bipolar disorder can be very disruptive and even fatal.

      People in manic states have often taken huge irrational risks that could have serious consequences such as bankruptcy, car accidents, losing a job or unintentionally harming themselves or others.

      Depressive states are equally dangerous and suicide rates are extremely high in this disorder. If you notice these symptoms in yourself or others, it is advisable to seek or encourage professional help.

      Working toward wellness is up to you. However, support from others is essential to maintaining your stability and enhancing the quality of your life.

      9) Watch what you gulp in
      Did you know that certain foods and dietary supplements may play a role in helping -- or hindering -- the condition? From the food you eat to the vitamins and drugs you take, the substances you put in your body have an impact on the symptoms of bipolar disorder – both for better or worse.

      There is an undeniable link between food and mood. For optimal mood, eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, omega 3's and whole grains and limit your fat and sugar intake. Spread your meals throughout the day to avoid low blood sugar. 

      Avoid high-carbohydrate diets to stop mood crashes. Other mood-damaging foods include chocolate, caffeine, and processed foods. Also avoid drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamines as it can trigger mania, while alcohol and tranquilizers can trigger depression. Even moderate social drinking can upset your emotional balance.

      10) Other tips for successful bipolar disorder treatment: 

      Be patient. Don’t expect an immediate and total cure. Have patience with the treatment process. It can take time to find the right program that works for you.

      Communicate with your treatment provider. Keep the lines of communication open with your doctor or therapist. Your treatment program will change over time, so keep in close contact with your provider. Talk to your provider if your condition or needs change and be honest about your symptoms and any medication side effects.

      Take your medication as instructed. If you’re taking medication, follow all instructions and take it faithfully. Don’t skip or change your dose without first talking with your doctor.

      Get therapy. While medication may be able to manage some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder, therapy teaches you skills you can use in all areas of your life. Therapy can help you learn how to deal with your disorder, cope with problems, regulate your mood, change the way you think, and improve your relationships.

      Exercise. Studies show that regular exercise can help improve mood whether or not you have bipolar disorder. And, a good meal plan can help you feel better and give you the nutrients you need.

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