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5 Tips for Coping With Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder


After three years of misdiagnosis and failed treatment plans, I’ve learned how to cope with my rapid cycling bipolar disorder. Everyone is unique and needs their own treatment plan. The suggestions below have worked for me, and may work for you too.

1. Identify your triggers.

You cannot always control an onset of mood swings with your mood disorder, but you may be able to lessen or reduce the frequency by identifying factors that trigger your mood swings. For example, I learned that poor sleep quality and loneliness were my most impactful triggers. Identifying your triggers can be a difficult process, especially if you don’t even realize your mood has shifted. Asking a loved one you trust or a licensed professional can help you learn when your mood has shifted and identify potential triggers to the mood change.

2. Stick to a daily routine to regulate your moods.

After identifying your triggers, you can develop a daily routine that accomplishes your priorities and reduces the impact of your triggers. As previously mentioned, my major mood swing triggers have been poor sleep quality and loneliness. To address these triggers, my daily routine incorporates a sleep routine that never changes – even on weekends! To help ensure I have a good night’s rest, I practice meditation each night, avoid mania-inducing activities before bedtime and turn off my electronics one hour before bedtime. And to reduce loneliness, I’ve opened up to friends about my illness and try to stick to social activities I’ve committed to, even when I’m feeling down. My daily routine also includes set meal times, a workout routine, a limit on the number of activities I commit to so I avoid mania and a limit on the number of hours I stay at work. Everyone’s daily routine will be different; do what seems to work best for you.

3. Learn to embrace your mood changes.

This one may sound counterintuitive; I’m the first one to admit that a bout of depression can be extremely exhausting, and mania results in feelings of guilt. However, your daily routine can be slightly adjusted to accommodate  your changing moods and maintain productivity and positivity. When I’m in a manic phase, I use the extra energy to do household chores, pay any outstanding bills, work out, catch up with friends and shop at thrift shops if I have an uncontrollable urge to shop. When I’m depressed, sometimes I’m too exhausted to move. During this time, I read books, meditate and listen to podcasts. No matter how depressed I am, I try to avoid missing work, still eat healthy at the same times each day and be out of bed by 1 p.m. Is any of this easy? Not exactly. But practice makes perfect, and determination and a healthy support system will get you there.

4. When you make mistakes, follow your recovery plan.

If you have a mood disorder, you’ve likely regretted certain arguments, shopping sprees, rash decisions and other actions. I’ve experienced regret from my outbursts and handled my initial actions with worse actions such as more shopping, buying expensive gifts for others I’ve hurt, apologizing profusely and even starving myself. Now, I try to recover from my action-induced mood spells more positively such as forgiving myself, apologizing sincerely (once!) to those I hurt, continuing my daily routine and most importantly, moving on.

5. Be patient.

After a year of unexplained fatigue, panic attacks, body aches and pains, I was referred to a psychiatrist who determined I was depressed. But after being wrongly treated with antidepressants for nearly six months, I developed a rare reaction from being misdiagnosed with a mood disorder that was worsened by inappropriate treatment. Nearly 18 months later, I have been in treatment for rapid cycling bipolar disorder and have tried combinations of medications. In the past two weeks, I have finally been on the road to true recovery. Needless to say, you must be patient, and remain positive! You will eventually find a treatment plan that works for you.

GettyImages via Grandfailure