6 simple techniques for coping with bipolar disorder
An estimated 4.4% of Americans experience bipolar disorder at some point in their life. That is, in the midst of 100 people, there's a good chance about 4 of them must have experienced, are experiencing, or will experience bipolar disorder. It's quite a worrisome number, given how those manic and depressive orders can make life sometimes -- well, unbearable.
As the name suggests, people with bipolar disorder experience alternating extremes of two opposing emotions, depression and excitement. The excitement can be elation or even anger.
How is it like to live with bipolar disorder?
A person with bipolar disorder can get bursts of energy and overwhelming joy at this moment and fall into a huge bout of depression soon after. However, the experience is unique to every individual. No two people will have identical experiences.
Is there a cure for bipolar disorder?
Unfortunately, the cause and cure of bipolar disorder are unknown. People are just born with it. But the good thing is a person with BD can still have a high quality of life with the right treatment and coping techniques, which we will discuss shortly.
But before going into the coping techniques of bipolar disorder, let's see something interesting: how does this mental illness affect the brain?
How bipolar disorder affects the brain over time
Scientists have discovered abnormal changes over time in the brains of people living with bipolar disorder.
The finding is contained in a study published by Elsevier in Biological Psychiatry. The researchers collected MRI and detailed clinical data from 307 people with bipolar disorder and a control group of healthy individuals.
Notably, those who had more manic episodes had their cortex thinned considerably over time. The cortex of participants who experienced no manic episodes had no thinning.
Surprisingly, the changes were most evident within the prefrontal cortex which regulates emotions and executive control. This may be the reason why bipolar disorder worsens over time.
However, in patients who used medication containing lithium, their prefrontal cortex didn't thin significantly over the years. The thinning was even much slower than in healthy people. That's because of lithium's neuroprotective ability.
Hence, lithium is highly recommended if you're living with bipolar disorder.
Coping techniques for people living with bipolar disorder
- Stick to a routine. A bipolar brain thrives on consistency in sleeping time, waking, eating, working, and hygiene. Knowing what comes next and what you should be doing prevents your brain from feeling stressed out. Create a routine you can stick to
- Eat foods good for the brain, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, dark chocolate, and whole grains. Generally, eat food containing omega-3 fatty acids as they are beneficial in bipolar disorder. Avoid omega-6 fatty acids.
- Get enough exercise. Stay physically active as exercise is good for the mind and body.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is known to improve mood and mental health. Don't starve yourself of it because feeling tired and frustrated can fuel mania.
- Have something you believe in. Whether it's Jehovah, Mohammed, or Buddha, having faith has been found to help people cope better with bipolar disorder. Keeping a mood journal for positivity and gratitude also helps.
- Speak with a mental health specialist. Regular check-ins with a licensed Advanced Practice Nurse will prove very helpful if you have bipolar disorder. They will not only evaluate your situation but also recommend personalized coping techniques and medication to help you live a higher quality of life.