Written by:Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, MSW

Published On: May 24, 2022

Medically reviewed by: Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC

Reviewed On: May 24, 2022

Updated On: June 23, 2023


Bipolar disorder is a serious, lifelong mental health condition that affects your thoughts, energy, behaviors, attention span, and mood. Once known as manic depression, bipolar disorder can cause extreme and sometimes violent mood swings — with high highs and low lows — that can severely disrupt your ability to function and maintain healthy, productive relationships.

While currently there’s no cure, learning how to cope with bipolar disorder can be highly effective in decreasing symptom severity and episodic frequency.

Dealing with bipolar disorder effectively can allow you to live a happy, contented, and confident life. Read on to learn 6 smart tips that’ll help you better manage your bipolar disorder symptoms and improve your long-term mental health.

“Developing a routine and maintaining healthy practices, including medication compliance, can be critical to managing bipolar disorder. Both can decrease stress and impart a feeling of independence needed to encourage a positive approach to benefit healthy relationships. Create a robust social support network that includes those close to you, as well as professional therapeutic support to help keep an eye on symptoms. It can be hard to step away from our feelings, but finding another voice to offer some perspective can help broaden insight and self-awareness.”

Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical, (LCSW-C), LICSW, MSW Elizabeth Keohan

1. Find Ways to Manage Bipolar Disorder

Understanding how to manage bipolar disorder is step one in successfully coping with this condition. The most important thing to note here, especially in the beginning, is there’s no magic pill or trick to getting severe bipolar disorder under control.

For most people, the most effective way to relieve symptoms and reduce episode frequency is by using multiple treatment methods. Often, this will include a combination of bipolar medication, therapy, and self-help techniques that you can implement both in times of calm, as well as when you’re experiencing a manic or depressive episode.

2. Get Educated on Bipolar Disorder

Learning how to cope with bipolar disorder involves getting educated about what causes bipolar disorder, its symptoms, and how to treat bipolar disorder. Become an expert and lean on your therapist as well for psychoeducational resources to help you better understand the condition. This will help you work closely with a therapist on a deeper, more beneficial and effective level.

The more informed you are about bipolar disorder, the better prepared you’ll be to quickly identify and manage symptoms as they spontaneously arise.

3. Learn and Use Relaxation Techniques

Bipolar disorder is marked by a manic episode, depressive episode, or both. Stress is a known trigger for these episodes. Therefore, managing your stress effectively is critical if you’re living with bipolar disorder.

Focus on understanding your limits at work, school, or home. Don’t overwhelm yourself with more than you can take on or feasibly accomplish at any given time.

Take care of yourself and ensure you have the time you need throughout your days to relax your mind.

It’s simple to do, and you can begin to feel the effects in just 10 deep breaths.

  • Inhale deeply to the count of 4
  • Hold your breath for the count of 4
  • Exhale slowly for a count of 4
  • Repeat this pattern 10 times

You’ll feel better within just a minute or two. It works every time!

We all need downtime to relax. Daily practices can help you fight away bipolar depression and maintain a brighter mood. Consider some of these effective techniques for relaxation:

There are a lot of other techniques, too. Find what works for you and build some time into your schedule daily.

“Cumulative stress is known to trigger mood and agitation for those who experience bipolar depression. Learning adaptive skills, to calm and regulate irritability, can help you feel more in control of emotional dysregulation. Meditation, yoga, and journaling are all practices that can help identify and acknowledge what you may be feeling from time to time in order to offer perspective about what hurts. Sticking with activities with which you feel more naturally connected can offer both mood stability and less stress while helping you feel more in charge of your emotions.”

Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical, (LCSW-C), LICSW, MSW Elizabeth Keohan

4. Develop a Healthy Routine

Another key factor in knowing how to deal with bipolar disorder involves developing a systematic routine that encourages health and vitality. Lifestyle choices are just that: choices. The choices you make affect your mental health. This is true for everybody, whether they have bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, or neither.

So, dedicate some time and start making smart choices about your sleeping, exercise, eating, and drinking habits. There are so many small, easy-to-implement things you can add to your days — or take away from them — to help better control and manage bipolar symptoms and episodes.

With a healthy lifestyle, you might be able to experience a mood change less often.

5. Join a Support Group for Bipolar Disorder

Coping with bipolar disorder can be particularly challenging, especially without any support. Even if you have family members, loved ones, and friends who help you and allow you to vent and express yourself, participating in a social group for bipolar disorder, in person or online, can offer huge benefits. You’ll be able to connect with people who go through similar experiences as you and better understand how to help someone with bipolar disorder, which can be very therapeutic.

6. Seek Effective Types of Therapy for Bipolar Disorder

Prescription drugs are typically the first line of treatment for bipolar disorder. However, some have low success rates, eventually lose their effectiveness, or cause adverse side effects that make it difficult for you to continue using them.

This is why therapy is so important. It teaches you coping mechanisms and other skills that can help you naturally require less medication for symptom management. The skills you learn in therapy will help you every day of your life. They’ll continue to become more powerful as you practice them.

Some of the incredible benefits of therapy for bipolar disorder include re-forming negative thoughts into positive ones, learning to better-manage problems, regulating mood change, and significantly improving interpersonal relationships.

Several types of therapy approaches can help with both mild and severe bipolar disorder, including:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches you how to deal with bipolar disorder by addressing:

  • Depressive symptoms
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Erroneous beliefs about behaviors during a manic episode
  • Low mood about losing relationships or friendships

CBT can help significantly reduce the occurrence of radical mood shifts. It’s also effective for enhancing awareness of your emotions, physical sensations, moods, and other factors that could indicate an oncoming episode of depression or mania.

Family-focused therapy (FFT)

Family-focused therapy (FFT) works for people with bipolar disorder and their caregivers or others who live with them. Treatment involves psychoeducation about bipolar disorder, techniques for enhancing communication, and new critical thinking skills.

According to research, multiple trials show that FFT plus medication can drastically reduce the time it takes for episode recovery, as well as reduce recurrence and symptom severity.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT)

Many people find IPSRT highly effective for dealing with bipolar disorder. According to studies, this therapeutic technique works by centering around stabilizing your routine while also enhancing your quality of interpersonal relationships. It’s also geared towards improving performance at home, at work, and in society.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

DBT is a branch of cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses on emotional regulation, effectiveness in interpersonal relationships, tolerating distress, and increasing mindfulness about feelings, thoughts, and emotions. It’s a specialized technique that offers an excellent path toward learning how to deal with bipolar disorder long-term.

Group therapy

Many people with bipolar disorder find group therapy remarkably effective for enhancing symptom management. By working with others, group therapy can enhance your ability to anticipate, prevent, recognize, and proactively manage bipolar episodes.

In a small 2020 study that looked at the effects of group therapy on bipolar disorder, researchers concluded that it’s an effective form of therapy that can result in a mood stabilizer throughout the course of treatment. Additionally, there also can be a noticeable change from states of mania and depression to more peaceful, calm ones.

Find Bipolar Disorder Support with Talkspace

Understanding how to deal with bipolar disorder can be challenging. Some would even say it’s daunting. It requires determining the proper medication protocol, participation in routine talk therapy, and most importantly, a lot of deep, internal work that often must be performed alone.

Coping with bipolar disorder is something you can become better at over years. There’s no known cure for bipolar disorder, but if you or someone you love is living with this mental health condition, there is hope. You can work together and use a variety of treatment methods to minimize symptoms and maximize enjoyment, happiness, and satisfaction in life.

Talkspace’s experienced and trained therapists offer bipolar disorder therapeutic treatment on your terms, in the space and time that works for you. We eliminate the barrier of getting to therapy — something that often prevents people from getting the help they need. Our online therapy platform is changing the face of therapy. Now, with Talkspace, you can get the therapy you need to treat your bipolar disorder and live your best life.

See References

Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, MSW

Licensed Talkspace Therapist, Elizabeth Keohan has enjoyed working with clients in communities from Washington DC through rural Maine over the course of her career. While she has worked extensively with those experiencing anxiety and depression, she embodies a unique comfort working with the bereaved. Elizabeth combines a compassionate, holistic approach with Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT), to help clients counter their somatic response to stress, anxiety, mood, grief and loss.

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