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

By bp Magazine

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.