Find out ways to live with bipolar disorder that will allow you to manage your symptoms and thrive.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that creates extreme mood shifts and changes in behavior, thinking, energy levels and sleep patterns. Someone with bipolar disorder may also have periods where they feel high levels of happiness, energy and optimism, known as mania or manic episodes. The frequency and severity of these symptoms can depend on the individual, but there are effective coping skills you can develop to help deal with bipolar depression.

Along with treatment, there are ways you can learn how to overcome bipolar disorder and reduce the symptoms you experience. Overcoming bipolar disorder can also be possible by integrating different awareness and mindfulness techniques into your everyday life. If you work on practicing coping skills and strategies, it can improve the results you get from your bipolar disorder treatment from a licensed mental health professional.

How to Deal with Bipolar Disorder: 10 Ways to Cope

Although there is no cure or quick fix for bipolar disorder, with the right strategies, you can improve your overall quality of life and functionality. Once you receive the right medication and therapy for your needs, the following are some other strategies you can use for overcoming bipolar disorder.

1. Be An Active Participant In Your Treatment

When you receive treatment, make sure that you’re playing an active role in whatever that plan is. Take the time to learn about the disorder, understand all the ways in which it impacts you and ask questions.

A big part of figuring out how to deal with bipolar disorder is getting to know yourself. Learn more about your specific symptoms and see if you can identify any situations or triggers that you might need to avoid.

Once you learn more about bipolar and yourself, you can be a collaborator along with your doctor or therapist to plan your treatment. Be someone who asks questions and shares your concerns. If you have a treatment provider you aren’t comfortable collaborating with or talking to honestly, it’s okay to find someone different who can be a better partner with you on your journey.

2. Go To Therapy

Either with or without medications, one of the most effective ways to help cope with bipolar disorder is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Medication is a valuable component of a bipolar treatment plan, but it’s not the only way to get the help you need. Therapy can be valuable as well to learn coping skills and work on changing the way you think and behave.

Therapy can also be a way to help improve your daily functionality and the quality of your relationships. Your therapist will use the treatment modality that works best for your condition and needs.

3. Closely Observe Your Mood and Symptoms

When you’re learning how to deal with bipolar, make sure you are paying close attention to how you feel, your moods and whether you’re experiencing any symptoms. If you start noticing even minor changes, you may be able to work with your care providers to prevent those challenges from coming much bigger problems.

A journal can be a good way to keep up with your symptoms and spot red flags early on. Another option is to keep a mood chart handy. This is an easy way to reference how you are feeling and see subtle shifts that may need attention.

4. Don’t Isolate Yourself

When you have bipolar disorder, you may feel the urge to isolate yourself from others. You may not want other people to judge you, or you may not even realize you’re withdrawing.

Having a strong social support system is crucial as you learn how to cope with bipolar disorder. You will need to have others that you can talk to, and this can help reduce your risk of having a depressive episode.

Your therapist and doctors can be part of your support system. Joining a support group of other people with bipolar disorder can also be beneficial. Make your relationships with friends and family a priority.

5. Develop a Routine

Having a routine is an excellent way to keep yourself on track, ensure that you’re following your treatment plan and help you more effectively manage bipolar disorder. You might even want to write your routine down to keep yourself on track on days when you are feeling off.

When you have a routine, it can help you keep your medications and therapy appointments organized. It can also help you keep yourself accountable for getting enough rest, having meals at regular times, and taking care of yourself overall.

Sleep is one of the most important elements to manage. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, it can either trigger a manic episode, or it can be a sign that mania is already occurring. Alternatively, if you’re sleeping more than usual, it could be a sign of a depressive episode. Integrating a sleep schedule into your routine and sticking with it can be one of the most effective ways to quickly diagnose when changes are happening.

6. Focus on Diet and Exercise

The correlation between diet and exercise on our mental health is getting stronger. Exercise is important to boost your mood and can also be a good way to keep yourself engaged and focused on your routine if you’re incorporating time for physical activity every day.

You may find that exercise can become a healthy coping mechanism when you’re experiencing stress or difficulties, and the need to engage in less healthy coping habits may decrease over time.

Following a healthy diet is equally important. Finding the right diet for you is a decision that should be made by your doctor, but not overdoing it on unhealthy options such as sugar, fat, and caffeine can have positive effects on your body.

7. Reduce Your Stress

Stress can be a big trigger for people with bipolar disorder. Identify areas of your life where you experience the most stress and explore better ways to manage it, or eliminate it, if you can. For example, asking a family member or loved one with more help around the house can help you feel less overwhelmed.

If your job is causing you stress, think about what changes are possible and sit down with your direct supervisor to discuss your workload. Being solutions-driven and proactive rather than waiting until a stressful situation has gone too far can help you find long-term resolution in your career.

8. Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

It’s not uncommon for people with bipolar disorder to rely on drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Substance abuse is often a co-occurring disorder in people with bipolar. However, using drugs or alcohol when you have bipolar disorder can cause adverse side effects and consequences.

Drugs and alcohol can change how your medicines work. They can make symptoms of bipolar disorder worse and can even trigger a manic or depressive episode.

If you feel like you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, this needs to be addressed with your support group and treated along with bipolar disorder.

9. Find Coping Strategies that Work For You

When you are dealing with bipolar disorder, it’s important to identify healthy ways to deal with stress and remain both mentally and physically healthy.

Not all coping strategies will work for all people, but trying different methods out will help you determine what works and what doesn’t. For example, some people might find yoga is a great option for them. Others might not enjoy it. Experiment until you find your go-to coping strategies that work well for you and that you enjoy.

10. Develop An Emergency Plan

If you do feel your symptoms worsening or a manic or depressive episode beginning, have a plan in place for how you’ll deal with it. You should create a crisis plan when you feel good because you’ll be more rational and clear-headed.

Your emergency or crisis plan should include the people you’ll reach out to for support. It should also include what you’ll do if you start to experience severe symptoms such as suicidal thoughts. Remind yourself of what medications you need to take, and who to contact if an out-of-control emergency situation arises.

The Recovery Village provides treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders like bipolar disorder. If you or a loved one are struggling with bipolar disorder and substance abuse, contact us to learn more about treatment.

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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Kevin Wandler, MD
Kevin Wandler holds multiple positions at Advanced Recovery Systems. In addition to being the founding and chief medical director at Advanced Recovery Systems, he is also the medical director at The Recovery Village Ridgefield and at The Recovery Village Palmer Lake. Read more

Smith, Melinda, M.A., Segal, Jeanne, Ph.D., Segal, Robert, M.A. “Living with Bipolar Disorder.” HelpGuide, November 2018. Accessed January 19, 2019.

Smith, Kathleen, Ph.D. “6 Tips to Live Better with Bipolar Disorder.” PsyCom, Nov 25, 2018. Accessed January 19, 2019.

Howard, Gabe. “What Everyday Life Is Like with Bipolar Disorder.” BPHope. June 30, 2015. Accessed January 19, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.