Self-Help Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

By Candida Fink, Joe Kraynak

Assuming that you’re not in the throes of a major mood episode, you can do a great deal on your own to maintain mood stability and avoid future manic and depressive episodes, especially if the people closest to you are on board. Here are some of the most effective ways to help:

  • Take your meds. The best way to improve the course of the illness is to prevent mood episodes, and the most effective means for doing so is medication. The urge to stop taking bipolar meds is common and understandable, but it significantly increases the chances of a future mood episode, and every mood episode you have is likely to worsen the course of the illness.

  • Monitor your moods. Keeping track of your ups and downs can help you identify what works to help you stay within a comfortable range and what doesn’t. It can also reduce the chances that you’ll experience a major mood episode. If you know you’re starting to cycle into mania or depression, your doctor may be able to adjust your medications to help you avoid hospitalization.

  • Identify your triggers. Certain situations, seasons, people, or activities may trigger mood instability. Try to identify patterns in your life that match up with your shifting moods. These patterns may help you pin down triggers and open your eyes to creative solutions for dealing with them. For example, some people who tend to have mood episodes around the holidays scale back their traditional holiday activities.

  • Establish healthy routines. Many people with bipolar disorder discover that a well-regulated life helps to regulate their mood. Routines may cover sleep/wake times, meal times, a regular work schedule, and even social engagements.

You’re already engaged in one of the most important self-help activities — psychoeducation. Finding out more about bipolar disorder and how to successfully live with it empowers you to make well-informed decisions about the various treatment options available. Psychoeducation also helps your friends and family develop the empathy they need to accept your illness and support you.