How to Cope with Bipolar Disorder

Medically reviewed by Dr. Mark Hrymoc, M.D.

If you or someone you know has bipolar disorder, you are not alone. Fortunately, there are many ways for those with bipolar disorder to continue living a productive, satisfying life personally, professionally, and socially. Mental health professionals can help you develop a bipolar disorder treatment plan based on your needs, including medication, behavioral therapies, education, and family support.

In this article, we explore what bipolar disorder is, diagnostic criteria, and how to cope with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder Explained

Statistics today show that 5.7 million Americans over 18 have bipolar disorder, the sixth leading cause of disability. Nearly 2.6% of the population must learn to cope with bipolar disorder. The first step in coping is to understand the illness completely.

Someone with bipolar disorder experiences changes in their mood, oscillating between depression, normal mood, and mania. Each person with bipolar disorder may experience different highs and lows for different time lengths and at varying levels of severity.

Mania vs. Depressive States

Bipolar mania is when you have excessive energy, excitement, and confidence. Your symptoms are much more extreme than what would be considered your everyday behavior. When you are manic, other people notice a difference in your mood. Manic symptoms can often hinder how you function daily. The same is true for bipolar depression.

Depressive states of bipolar disorder can range from extreme to mild lows, lethargy, and lack of motivation. Others may notice your speech and movements are slower than usual.

Diagnostic Criteria for Bipolar Disorder

The American Psychological Association created the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition (DSM 5), to help mental health professionals properly diagnose bipolar disorder. According to the DSM 5, the criteria for bipolar mania include the following:

  • At least one episode of Mania
  • At least three of the following symptoms are quite different from your typical behaviors:
    • Increase in ego or grandiosity
    • Decrease in need for sleep
    • Increase in how much and how fast you talk
    • Racing thoughts
    • Easily distracted
    • Engaging in behaviors with negative consequences
    • Psychomotor agitation
  • At least five of the following must be present in two weeks for bipolar depression:
    • Depressed mood for most days and most of the time
    • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
    • Significant changes in weight or appetite
    • Engaging in purposeless movements
    • Lack of energy
    • Feeling worthless, hopeless, guilty, etc.
    • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
    • Recurrent thoughts, plans, or attempts of suicide

How to Cope with Bipolar Disorder with Medication

Medications are a significant component of successful bipolar disorder treatment. Depending on your diagnosis, a psychiatrist may prescribe mood stabilizers to reduce or eliminate the shifts from depression to mania. Other medications that may be effective include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, and benzodiazepines.

The key to proper medication is to avoid missing doses and be consistent by taking them in the same way, at the same time of day, every day. Also, avoid changing your dose or trying to stop taking the medication. Doing so can produce adverse side effects, like triggering uncontrollable mood shifts.

You will notice improvements with medications, and sometimes, you may feel you don’t need the medications. Remember that you are in a good place mentally because you are on medications.

How to Cope with Bipolar Disorder with Therapy

Psychotherapy may be combined with medication for the best possible outcomes. Individual, group, and family therapies benefit you and your loved ones. Specific examples of treatments include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Family Focused Therapy, Interpersonal and

Social Rhythm Therapy, and Group Psychoeducation.

Support groups with peers who also have Bipolar disorder help you give and get encouragement to maintain the positive aspects of Bipolar disorder treatment.

Lifestyle Changes to Cope with Bipolar Disorder

Just like all other mental health disorders, there are things you can do to improve your lifestyle that will also improve your bipolar disorder symptoms. Below is a small list of changes you can start making today:

  • Make quality sleep a priority
  • Become more physically active
  • Practice stress management
  • Educate yourself on bipolar disorder
  • Document your journey
  • Create a routine and stick to it
  • Choose a healthy diet
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs, including caffeine
  • Avoid negative influences
  • Join a support group
  • Build a support system

Frequently Asked Questions

Psychiatrists and mental health professionals get many questions regarding mental health issues. Answers often distinguish between myths and facts, which is crucial when learning to cope with bipolar disorder. Common questions regarding bipolar disorder are answered below.

Is There Only One Bipolar Disorder?

People tend to talk about bipolar disorder as if only one type exists. However, there are multiple types, including Bipolar 1, which features at least one manic episode. Bipolar 2, which features at least one hypomanic episode.
A psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional is the most qualified to diagnose your type of Bipolar disorder.

If My Parent Has it, Will I get it too?

Having a parent with Bipolar disorder does not guarantee you will get it too. It simply means you have a risk factor for getting it, and when combined with other risk factors, your chances increase.

Can I Be Misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder?

Yes, which is why working with a mental health professional is crucial. They understand there are physical conditions that mimic the symptoms of Bipolar disorder, including thyroid disorders, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, and vitamin deficiencies.

Further misdiagnoses may include generalized anxiety, major depression, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorders.

There are many advantages to working with mental health professionals like the ones at the Mental Health Center. Aside from getting an accurate diagnosis, you can create a treatment plan specific to your needs and lifestyle.


If you feel you are one of the millions struggling with bipolar disorder, help is available. Discover if your symptoms meet the criteria for Bipolar disorder, and if so, which medications, therapies, and lifestyle changes are recommended.

Contact the Mental Health Center today to discuss how they can help you cope with Bipolar disorder.