Hannah Touhey is a blogger and artist who has kindly given us permission to repost this top 10 list for other people who are affected by bipolar disorder. This week we cover the first 5 of her tips – stay tuned for the next 5 tomorrow.

  1. Try to see the same doctor every time, and any time you feel your mood shift dramatically go and see them so they can get a sense of who you are and what you look like in different moods.
  2. Ask to be referred to your local mental health team for a psychiatric assessment – Unless you present to your GP in the middle of a manic crisis, some doctors may misdiagnose depression. This makes sense when you think about it; do you tend to go to the GP because you feel good? Not usually, but you will go when you start to feel low; without seeing your hypomania or mania it’s easy to see how a misdiagnosis can happen. GPs actually know very little about mental health compared to a specialist and are only allowed to prescribe certain medications. For example; a GP couldn’t prescribe me lithium without it being approved by a psychiatrist, so it really is helpful to get referred if you can.
  3. Keep a mood diary – You can get templates online specifically for bipolar, and they’re a great way for you to see how your moods are fluctuating. If you’re already taking medications then ensure you make a note of this on your diary. GPs will initially prescribe antidepressants, which for some people with bipolar, these are a no go as they can send you high; if this is reflected in your mood diary it will help a psychiatrist to diagnose you accurately. Most psychiatrists will initially ask you to keep a mood diary for a month to get a sense of how you’re feeling so you’ll cut time if you’re already on it.
  4. If you’re comfortable doing so, then speak to your friends and family and ask them to keep note of your moods too. To save arguments you might want to ask them to keep their notes private from you until you need them; I always argue I’m just happy when I’m starting to go high and then sheepishly apologise later when I realise they were right all along.
  5. Discuss with your loved ones about what you want to happen at different stages – For example, if you can see that at points you can be so unwell that admission would be good for you, then make that arrangement when you’re well. You will never want to be admitted so it makes it much easier for your family to make that decision if you’ve asked them to when you’re well. It sounds terrible but your chances of a diagnosis improve in a ward setting where they can see you in crisis and can monitor your moods more closely.

Part two of Hannah's blog can be read here. You can also find more of Hannah's work on her blog.

If you'd like to find out more about our peer support options, or to talk to someone affected by bipolar disorder, email us here.

Please note that this is a blog related to personal experience of the writer, and is not intended to replace medical advice from a qualified practitioner.