Mental Health

Living With Bipolar Disorder

The final section in this three part series on bipolar disorder we look at living with bipolar. How can you help yourself or a loved? Living With Bipolar Disorder

Living with someone who has bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a condition of extremes and a person may be unaware they’re in the manic phase. After the episode is over they may be shocked at their behaviour but they may also over time believe other people are being negative or unhelpful. Some people with bipolar disorder have more frequent and severe episodes than others which may result in a difficulty with staying employed or in a relationship. There’s also an increased risk of suicide or self-harm. During episodes of mania and depression, they may experience hallucinations – strange sensations, such as seeing, hearing or smelling things that aren’t there and/or delusions. Sometimes social workers and the police may become involved and relationships and family life are likely to feel the strain.  If you’re the nearest relative of a person with bipolar disorder, you have certain rights that can be used to protect the person’s interests. These include requesting that the local social services authority asks an approved mental health professional to consider whether the person with bipolar disorder should be detained in hospital. You may feel at a loss if you’re caring for someone with bipolar disorder so finding a support group and talking to other people in a similar situation might help. If you’re having relationship or marriage difficulties, you can contact specialist relationship counsellors, who can talk things through with you and your partner. Remember you can also be involved in formulating an advanced directive to help your loved one when they are unable to help themselves. Although it is a long term condition treatments combined with self-help can help with the impact bipolar has on their lives.

Living with bipolar and helping yourself.

1. Self-care and Self management 

Self-care is an essential part of  our daily lives and it involves taking responsibility for our own health and wellbeing. Self-management gets people involved with taking an active role in managing their recovery. So how can we do that?

  • staying fit and maintaining good physical and mental health
  • preventing illness or accidents
  • caring more effectively for minor ailments and long-term conditions

All of these can help you live longer, have less pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue, have a better quality of life, and be more active and independent.

2. Staying active and eating well

  • Eating well
  • Keeping fit can help reduce the symptoms of bipolar disorder, particularly the depressive symptoms.
  • Having something to focus on and provide a routine.
  • May also help limit weight gain – a common side effect of medical treatments for bipolar disorder.
  • Some treatments also increase the risk of developing diabetes, or other illness in people. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising are an important way of limiting that risk.
  • You should have a check-up at least once a year to monitor your risk of developing cardiovascular disease or diabetes. You will probably have further tests done more routinely if you are on certain medicines.

3.Talking about it

Some people find it easier to talk to family and friends about their condition but others need the support of  GP, Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Health Visitor, charities and support groups. No matter which you choose, talk about your condition with someone. Support groups enable people to share helpful ideas and helps you realise you are not alone. Some organisations also provide online support in forums and blogs.

Links to some groups:

4. Avoiding drugs and alcohol

Some people with bipolar disorder may be tempted to use alcohol or illegal drugs as a means of coping with their distress and pain. Both have well-known harmful physical and social effects and are not a substitute for effective treatment and good health care. (If you are worried about the use of drugs or alcohol in this way please speak to your GP for advice and help with treatment.) The use of such substances are often left behind when the correct treatment is in place, but other people might find they need extra support and care around drugs and alcohol. It takes more courage to ask for help, remember you are not alone and we are here to help you through this.

5. Money and benefits

Stress avoidance is important in treating bipolar disorder. But with any uncertainty around employment or money comes added stress for anyone. If you find yourself unable to work or having to reduce your work hours please ensure you are getting all your benefits and money from social welfare. Your condition is covered by any disabilities acts in the UK or Ireland and employers cannot discriminate against you.

In Ireland you can check with your local Social Welfare Office or online at the Citizens Advice Bureau 

In the UK here are some links to benefits you may be entitled to:

6. Dealing with suicidal feelings

Having suicidal thoughts is a common depressive symptom of bipolar disorder. The risk of suicide seems to be higher earlier in the illness, so early recognition and help may prevent it. If you’re feeling suicidal or you’re having severe depressive symptoms, contact your GP, psychiatrist or the local mental health emergency services as soon as possible. If you can’t or don’t want to contact these people, contact the Samaritans on 116 123. You can call them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

7. Self-harm

Self-harm or self-injury is often a symptom of mental health problems such as bipolar disorder. Self-harm is used as a way of gaining control over your life where you feel you have none or temporarily distracting yourself from mental distress. It may not be related to suicide or attempted suicide.

We hope you found this series of some use, the information posted here is for educational purposes and should not be used for treatment or diagnosis. If you are concerned about anything discussed here or about a loved one please consult with your GP.

If you are living with someone who suffers from Bipolar Disorder or Other Mood Disorders you need support too. We offer counselling to partners and family members affected. Call us on 089 4373641 for an appointment in our Ferns or Wexford Town offices.

Further Information:

What is bipolar disorder? Causes and symptoms First post in this series

Bipolar Disorder: Diagnosis and treatment  Second post in the series

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