When you have bipolar disorder, it can be especially challenging to keep your emotions and behaviors in check at work. The constant changes in your mood, feelings, and energy may seem random—and they may be. But that doesn’t make them any easier to handle. If you have bipolar disorder, it’s common for your symptoms to affect the way you think about yourself, the people around you, and your responsibilities at work. Here’s what you need to know if you have a job that requires you to be on call or deal with clients or other people outside of working hours.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings. The two main types of bipolar disorder are: A person with bipolar 1 will experience a full manic episode, while a person with bipolar 2 will experience only a hypomanic episode (a period that’s less severe than a full manic episode). Those with bipolar 1 may or may not suffer from a major depressive episode, whereas those with bipolar 2 will experience a major depressive episode. People with bipolar disorder may have mood swings that go back and forth between feeling extremely “up” and “down,” or between feeling extremely “happy” and “sad.” Bipolar disorder affects about 2.8% of adults aged 18 years or older in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
How Does Bipolar Disorder Affect Work?
People who have bipolar disorder are often able to work and lead successful careers. But you may have challenges when it comes to managing your moods at work. Mood swings or sudden changes in your mood may make it hard for you to focus on your work and get things done. When you’re in a manic state, you may feel extremely confident and want to take on more responsibilities—even beyond what’s reasonable. Or you may feel extremely negative and want to pull away from others and everything around you. In a depressive state, you may feel like you’re not able to perform at all. Or, in a hypomanic state, you may feel too confident and want to take on more work than is reasonable.
Coping With Bipolar Mood Swings at Work
As with any condition that affects your ability to perform at work, communication is key. Let your manager know how you’re feeling, what challenges you’re facing, and what you need to get through the day. Find a support group. Having a support group of other people with bipolar disorder can help you feel less alone and give you insight into the challenges other people are facing. Get help for your mental health. Your mental health treatment can help you stay healthy and on track with your work. Medication can help manage your mood swings and keep you stable. Therapy can help you understand your mood swings, cope with them, and reduce their impact. If you have bipolar disorder, you may have episodes when you have too much energy and need to do too many things at once. During those times, it’s important to pace yourself so you don’t burn out. Try these tips to avoid overworking yourself: Set goals and prioritize your tasks. Make sure you have healthy habits, like getting enough sleep and eating healthy meals. Experiment with different workflows and schedules until you find what works best for you. Get support from co-workers when you need it.
Supporting a Colleague With Bipolar Disorder
If you’re collaborating with a colleague with bipolar disorder, keep the following in mind:
- Be patient: People with bipolar disorder can recover fully, and with treatment, they can lead healthy, happy lives. But it can take time to see improvements and figure out what works for each person. Ask for what you need. If you have a request or suggestion, don’t let fear or shame prevent you from asking for what you need.
- Be supportive: People with bipolar disorder may have intense emotions and mood swings, so be extra kind and compassionate.
- Be open-minded: Individuals with bipolar disorder may have trouble focusing, be irritable, have trouble sleeping, and experience other symptoms.
- Be flexible: Plans may need to be changed at any time.
Strategies to Manage Hyper-Activities and Impulsivity
If you have hyperactivity or impulsivity, learn to recognize the signs of these symptoms. You can do this by keeping a mood journal, which can help you spot patterns in your moods and behaviors. You can also try cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help you recognize early warning signs of these symptoms. You can also try some of these strategies to manage hyperactivity and impulsivity: Reduce stress. Stress can make these symptoms worse. Try meditating, exercising, or reading to reduce stress. Avoid drugs and alcohol. These can make symptoms worse. Exercise discipline. Stay on top of your work, and make sure you don’t take on too many responsibilities at once. Ask for help when you need it. Learn to accept your condition. While you cannot alter it, you can acquire skills to effectively manage and cope with bipolar disorder.
Strategies to Manage Depression at Work
If you have depression, here are some ways to cope: Stay healthy. Get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise regularly. Exercise can help lift your mood, improve your energy, and reduce stress. Steer clear of alcohol and drugs. These can worsen your symptoms. Stay connected. Get support from family, friends, and other people in your life. Stay positive. Focus on the things you are grateful for and limit your time spent on negative thoughts and feelings. Get enough sunlight. Get some daily sunlight to help regulate your mood and improve your mood and energy.
To have a successful career, you have to be healthy. And for many people with bipolar disorder, that means getting help for their mental health. With the right treatment and support, you can manage your symptoms and lead a successful life. If you have bipolar disorder, it’s important to let your manager know how you’re feeling. If they don’t know, they can’t help you. These tips can help you manage your symptoms and lead a successful career.