Explains what bipolar disorder is, as well as different diagnoses and treatments. Offers information on how you can support someone with bipolar and tips for self-management.
Self-management for bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder can make you feel like you have little control. However, there are lots of things you can do to manage your symptoms and improve your wellbeing.
This page covers how you can:
People assume that it's highly manic, highly depressive. And although there are episodes, it's not as easy to track as that.
Understand your triggers
You might find it helps to understand what can trigger changes in your mood. Triggers are different for different people. Some examples include:
- Feeling overwhelmed or busy
- Stressful periods
- Significant life events, like weddings, having a child or losing a loved one
- Periods of change or uncertainty
- Lack of sleep
- Other physical or mental health issues
- Changes or problems with your treatment for bipolar disorder
It can help to recognise these patterns. Then you can take action to avoid the trigger or minimise its impact.
Learn your warning signs
You may start to notice a pattern to how you feel before an episode. This could be changes in your:
- Sleeping pattern
- Eating patterns or appetite
Being aware that you're about to have a change in mood can help you make sure that:
- You have support systems in place
- You can focus on looking after yourself
- You're able to share warning signs with family and friends who can help you
I have to be careful how much social contact I have – too much can send me high. I have to start saying 'no' to demands.
Stick to a routine
Having a routine can help you feel calmer if your mood is high, motivated if your mood is low, and generally more stable. Your routine could include:
I have an alarm set on my phone so I take my meds at the same time every day.
Try to manage your finances
It can be very scary and stressful when your finances feel out of control. If you're struggling, try talking to someone you trust about practical steps you can take. There are also organisations that may be able to help.
- Contact the National Debtline for free financial advice, without judgement.
- Read money and debt guidance from Bipolar UK and Citizens Advice.
Plan ahead for a crisis
When you're in the middle of a crisis, it can be difficult to tell people what kind of support you'd find most helpful. While you're well, it can be useful to make a plan for how you want to be treated when you're unwell.
For more information, see our pages on crisis services.
Try to get enough sleep
For lots of us with bipolar disorder, disturbed sleep can be both a trigger and a symptom of episodes. Getting enough sleep can help you keep your mood stable or shorten an episode.
For more information, see our pages on coping with sleep problems.
Eat a healthy diet
Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can help you feel well, think clearly and calm your mood. You can read more in this blog on Bipolar UK.
Gentle exercise, like yoga or swimming, can help you relax and manage stress. Regular exercise can help by:
- Using up energy when you're feeling high
- Releasing endorphins – the 'feel-good' chemicals in the brain – when you're feeling low
For more information, see our pages on physical activity.
The trick for me is not to be seduced by the 'high' and to look after myself – get enough sleep, good nutrition.
Building a support network could help to manage your mood. This might include friends, family or other people in your life who you trust and can talk to. The kind of support they can offer includes:
- Being able to recognise signs that you may be experiencing a mood episode.
- Helping you look after yourself by keeping a routine or a healthy diet.
- Listening and offering their understanding.
- Helping you reflect on and remember what happened during a manic episode.
- Helping you plan for a crisis.
Try to tell those around you what you find helpful and what you don't find helpful. For example, you can agree together what things you'd like their help with and what you would like to manage by yourself.
When I tip the balance by going too high or low, I approach people for support.
Peer support for bipolar disorder
Connecting with people who have similar or shared experiences of bipolar disorder can be really helpful. You could try talking to other people to share your feelings, experiences and ideas for looking after yourself. For example:
- Mind. Contact Mind's Infoline or visit a local Mind to see what support is in your area.
- Online forums. Try an online peer support community, such as Mind's Side by Side and Bipolar UK's eCommunity.
- Local groups. Find a local support group through an organisation such as as Bipolar UK.
- Recovery colleges. Check if your local area has a recovery college. Recovery colleges offer courses about mental health and recovery in a supportive environment. You can find local providers from Mind Recovery Net.
If you're seeking peer support on the internet, it's also important to know how to stay safe online.
For more information and tips, see our page on peer support.
No two people's experience is the same but there's a peace and joy in not having to explain. Of shared understanding. Of coming home.
This information was published in February 2022. We will revise it in 2025.
References and bibliography available on request.
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