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Once known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that affects roughly 2.6% of Americans. Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings, and people with the condition experience high emotions such as hypomania to lows such as severe depression. There is currently no cure for bipolar disorder. There are, however, ways in which you can manage your condition and live your life as fully as possible.

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Bipolar Disorder: Mood Swings

Mood swings can be a difficult symptom to deal with for both a person with bipolar disorder and the people in their life. The rate at which these mood swings happen depends upon the individual. Some people with bipolar disorder will experience mood swings several times a year, whereas, in others, mood swings will rarely occur. It can be exhausting to alternate between feeling as though there is no way out of the darkness, to feeling hyperactive and manic to the point of insomnia and other debilitating effects. But, just because you have bipolar disorder doesn't mean you have to suffer.

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Staying Active

Exercise is important for everyone, regardless of age, sex, or diagnosis. Keeping healthy and active can help refocus your mind. Fitness has been proven to help reduce some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder, such as depression. Exercise releases feel-good endorphins that your body has no choice but to take in its stride.

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Being Open and Talking About It

Individuals with bipolar disorder may find it difficult to be open about their condition. Sometimes, the last thing we want is to let the people we care about know the negative and potentially stigmatizing feelings we have. If you find it difficult to talk to friends and family, it can be beneficial to look to professional help and outside support systems. Support groups and therapists are trained to listen and can help people with bipolar disorder feel less alone.

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Eating Well

Weight gain is one side effect of bipolar medications and can amplify depression and the low feelings of self-worth. Staying with a structured, routine diet of healthy, nutritious foods from all food groups will assist in day-to-day living. Routine can be one of the most beneficial ways to manage mental illness.

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Self-Care and Forgiving Yourself

Experiences of mania from those with bipolar disorder can often be mistaken as selfishness. This isn't the case, as anyone who knows someone with bipolar disorder should already know. Mental illnesses can decrease a person's self-worth, due to what they see as reliance on medication or inability to function. Taking care of yourself by giving yourself the leeway to make mistakes is incredibly important. Individuals with bipolar should be encouraged not to blame themselves for their condition.

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Dealing With Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal thoughts are common in those with bipolar disorder. Suicidal ideation is a depressive symptom that can grow in severity the longer it goes untreated. Studies show the actual risk of suicide is more prevalent in the early stages of the illness, but that doesn't mean the thoughts completely go away. These depressive symptoms can be linked to feelings of inadequacy or feeling as though one is a burden to their loved ones. If you or a loved one with bipolar has suicidal thoughts, please talk to your physician as soon as possible.

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Coping Mechanisms

It is also common for individuals with bipolar disorder to resort to ill-advised coping mechanisms such as drugs or alcohol. Drugs and alcohol can appear to take the pain away, if only temporarily. But drugs and alcohol also have side effects; alcohol acts as a depressant, and certain drugs have physical and social stigmas attached. Both of these vices are also extremely addictive, and some people can find it tempting to use them in place of the sanctioned medications that could better their lives.

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Caring for People with Bipolar

It can be difficult to know someone you love has bipolar. Mood disorders are hard to witness, and there are feelings of helplessness in being a carer. Remember: it's all right to be frustrated now and again. There are support groups for friends and family of individuals with bipolar, too, and venting your feelings in a judgement-free space can be hugely beneficial.

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Escaping the Stigma

Another difficult part of bipolar disorder and other mental illness is the attached stigma. You may not want to talk about the emotions you're feeling in fear of being judged or ostracized. Many notable people have begun speaking about their conditions, and the discussion is beneficial, but society still has a way to go. Finding a good support system can help a person with bipolar disorder remember that a diagnosis does not make him or her abnormal or less human than anyone else.

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Helpful Services

Although it sometimes seems impossible, there are services dedicated to helping people with depression and bipolar disorder. Some of the most renowned mental health helplines in America include

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - (800) 273-TALK (8255)
  • National Youth Crisis Hotline - (800) 442-HOPE (4673)
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) - (800) 826-3632
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) - (800) 950-NAMI
  • Gay & Lesbian Trevor HelpLine Suicide Prevention - (800) 850-8078
  • Self-injury (this is NOT a crisis line) - (800) DONT CUT
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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.