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. These tips are helpful, but I think one important thing has been left out and that is become physically active. I have been on 22 different drugs most of which weren’t effective or gave me terrible side effects. 3 years ago I took up cold water swimming and my doctor believes it has been that that has done more for me than any drug.

    It has been amazing. I swim in water around 50 degrees F (10degC) regularly and it takes the edge of any low grade depression or anxiety that I have. After a decent swim (30mins plus), the endorphins kick in and it’s only thing that gives me the buzz that I used to experience during hypomanic episodes. I’m not the only one, many here in South Africa and in the UK experience the same (there is good research coming out of the UK – University of Portsmouth – of the purported benefits).

    1. That’s great Gill. Unfortunately I can’t swim but you must find that amazingly refreshing. I do enjoy walking and music. Reading sometimes slows my racing mind. Take care and best wishes from Ireland. Henry

  2. 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.

    1. JoAnna I totally believe what you say. I know of many people who have been healed by God through prayer. Some are family members. Sometimes serious physical illness. So seeking out prayer for healing is always a good thing to do with the right people. However not everyone is totally healed in answer to prayer. God also heals by means of the field of medicine and psychiatry, medication, therapy and life-style choices. So also use these if necessary. Liz C the words quoted were spoken by Jesus himself; so are the truth. But when questioned directly by His disciples as to whether an individual man’s illness was due to his individual sin, Jesus said it isn’t.

    2. IF you were “set free” from bipolar via prayer, then you never had bipolar! This type of advice is dangerous and a complete contrast to the good information provided by the article its attached to.

      1. Amanda, I also agree. Having a faith can be helpful, for sure, but it is incredibly dangerous for anyone to suggest there is a “cure”.

      2. Amanda, exactly

    3. I am a Christian and would never just rely on God for healing. Bipolar is an illness and needs to be treated. Yes pray by all means but I don’t believe I will be totally healed until I am in heaven. and including the biblical quote you have can cause some of us to feel very guilty and full of shame because we haven’t been ‘healed’ the prayer way.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

    1. Bipolar has both hindered me and helped enormously.
      Age 12 was when i really noticed something was wrong. Always being a rather strange child( liking alone time, enormous creativity, super sensitive and moody) age 12 it became noticably too strange. Moods changed from hour to hour…sadness for no reason.(.elated and feeling high with no drugs or alcohol)
      I started dangerous behaviors, promiscuous, taking terrible chances…
      By mid twenties I was a disaster. Although I maintained an A average in college and worked a full time job..I was drinking and still behaving dangerously. Still no diagnosis and no meds. Everyone was hurt around me because of my careless behaviors.
      3 marriages and 5 children later I sought help.
      My problem was my highs my manic was so productive and creative that I worked 2 jobs and still went to college..even though I was making terrible personal choices. I didnt want to lose it…depressions were getting worse and lasting longer. I had kids to care for..an important career( a psych nurse) and kept choosing losers for mates.

      Seeking help is hard but you know when you need to. Dont let the power of bipolar persuade you to refuse help.
      Don’t self medicate…don’t give in to your temptations and moods.
      Find your purpose and strive toward it.
      Bipolar will never make you successful unless you work it..thru meds…therapy..self talk and positive reinforcement…good luck y’all!!

  5. 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

    1. Unfortunately medication does not work for everybody and I am one of those people. I would be so happy to have a medication that worked I would take it every day and not try to come off of it. I have been on many meds, tried so many over the years but nothing seems to improve my condition. People who medication helps don’t realize how lucky they are and they should stick to them so they would feel well.

      1. It’s a rough, I know. I have seen many doctors, and prescribed many different medications. Took me 5 or 6 years to find out witch medications worked best for me. I almost gave up multiple times, but my family gave me the motivation to continue.

      2. I struggle with the basics even though I’ve been diagnosed 10 years. I can’t get it right. I can’t stay on meds. I’ve tried everything to stay on them I just majorly struggle. I don’t want to see myself as mentally ill as thats what I truly am if I’m taking medication for it. I’m inducing sever mania. Im inducing psychosis quite bad at times. My symptom list is never ending. Any tips on staying medicated?

Load More Comments

Leave a Reply

Please do not use your full name, as it will be displayed. Your email address will not be published.