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Bipolar Disorder Self Care

by Patty E. Fleener M.S.W



Learn what your triggers are and try to avoid them.

Examples from the book "Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder" include:

  • "Arguments
  • Travel or time changes
  • Work-related stress
  • Caffeine use
  • Drug use; including medications
  • Change in general
  • Social events
  • Shopping centers
  • Driving in traffic
  • Poor diet; high in refined foods
  • Alcohol use
  • Lack of exercise
  • Unstable family situations
  • Poor relationship with spouse, family member, friend or coworker
  • Lack of balance in life
  • Poor sleep habits, staying up too late, or sleeping all day.
  • Lack of a schedule
  • Lack of structure
  • Too many obligations
  • Constantly on the move
  • Constantly doing something
  • Exposure to television and other forms of media
  • Hanging out with crazy-making people
  • Aggression toward self or others 
  • Overly stimulated lifestyle
  • Lack of spirituality
  • Overscheduling or overcommiting
  • Listening to negative internal dialogue
  • Everyday obligations
  • Illness or death of a loved one
  • Stressful world events"

Things That Help

  Bright light therapy is also recommended even if the person does not have SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Light boxes are recommended from Drs. especially for SAD, and SAD is extremely common with the bipolar disorder. An inexpensive light box can be ordered through

Though not nearly as good as alight box, some people recommend "grow lights" that are available at stores such as

  Diet:  Lean protein such as chicken, lean red meat, turkey and complex carbohydrates (most should come from vegetables, fruits and some grains). Avoid sugar and saturated fat. Also avoid alcohol, dairy products, caffeine, carbonated beverages, food colorings, flavorings, preservatives and other additives.

  Therapy:  Once treated with the correct medication, therapy can be of great help in further assisting you with depression, mood swings, thinking disturbances and the effects that bipolar disorder has had on your life.

  Self Help Groups:  Coming together with people with the same disorder can be very helpful in many ways. No one can fully understand this disorder like another person who suffers from it.

  Recognizing the early signs of mania allows you to seek help early and take measures that help stop the escalation of mania.

The book "New Hope for People with Bipolar Disorder" gives this list:

  • "insomnia or diminished need for sleep
  • surges of energy and restlessness
  • euphoria
  • flight of ideas
  • excessive planning
  • disorganization
  • inappropriate anger
  • excessive spending
  • diminished appetite or compulsive eating
  • false superiority and grandiosity
  • obsessiveness
  • overambitiousness
  • oversensitivity
  • assuming too much responsibility
  • nervousness and excitability
  • inability to concentrate
  • irritability and outbursts of temper
  • out-of-body sensations
  • others appear 'slow'
  • hyperactivity
  • incessant chattering
  • excessive telephoning
  • self-indulgence and inattentiveness to others
  • heightened sexuality, flirtatiousness, and promiscuity"

  Develop a written plan of steps to take should mania begin. Try to do this with your family about what works when you begin developing mania. Discuss strategies.

  Exercise helps to reduce depression, especially aerobics, and also helps to rid yourself of manic extra energy. If you are just starting out and not in good shape, be sure and see your Dr. before you begin your exercise regimen. 

In regards to aerobic exercise, I have noticed a great deal of difference in my moods, my stability, my outlook on life, my energy level and I sleep so well. I have slept this restful since I was a young child.

Aerobic exercise has been rated very high as an effective treatment for bipolar disorder.

  Create a healthy support system

  Make a list of what personality traits are you and what is the bipolar disorder. This will assist you in understanding that you are not your disorder and hopefully reduce any guilt you might be experiencing.



The book "Living Without Depression and Manic-Depression," adds the following: (this is a partial list)

  • "Eliminates physical causes of mood disorders:
    • allergies
    • diabetes
    • reactions to prescription drugs or over-the -counter medications
    • drug or alcohol abuse
    • PMS (premenstrual syndrome) or menopause
    • sexual dysfunction
    • thyroid imbalance
    • viral infections
    • vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Get a complete physical and neurological examination, starting with your medical history.
  • Set realistic goals
  • Look for comfortable living space-affordable; easy maintenance; close to community services, family, friends, or other support members.
  • Make time for pleasurable pursuits.
  • Adopt a pet or spend time with someone else's. Pets are healing, reduce stress, and offer unconditional love.
  • Enjoy your career! If your job is not interesting or stimulating, is too far from h ome, or you don't like your coworkers, change it. Remember, we all have choices. A new job may be your next goal.
  • Get rid of negative influences in your life-people, places, or situations. Anything that causes you stress, anxiety, or depression should be eliminated.
  • Empower yourself! Learn to assume positive action on your own behalf, and take charge of every aspect of your recovery."


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