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Four Questions to Ask After Your Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

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As with many mental health conditions, the impact of bipolar disorder on the lives of those who live with it can be profound. If you recently received a bipolar disorder diagnosis, learning more about the condition can be an important first step in managing your symptoms and their impact on your daily life. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of questions to ask your health care team — we hope they help you feel empowered along your health and treatment journey. 

• What is Bipolar disorder?

  1. What is bipolar disorder and what are the different types? 

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a mental health condition that affects approximately 5 million adults in the United States. It is characterized by unusual changes in mood and energy; there are usually periods of time where your mood is lower (depression) and periods of time where your mood is elevated (mania or hypomania). During episodes of depression, you may experience sadness, hopelessness, or loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. Manic episodes can leave you feeling euphoric, restless, or downright irritable. Hypomanic episodes are less intense manic episodes and may last less than a week. 

There are several types of bipolar disorder. Your health care team may recommend you track your moods following your diagnosis by keeping a mood journal or using a mood tracking app. This is to help your care team learn what bipolar disorder looks like for you. Tracking your moods can help determine patterns in your bipolar episodes and possible triggers. 

  1. What treatment options are currently available?

Treatment for bipolar disorder typically includes medication and psychotherapy (talk therapy). You may be prescribed multiple medications that address different symptoms such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or antipsychotic medications. 

There are several therapy methods available for addressing symptoms of bipolar disorder, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a therapy that helps you identify and address negative thoughts, and interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT), which focuses on establishing a daily routine to help manage symptoms. 

The person with the most power to enact an appropriate treatment plan is you. If you have concerns about a certain type of treatment or your ability to stick with it, don’t be afraid to raise them to your health care provider. 

  1. What could trigger or worsen my symptoms?

When it comes to knowing your body, symptoms, and moods, you are the expert! If you have identified specific triggers, try talking to your health care team about how you might avoid those triggers. Common triggers include chronic stress, changes in sleep patterns, and alcohol use, which can worsen symptoms or increase the likelihood of previously controlled symptoms coming back. Ask your doctor about other common triggers in bipolar disorder. 

As you find treatments that help you manage your symptoms, you may be tempted to stop them but you shouldn’t stop taking a medication without the guidance of your health care provider. Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition — if you find your symptoms have improved, it is a sign your treatment plan is working. 

  1. How do I find support during a manic or depressive episode?

Despite our best efforts, sometimes things don’t go as expected. Developing a crisis plan you can share with friends, family members, and health care providers can ensure you receive the help you need while keeping your wishes in mind. 

A crisis plan starts with a list of emergency contacts, including any doctors, therapists, or loved ones who may be able to help during a manic or depressive episode. Your doctor may be able to recommend additional contacts such as health organizations in your area that specialize in mood disorders. 

It is also important to include a medication list of what you are currently prescribed. This list should not only include medications you are taking to manage your bipolar disorder, but all medications you take and any other health conditions you may have (including allergies). 

A new diagnosis can be a lot to take in. These questions are intended to help you navigate conversations with your health care team so you can find a management plan that works best for you.

Originally published: May 31, 2023
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