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Bipolar Disorder: Preventing Manic Episodes
The more you know about bipolar disorder, the better you will be able to cope with this lifelong illness. There are many steps that you can take—or help a loved one take—to recognize and better manage manic episodes.
- Learn the warning signs of a manic episode, and get early treatment to avoid disruption in your life.
- At the same time each day, record your mood and any symptoms.
- Take medicines as instructed by your doctor to help reduce the number of manic episodes.
- To help prevent a manic episode, avoid triggers such as caffeine, alcohol or drug use, and stress.
- Exercise, eat a balanced diet, get a good night’s sleep, and keep a consistent schedule. This can help reduce minor mood swings that can lead to more severe episodes of mania.
- Have an action plan in place so that if you do have a manic episode, those who support you can follow the plan and keep you safe.
How do I manage a manic episode?
Know the warning signs
Learn to recognize your early warning signs. One of the most important ways to avoid a manic episode is to identify early signs and seek treatment.
Common early warning signs of a manic episode include:
- Needing less sleep.
- Being more active.
- Feeling unusually happy, irritable, or energetic.
- Making unrealistic plans or focusing intensely on a goal.
- Being easily distracted and having racing thoughts.
- Having unrealistic feelings of self-importance.
- Becoming more talkative.
The best way to manage bipolar disorder is to prevent manic episodes. Although that is not always possible, you can identify and try to avoid the triggers that may lead to a mood swing. One of the most important aspects of managing your illness is to stay on a routine, particularly keeping a stable sleep pattern.
Managing a manic episode
- Maintain a stable sleep pattern. Go to bed about the same time each night, and wake up around the same time each morning. Too much or too little sleep or changes in your normal sleep patterns can alter the chemicals in your body. And this can trigger mood changes or make your symptoms worse.
- Stay on a daily routine. Plan your day around a fairly predictable routine. For example, eat meals at regular times, and make exercise or other physical activity a part of your daily schedule. You might also practice meditation or another relaxation technique each night before bed.
- Set realistic goals. Having unrealistic goals can set you up for disappointment and frustration, which can trigger a manic episode. Do the best you can to manage your illness. But expect and be prepared for occasional setbacks.
- Do not use alcohol or illegal drugs. It may be tempting to use alcohol or drugs to help you get through a manic episode. But this can make symptoms worse. Even one drink can interfere with sleep, mood, or medicines used to treat bipolar disorder.
- Get help from family and friends. You may need help from your family or friends during a manic episode, especially if you have trouble telling the difference between what is real and what is not real (psychosis). Having a plan in place before any mood changes occur will help your support network help you make good decisions.
- Reduce stress at home and at work. Try to keep regular hours at work or at school. Doing a good job is important, but avoiding a depressive or manic mood episode is more important. If stress at work, school, or home is a problem, counseling may help improve the situation and decrease stress.
- Keep track of your mood every day. After you know your early warning signs, check your mood daily to see whether you may be heading for a mood swing. Write down your symptoms in a journal. Or record them on a chart or a calendar. When you see a pattern or warning signs of a mood swing, seek treatment.
- Continue treatment. It can be tempting to stop treatment during a manic episode because the symptoms feel good. But it is important to continue treatment as prescribed to avoid taking risks or having unpleasant consequences from a manic episode. If you have concerns about treatment or the side effects of medicines, talk with your doctor. Do not adjust the medicines on your own.