Mood-stabilizing drugs have made bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, much more manageable. The key is to follow your doctor's orders – especially regarding staying on the meds.
- Step 1: If you sense a manic or depressive episode coming on, call your doctor. Treating symptoms early, like severe mood swings and changes in sleeping patterns and appetite, can prevent a full-blown attack. Teach loved ones to recognize the signs of an impending episode, too, so they can also be on the lookout.
- Step 2: Don't drink alcohol or take illegal drugs; they may trigger mood changes and bring out dangerously impulsive behavior in people with BD.
- FACT: People with mood disorders may exhibit a seasonal pattern to their illness.
- TIP: Stick to a regular eating and sleeping schedule. Fluctuations can precipitate mood episodes.
- Step 3: Consider psychotherapy; it can help you identify situations that trigger manic or depressive episodes so you can avoid them. Family therapy and group therapy are also recommended.
- Step 4: Be sure to take the medication prescribed; more than one may be indicated. Many medications are available to treat bipolar disorder, so you may have to try a few before finding the best combination for you.
- TIP: Other medications can interfere with your treatment, so let your general practitioner know about your illness and any drugs you're taking, even over-the-counter ones.
- Step 5: Stay on your medication, even when you're feeling fine. Typically, bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness that requires ongoing treatment.
- Step 6: If you suspect you have bipolar disorder, which is characterized by intense changes in mood and energy level that negatively affect your life, see a psychiatrist for an evaluation.