Bipolar disorder is one of the UK’s most common long-term conditions with almost as many people living with bipolar as cancer (2.4%), it is more than twice as common as dementia (0.8%), epilepsy (0.8%), autism (0.8%), rheumatoid arthritis (0.7%) and learning disabilities (0.5%).* As yet, there is no known cure, however with the right treatment and support, it is possible to live well with the condition. In fact thousands of people with bipolar hold down challenging and rewarding careers, in a variety of sectors and professions.

Alongside medication, there are practical steps that people with bipolar can take to stay well. These are often called ‘self-management strategies’ or ‘self-care plans’ and also include a variety of non-medical approaches to staying well.

Self-management differs from person-to-person, everyone has their own physiology and history. It will usually involve a combination of regular exercise and sleep, a diet that moderates alcohol and caffeine, and a support network of friends and / or family. A key tool in self-management is the Mood Scale and Mood Diary. Both  enable people to track their mood and take steps to moderate them.

Recent research by Bipolar UK found that 67% of people with the bipolar received no self-management advice when they were first diagnosed. This lack of basic signposting and knowledge is also compounded by the social stigma that still surrounds the condition. Many people with bipolar, including those self-managing effectively, are reluctant to talk about it for fear of being judged or missing out on opportunities, especially in their careers. Despite 1 in 50 people having a bipolar diagnosis, 72% reported not knowing anyone else with the condition when they were first diagnosed. This means in conjunction with a lack of formal advice, there isn’t an informal route of learning directly from others with the condition.

By providing first class self-management information and peer support services like our eCommunity Bipolar UK brings people affected by bipolar together. We have also recently run our first series of self-management webinars in conjunction with Cardiff University. Our mission is to empower people to live well with the condition and fulfil their potential and we do this by bringing people together to share experiences and approaches to self-management and provide moral support and encouragement on what can sometimes be a very lonely journey.

*Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey: Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014 and Quality and Outcomes Framework – Prevalence, England, 2015-16.

Related articles:

Bipolar - the facts 

Bipolar UK Self-Management Survey

Self-management and therapy