Kay Redfield Jamison’s 6 Must-Do Things to Manage Bipolar

Last Updated: 15 Jul 2019

Leading expert on mood disorders Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, is a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is a best-selling author and lectures widely on the topic of bipolar disorder. Here are her top six strategies as told to bp Magazine:

#1 Stay on your medication.

Jamison says medication regimen is one of the biggest challenges in managing bipolar. “About 50 percent of patients don’t take medications as prescribed,” she told bp Magazine. “It’s not that we don’t have the medications and treatments, it’s that people won’t take them.” She has said that with her symptoms under better control, her creativity and productivity improved enormously.

#2 Get regular sleep.

“[Sleep is] far and away the most important thing next to medication,” says Jamison. “Maintaining good sleep hygiene is a vital part of managing bipolar disorder.” Some things to practice: consistency—go to bed and awake the same time daily; limit screen time before bed; and try using light-blocking curtains or a sleep mask to keep circadian rhythms in order.

#3 Get involved with a support group.

It’s extremely important and helpful to find encouragement and understanding from others dealing with similar struggles. Participating in a goals-based support group can make the difference in wellness. Try to find a group that provides a foundation of education, not only support. Jamison suggests contacting the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) to find a group close to you.

Read more: Kay Redfield Jamison: Risk & Reward

#4 Read and learn about your illness.

Understanding bipolar disorder and how your own symptoms present and are triggered is the main ingredient in managing your wellness. Having well-rounded knowledge in your mood disorder will also give you an advantage to understanding your treatment protocol—your medications, side effects, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes—in order for you to take charge of your own care.

#5 Go in with a list of questions when seeing your doctor.

“Never assume competence until it’s demonstrated,” suggests Jamison. “Question, question, question. Badger, badger, badger.” This advice is especially relevant upon initial diagnosis. You’ll need to have comprehensive answers about your diagnosis; best treatment options, and why; major lifestyle risks; and dealing with co-existing conditions whether physical, such as diabetes or another mood disorder like ADD.

Read more: 8 Best Quotes From Kay Redfield Jamison About Bipolar

#6 Get psychotherapy if you can afford it.

Research reveals that regular psychotherapy—including talk therapy—can achieve long-lasting results for those struggling with depression and bipolar disorder. While there’s no universal formula when it comes to therapy, remember that there are different types of psychotherapy beyond the widely-used practice of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for improving mental health. Research your choices.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer and God. 12 years ago a Christian woman prayed for me and I was completely healed. I was not even a Christian at the time. I can not explain it but it’s the truth; a miracle. I don’t know if others have experienced the same but I do know the Bible talks about Jesus healing people. I hope more people in the medical field will research miracle healings although I don’t think it can be explain. Jesus did say “if you continue in my teaching you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” I was set free for sure. Thanking God.

  2. My sister was diagnosed over 30 years ago. She has also struggled with drug addiction issues. She has not worked or saved anything and is not 52 years old. She has a criminal record and is currently incarcerated for Domestic Battery. She has been married three times and has made many poor decisions resulting from being talked out of taking her medication by her so-called friends. What support if any exists for indigent people like her that are suffering from BP Disorder?

  3. Ger/Mimi, [My opinion follows. I do not claim to have all of the answers for anyone else]

    I believe that my brain chemistry has been altered because of the high doses of medications I took over many years. I don’t regret having taken these medications because they enabled me to work in a career that I loved and to maintain the relationships that are most important to me.

    My doctors explained that while these medications have altered my brain chemistry, stopping them suddenly or even with tapering does not undo these effects. Even if I were to somehow revert my brain chemistry back to what it was before treatment, my brain chemistry would simply put me where I was before taking medication and that was NOT in a good place.

    It has not been an easy road and I’ve had and have my ups and downs but I was fortunately able to function for quite a long stretch and my road has been made easier because of them. I’ve had to take early retirement because of my worsening cognitive issues and that has been a blow but still, I am grateful for the working years I had and for the evening out of my moods they still give me. I have also had therapy ‘from the very start’ and it was this, along with medication, that helped and helps me live the best life I can.

  4. This author was my “go to” for information book when our daughter was diagnosed in the 1990’s. She and her son are doing very well. They listen to their doctors and therapists. They trust their meds They are proof this can be handled with lots of work.
    They are our joy and love forever!! God bless them!
    Love, Mom and Dad

  5. I know this is off point, but — I am curious if there has been any research linking ‘multi-tasking’ with bipolar. In the past, people who could ‘multi-task’ were in demand. As companies downsized, more pressure was put on the workers. I am 65, and have rapid cycling bipolar with mixed episodes. Looking back over the years, I’ve had numerous jobs where I had to pick up additional responsibilities – to the point of feeling ‘multitasking burn-out’. Multitasking requires one’s attention to be divide, along with working faster. I believe the constant shift in dividing our attention, can lead to the hypo-mania, because one is constantly on the ‘go-go-go’. At least that was my experience. I welcome others to comment or share.

    Due to some of my experiences at my past jobs, I also feel that those pressures added more layers of comorbidity to my illness, such as:, ADD, PTSD, general anxiety and social anxiety.

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