Self-Help for Bipolar Disorder
People with Bipolar Disorder in the grip of severe mood episodes are often unable to help themselves or often even to stop themselves from acting out in ways that may damage their health. However, they actually can do a lot to help ensure their health and safety as their bipolar symptoms stabilize. This stabilizing generally happens with the help of bipolar medication therapy. Self-help methods include any activities that patients can do which will help keep their moods as stable as possible. Useful methods that patients might explore would include:
- Regular physical exercise.
- Setting and maintaining a standard bedtime and wake-time every day, including days off.
- Practicing relaxation or meditation exercises regularly.
- Taking bipolar medication at the same time every day.
- Reducing work and family stress as much as is practical.
- Eating a healthy diet at regular times each day.
- Regular participation in communities (including peer-support groups, religious communities or other civic or interest-based regular gatherings); (being involved with others helps prevent depression).
- Regular attendance in psychotherapy and/or regular self-monitoring exercises designed to help promote awareness of moods (talking about problems and problem solving help to prevent depression).
- Avoidance of mood-altering drugs, including alcohol.
These approaches can help patients increase their ability to resist extremes of emotion (insomuch as that is possible to accomplish). It also helps patients to recognize when a shift in mood is about to occur so that they may take steps to minimize the severity and impact of that oncoming mood.
Participation in psychotherapy, in community activities, and in bipolar support groups provides patients with social support and fellowship opportunities. This is an experience that most people find very meaningful and can help them to become more resilient in the face of depression. This participation provides opportunities for self- and other-monitoring of their behavior, and for reality testing.
Patients who are interested in locating a bipolar therapy group can speak to their doctor or therapist who may be able to provide a referral. Patients desiring face-to-face bipolar support group participation may also seek group referrals from mental health associations including:
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (formerly National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (NDMDA))
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
Mental Health America (MHA) (formerly, the National Mental Health Association, (NMHA).