Bipolar Disorder
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Introduction to Bipolar DisorderTypes of Bipolar and Similar DisordersCurrent Understandings and Body SystemsDiagnosis of Bipolar DisorderMedication Treatments for Bipolar DisorderPsychotherapy and Other TreatmentsSelf-Help and Helping OthersReferences and Reading List
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Related Topics

Depression: Major Depression & Unipolar Varieties
Suicide
Addictions: Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Self-Help for Bipolar Disorder

Rashmi Nemade, Ph.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Self Help for Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar Support

Persons 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, these same people can do a whole lot to help insure their health and safety as their bipolar symptoms stabilize (generally with the help of bipolar medication therapy). Self-help methods include any activities that patients may engage in which will help keep their moods maximally stable. Useful methods that patients might explore would include:

  • Regular physical exercise.
  • Setting and maintaining a standard bedtime and wake-time.
  • 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); (community participation 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.

Self-help approaches can help patients increase their ability to resist extremes of emotion (insomuch as that is possible to accomplish), and also help 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 (an experience that most people find very meaningful) that help them to become more resilient in the face of depression, and which provide 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:

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).

The Self-Help Sourcebook is also a good source for face-to-face bipolar support group referrals.

There are online communities where support and fellowship may be found:

Bipolar Disorder Web Community I Interactive Message Board

Bipolar Disorder Web Community II - Interactive Message Board

Mental Earth Community

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Bipolar Focus

The Winds of Change Bipolar Disorder Online Support Group

Support For Hope

Find the Light