Can People Recover From Bipolar Disorder?

The answer is yes. Read on to find out why and how.

People with bipolar disorder are often misdiagnosed, and many go through multiple visits to psychiatrists and therapists and try several medications before receiving an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. It’s hard to get an accurate bipolar diagnosis because of the condition’s very nature: People go through manic, hypomanic and depressive episodes at different times, but health care providers only see one of those episodes at a time.

Of course, it’s important to give your health care provider as full and accurate a history as possible, but this can be difficult to do when you’re going through a difficult time.

While there’s no “cure” for bipolar, that doesn’t mean it’s something you’ll have to battle forever. With the right treatment and self-care, you can live a healthy and fulfilling life.

Living well with bipolar is difficult, and people often face serious impairment in functioning. However, people can and do get better over time. One recently published study shows that self-management of bipolar symptoms plays a strong role in personal recovery. Another study concluded that empowering people to manage their mood and view mood changes as normal may facilitate recovery. According to the results, decreased negative beliefs about the illness are significantly correlated with improved recovery outcomes. Self-esteem and hopefulness are important to achieving recovery.

So, when your mood changes, don’t despair. View it as something to take care of, use your self-management tools and work with your health care provider.

Bipolar disorder is believed to have a genetic component, but don’t take that to mean there’s nothing you can do. Increasing attention to the field of epigenetics – environmental factors that switch genes on and off – has shown that we have quite a bit of power in how our genes are expressed. Further, research into neuroplasticity shows that the brain can and does change over time. You aren’t limited to your genes, your childhood experiences, nor to a diagnosis.

But don’t stop treatment just yet. Recovery can be a long process, and stopping treatment too soon could set you back. Talk to your treatment team before making any changes. It’s common for mood disorders to follow a cyclical pattern. You may be feeling better right now, but that doesn’t mean you’re cured.

Have you been diagnosed with bipolar disorder? Here are five key things you should know:

1. A diagnosis doesn’t sentence you to a lifetime of suffering. It can actually be empowering.

Learning that you have bipolar disorder gives you valuable information about the difficulties you’ve been having and what they mean. There is effective treatment for bipolar disorder, plus lifestyle changes you can make to put yourself on the road to recovery. Through a combination of self-management and quality treatment, many people live well with bipolar disorder.

2. Medication can help, but it isn’t a cure.

Self-care such as exercise, good nutrition and consistent sleep is also important. Tracking your mood and your self-care behaviors consistently will help you notice the earliest signs of relapse. Take these early signs seriously, and stay in contact with your health care providers so you can address them right away.

Work and meaningful activities can play a role, too. Anything you can do to build up your resilience will make you less vulnerable to negative emotional states.

3. Therapy and medication can work hand in hand.

For some people, a mood stabilizer such as lithium can offer a complete remission of symptoms. Bipolar often responds very well to medication, and stopping medication does come with a significant risk of relapse. Treatments such as dialectical behavior therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are also promising. While medication helps stabilize your mood, therapy can help you develop new ways of thinking and being to create lasting change.

4. You’ll need multiple sources of support.

Make sure to involve family members and friends, to the extent that they can be supportive and helpful. Let people know what you’re going through and how they can help. You may also need to assert boundaries and set limits when people do things that aren’t helpful. This can be uncomfortable at first, but there’s nothing to feel guilty about when you set limits and assert your needs.

Peer support groups can also be a great resource. Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance have local chapters and may offer free groups in your area. Participation in peer support groups can even reduce the need for hospitalization and other treatments.

5. Recovery is possible.

Recovery doesn’t necessarily mean being symptom-free forever. But it can mean being able to live your life and achieve personally meaningful goals without bipolar having to be an insurmountable obstacle. Recovery is something you can define for yourself based on what you care about.


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