Living With Bipolar 2: How To Cope And Thrive
By: Julia Thomas
Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Fawley
If you've been diagnosed with bipolar disorder 2, the next step is to learn how to manage your illness to the best of your ability. The good news is that if you use your resources well, take care of your physical health, heed the warning signs, and stay proactive about finding solutions; you can live a satisfying life. Here are some tips for living with bipolar 2.
Manage Your Medications Well
A psychiatrist prescribes your medications and monitors how you're doing on them. But there are also some things you need to do to facilitate this process. First of all, you need to take your medications as prescribed. The first part of that is making sure you have the medications when you need them. Keep an eye on your supply and request refills if it looks like you are going to run out. If you travel, be sure you bring enough medications for the entire trip.
Take your medications every day at the designated time. Don't skip a dose for any reason unless your doctor tells you to do so. If you feel you need less medication, work with your doctor to reduce it. Trying to cut down or stop your medications on your own can lead to two different problems. First, there's the rebound effect in which you experience your original symptoms, and sometimes more intensely than ever before. Second is a withdrawal reaction. Stopping the med suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms like insomnia, agitation, dizziness, or headaches.
Another thing to pay attention to is the way you take the medications. Try to take them at the same times every day. If your psychiatrist says you need to take them with food, ask them if there's a certain amount or type of food you need to eat when you take them.
Always report any symptoms or mood changes when you see your psychiatrist. If you're having troubling symptoms that seem to be increasing, get in to see your doctor sooner if you can. Remember that they can't help you if you don't communicate with them.
When you're prescribed a new medication, ask your doctor what to expect. Find out if there are any side effects to watch for and report them if they happen. It's important to be patient with new medications because they often take several weeks to take effect. Ask how long they should take to work and talk to your doctor if they don't help when that time is up.
Get The Most Out Of Therapy
Therapy can be very beneficial for people living with bipolar 2. However, just having a therapist isn't enough to do the job. The first thing you need to do is find a therapist that's right for you. Don't be afraid to make a change if something seems off or you feel your personalities clash. When you connect with a therapist at BetterHelp, you can easily change to a different therapist if you don't get along well with the first one.
You also need to work with your therapist to get the greatest positive effects of treatment. Think of it as something you do together rather than something your therapist does for you. Work with them to set therapy goals that are relevant and meaningful to you. If your therapist assigns you homework, follow through with it - not because you have to, but because you can learn something new about yourself or your condition.
Be your truest, most authentic self during therapy sessions. Stay proactive about bringing up problems. Don't avoid talking about things that matter to you. Your therapist won't judge you or worry about whether you're polite. They're there to help you through all your issues.
Be Alert To The Warning Signs
Bipolar disorder 2 has several common warning signs you need to catch when they happen. It's also important to notice which warning signs are the most common and significant for you as an individual. Here are some of the warning signs of relapse in bipolar disorder 2.
- You quit cooking for yourself or caring about hygiene or other self-care
- You avoid other people
- You have strong food cravings or lack of appetite
- You need more sleep or can't sleep at night
- You feel irritable
- You talk faster and louder than you usually do
- You feel excessive energy or restlessness
- You have trouble concentrating
One way to be sure that you notice when warning signs arise is to keep a mood journal or make a mood chart. Include details of your physical condition, like your weight and hours of sleep. Make notes when you take your meds. Record any drug or alcohol use. Remember that the journal or chart is there to improve your life. So, be honest and record everything significant whether you think anyone else will approve or not. After you've kept your journal or chart for a while, look it over to try to find patterns and triggers.
Watch For Triggers
Speaking of triggers, you may be able to avert a relapse if you pay attention to what happens before you start having problems. One study of bipolar disorder found that people who experienced significant life events were more likely to have a hypomanic, manic, or depressive episode. For nearly anyone, a loss like the death of a loved one might trigger a relapse. Other triggers might be specific to you as an individual. For example, one person might be more sensitive to things that happen at work while someone else might be more sensitive to family issues.
The most important thing is to know yourself. You can get in touch with your triggers by journaling or talking it out with a friend. Therapy is a good place to explore your triggers so that you'll recognize them when they happen. Then, if you do see that a trigger could cause you problems with your bipolar disorder 2, you and your therapist can make a plan for dealing with it more effectively.
Reduce Your Stress
Stress can be bothersome for anyone, but for people with bipolar disorder 2, it can be the precursor to a depressive or hypomanic episode. Start by finding out what your stressors are. Take notes as you go through your day about what types of things increase your stress or anxiety.
Do simple things to cut down on stress. For example, keep a healthy work-life balance. Schedule your day to give yourself some structure. Notice when a stressor is temporary and remind yourself that it won't last forever. Be aware of how much control you have in the situation. If there's something you can do to improve it, go for it. But if it's out of your control, accept it and move on.
Sometimes, you can eliminate certain sources of stress if they aren't important in your life. However, you need to be careful not to avoid important parts of life, like having social contact or going to work. When you're dealing with stressors that it would be best not to avoid, you can use relaxation techniques like mindfulness, deep breathing, or guided imagery to manage your stress.
Avoid Risky Behavior
People with bipolar disorder 2 have hypomania and depression. During hypomania, you may be more productive and enjoy life more than usual. However, you need to be careful not to engage in risky behavior. If you follow your feelings into risky behavior when you're mood is elevated, it can lead to long term consequences like financial losses, disease, or unplanned pregnancy. If you feel a strong urge to do something risky, talk to your therapist, and make a plan for avoiding it. Trust your loved ones around when they have feedback for you about your mood. They know you well and don't want to see any harm come to you.
Act Quickly In An Emergency
Although symptoms of bipolar disorder 2 are typically milder than bipolar disorder 1, if your symptoms are concerning, it's still important to speak to your doctor right away. Hypomania can sometimes lead into mania. Both manic and depressive episodes can create an emergency where you need to get help quickly.
Talk to your doctor and therapist about what you need to do if such a situation happens. Then, keep all the information that someone would need to treat you handy. You'll need to list who to contact in an emergency, the medications you take, including OTC medications, and how and where you want to be treated.
Take Care Of Your Physical Health
Your physical health isn't separate from your mental health. They affect each other tremendously. So, to stay mentally healthy, you need to eat the right amounts of healthy foods, get adequate sleep, get some exercise daily, and avoid drugs and alcohol. If stress is a problem, it also helps to avoid caffeine and nicotine.
Get Social Support
If hypomania is giving you an inflated sense of self-confidence, you may feel great about going it alone. Or, if you're in a depressive phase, you may feel like isolating yourself. But avoiding other people won't help you deal with your bipolar disorder 2. Getting the social support you need can give you a chance to express your feelings, talk out problems, and recognize symptoms.
So, spend time with friends and family members. Talk to people face to face every day. Sign up for a class or get involved with a hobby group. Ask someone to check on you regularly. Go out for an evening with friends. Join a support group for people with bipolar disorder. Whatever you do, build your connections with other people.
Living with bipolar two doesn't have to ruin your life. In fact, if you take good care of yourself, get the most out of your treatments, and stay connected with other people, you can not only survive with this disorder. You can thrive and have a wonderful life.
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