Public Education

Living with Bipolar Disorder

You can help reduce the minor mood swings and stresses that lead to more severe episodes by making a few simple lifestyle changes:

Do not use alcohol or illegal drugs: More than 50% of people with bipolar disorder abuse alcohol or drugs during their illness. Taking alcohol and/or illegal drugs may trigger episodes and may interfere with your prescribed medicines. If you have a problem with alcohol and/or drugs, ask your doctor for help.

Maintain a healthy diet: Some of the medicines you may be taking for your bipolar disorder may cause you to put on weight. Eating a regular, healthy diet which is low in saturated fats and rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables will help you to maintain a healthy weight.

Take regular exercise: Moderate exercise such as walking, cycling or swimming will help you to maintain a healthy weight, reduce your stress levels and will improve your self-esteem.

Establishing a daily routine: Disruptions in daily routines or social rhythms (for example loss of sleep or changes in meal times) may make people with bipolar disorder more susceptible to new episodes of their illness. Establishing a daily routine will help to minimise potential triggers.

Maintain a stable sleep pattern: Loss of sleep (even a single night’s sleep) for any reason can trigger mania. You should make sure you get between 6 and 8 hours sleep every night. Sleeping too much may contribute to an episode of depression. Try to go to bed at the same time each evening and get up at the same time each morning. If you have trouble sleeping or are sleeping too much, tell your doctor.

Avoid stress: Stress can trigger episodes of illness so it is important to avoid, or reduce, stress in your daily life. Exercise is often part of a stress management program. Some other techniques which may help you to lower your stress levels include relaxation, meditation and deep breathing.

It is important that you take your medicines as recommended by your doctor: To reduce the chance of relapse or developing a new episode. If you have any concerns about your medicines, talk to your doctor. You may be tempted to stop taking your medicines when you are feeling fine, but you are likely to begin to have symptoms again if you stop. Don’t stop or change your medicine without talking to your doctor first.

It is important that you keep all your appointments for psychotherapy sessions: Psychotherapy works more gradually than medicines and may take several months to show its full benefits but the effects may be long-lasting.