Bipolar Disorder affects about 1% of the population. It is a chronic relapsing illness characterised by episodes of mania and/or depression. It can have devastating consequences on a patient’s life especially if they have many relapses and the illness is not well controlled. If you suffer from Bipolar Disorder you may find yourself having difficulties at work and problems with your fellow workers. Social impairment can set in as well when family members become frustrated with your behaviours when you were unwell. In particular, divorce rates are much higher in sufferers of Bipolar Disorder. Patients with Bipolar Disorder are at a higher risk of completing suicide especially when they are in an unwell state of mind.
Therefore preventing relapses of Bipolar Disorder is critical in preventing deterioration in the your psychosocial and occupational functioning. Here are some steps you or any other individual afflicted with Bipolar Disorder can take to ensure that you have the lowest possible risk of getting a relapse.
1. See your psychiatrist
Many a times, patients will default on their treatment because they are not convinced about the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and are unsure how medications or therapy can help them. Often, the diagnosis of Bipolar is made when the patient is unwell and even if the doctor did take a great deal of time to explain and psycho-educate about Bipolar, the patient may not be able to comprehend the issues at hand given the poor judgement and concentration one has during a manic or depressive episode.
Therefore, education about the illness and treatment must be repeated in subsequent sessions when you are feeling better. If your psychiatrist is not doing that, it is best that you bring this up yourself and clarify any doubts or questions you may have about your condition.
Engaging well with your psychiatrist will help you gain understanding into your illness and build trust in the treatment regime. This takes time and therefore it is really important for you to stick to your appointments and to see your doctor regularly.
2. Understand yourself
Nobody knows you better than yourself. Yes, not even your therapist or your psychiatrist. You know best what stresses you out and what makes you happy and contented. Finding time to explore these issues and being aware of them will help you along. Know your own limitations and seek to accept them. Remember, only by accepting who you are, can you start to change yourself.
Many patients with Bipolar Disorder will begin to worry whether they are relapsing when they feel happy or when they feel sad. Knowing the limits of your mood and charting them down on days you are normal will help you to understand them better. By understanding what is your normal mood, you can begin to be aware of abnormal mood states and to take necessary steps when they occur.
3. Understand your illness
In Bipolar Disorder, there is often a relapse signature. This means that a pattern may be discernible prior to a relapse. For example, some patients may start to have sleepless nights or they may start to notice that they are more talkative or talking more rapidly. Understanding your illness will help you to identify your relapse signature. This will in turn allow you to seek treatment early and to prevent relapse.
4. Stick to your schedule
It has been shown that patients with Bipolar Disorder do well when they have a stable bio-social rhythm. This means that maintaining regular daily rhythms in activities such as sleeping, waking, eating, and exercise can increase quality of life, reduce symptoms, and help prevent relapse.
5. Stick with your meds!
The best proof for preventing a relapse is to make sure that you take your medications regularly and to have it refilled in a timely manner. Often, doses of medications can be reduced when the illness is in remission. If you are experiencing side effects with your medication, you should discuss with your psychiatrist how best to reduce or overcoming them. Stopping your medications abruptly will put you at risk of relapse!