Learning how to live with a mental health diagnosis can be a new beginning. You can now because you know you have a disorder.

  • What should we expect from this condition?
  • How you respond to changes in your health will be decided.
  • Discover the systems of support.
  • Habitual practices will help you create a sense of balance.
  • Make sure your treatment plan works for you.

This is a good place to start, a primer on this condition and science-backed strategies for a healthier life.

Having bipolar 2 disorder means you experience periods of hypomania, during which you have a temporary surge in emotions, energy levels, self-esteem, and drive. These bursts of feeling, motivation, and activity are followed by periods of deep depression, when your feelings may be overwhelmingly dark — if you have any feelings at all. During an episode of depression, it can be tough just to get on your feet in the morning.

Though your highs may not be as extreme as those with bipolar disorder 1, these cycles can nevertheless be damaging to your self-concept, your finances, your career, and your relationships.

As you might expect, symptoms look very different depending on whether you’re in a period of hypomania or a period of depression.

Hypomania symptoms can be seen here.

  • feeling good.
  • feeling restless or jittery.
  • tackling a lot of projects at the same time
  • Racing thoughts tumbling.
  • speaking quickly
  • recklessly with money
  • Staying up all night without feeling exhausted.

Depression symptoms can be seen here.

  • feeling lifeless inside.
  • It feels sad, or even hopeless.
  • It can be hard to fall asleep or wake up.
  • You should sleep at times of the day when you are active.
  • Sex is one of the things that you usually enjoy.
  • Losing the ability to concentrate.
  • Having little desire to speak.
  • It was not motivating to act.

It is possible that you could have a mixture of symptoms in one episode. How long periods of depression last varies from person to person.

People with BPD 2 describe living with the disorder like this:

I have an episode of hypomania.

  • “I don’t feel like I need sleep.”
  • It is impossible to act on all of the ideas.
  • “Other people can’t keep up with the fast talking.”
  • Feel amazing, powerful, and completely unique.
  • I want to drain my bank account.
  • Huge projects are completed in short periods.
  • Things are created feverishly.
  • Just enough to keep going.
  • Sometimes, they do risky things like having sex.
  • Sometimes I think I am hearing from God.

I have an episode of depression.

  • can feel lost and invisible
  • It is difficult to say what is going on.
  • “It’s not always easy to sleep so much.”
  • Lose all motivation and passion for living.
  • “I know I should do things, but I can’t seem to.”
  • crave bad food.
  • Try to eat and feel better.
  • hide from the people in my life.
  • I should stop performing at work or school.
  • Have trouble concentrating.
  • It feels like a failure.
  • I am convinced that things are not going to work out.
  • Sometimes it feels like folding up and dying.

You can recognize some of the effects of bipolar disorder 2, but it will be unique to you.

“Living with a mental illness isn’t just about taking medication. There are many ways to make your life more balanced.”

Become an active part of your treatment team

The best results for the disorder are achieved with a combination of therapy and medication. You are an expert at what you are experiencing, and you can choose to take medication or not. You can become an expert on the disorder in a few months.

You can help your treatment team by reading up on the disorder yourself. You will be prepared to help create a plan that works for you if you have access to the information you need about available treatment, accounts from other people about what they have experienced, and what to look for when an episode of hypomania or depression is on the horizon.

What to read if you need more than words

These memoirs show what it is like to live with a mental health condition at the same time. The combination of art and story may be more telling than the words.

Monitor your moods, symptoms, and triggers

Managing a condition like bipolar disorder is not a one-and-done situation. Changes in your body, stressors in your life, and other variables will affect how effective your treatment plan is.

If you develop a practice of kind and respectful self-monitoring, you can keep symptoms from getting out of hand. There are a few areas to watch.

  • Keep track of your feelings. You can use a journal, a mood chart or calendar, an app, or any other method that allows you to take a frequent inventory of your emotions. What are you looking for? Any change in your mood or outlook that feels like a familiar sign of a mood shift. Electronic and digital methods of tracking mood are also increasingly being researched. While there’s no evidence yet that these methods prevent an episode, people do seem to use them faithfully and the apps are valid measures of changing symptoms.
  • Notice changes in your desires and habits. Healthy routines, schedules, and structures may feel unfamiliar at first, but they are a key part of maintaining your mental health. When desires and habits start to change, it can be an early indicator of a brewing mood shift. You may notice, for example, that you no longer feel like cooking or exercising long before you notice any change in your emotions.
  • Anticipate your triggers. In time, you may come to recognize that certain kinds of life events — loss of sleep, financial stress, relationship conflicts, or traumatic experiences — can make it more likely that you’ll have a relapse. In a recent study involving people who had experienced a relapse of bipolar symptoms, nearly 70 percent had gone through a stressful life event in the days just before the relapse. Knowing these triggers in advance may help you take extra care of yourself or reach out for extra support at critical times.
  • Consider interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT). IPSRT equips you with skills to help you maintain the daily routines that protect you from escalating episodes, including sleep schedules, taking your medications daily, sticking to healthy eating and exercise patterns, and responding to stressful situations in healthy ways. Studies show that IPSRT reduces anxiety, hypomania, and depression symptoms in people with bipolar disorder.

Create an action plan for when symptoms change

There is a chance that you will have a breakthrough symptom or a relapse in your life. If you have a plan to guide how you and those around you will respond, you can minimize the disruption and get help you need quickly.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) suggests that your plan include these items:

  • Contact information for your healthcare team, including your primary care doctor, psychiatrists, therapist, and any other healthcare professionals you need.
  • Key family members are listed in names and contact information.
  • There are phone numbers for crisis centers and healthcare facilities near you.
  • A list of your allergies and any medications you have.
  • A brief description of any mental health crises, hospitalizations, or suicide attempts.
  • What has helped in the past is information about your triggers, special needs, and what has helped in the past.

A legal document called a psychiatric advance directive is a document that is used to make decisions if you are not in a position to make them.

It is a good idea to let people know that the plan exists and where they can read it if necessary. You may want to keep the plan in a number of places, including in your home, vehicle, and phone.

Develop a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP)

You may want to create a WRAP because healthy routines are important for maintaining wellbeing. They usually include:

  • A description of what your life looks like when you are healthy.
  • You need to have an inventory of your resources and people to keep your treatment plan active.
  • A list of your reactions.
  • A list of early warning signs that could mean you are about to experience a depression or hypomania.
  • A list of people you trust to help you come up with solutions is a problem-solving strategy.
  • You need help if you are in a mental health crisis.

Studies show that WRAP plans, especially those that include problem-solving interventions, can help you feel prepared for recovery.

Stay connected to people who support you

It can be tempting to leave the people who care about you when you are not feeling well. You may not be able to make appointments with your doctor or therapist. You may not attend social events that appeal to you. You may avoid talking to people who can help you.

Studies show that having positive social support can make it easier for you to cope with and manage your emotions. Supportive relationships can also build your resilience during times of recovery.

It is a good idea to build a support network. You could connect with people in the mental health community, local or virtual support groups, people in volunteer organizations, civic groups, colleagues, family, and friends. At times, these connections may be able to support in a variety of ways, reminding you that you are much, much more than a diagnosis.

Take good care of your physical health

The health of your body and mind are related.

  • Rest. One of the most important areas to safeguard is your sleep patterns. Research is clear: Loss of sleep can trigger episodes of hypomania and depression. For a closer look at sleep and its effects on bipolar disorder, go here.
  • Move. Another important health habit to cultivate is physical exercise. Vigorous physical activity can elevate your mood, relieve depression and hypomania symptoms, and help you sleep better at night.
  • Eat well. Your body and mind are more likely to thrive if you’re eating nutritious foods regularly. Researchers say a healthy diet can help lower the risk of mental health problems and improve treatment outcomes for people with bipolar disorder.

“A doctor, psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse, or psychologist can diagnose the condition. A healthcare professional will ask you about your symptoms and how they affect your life to arrive at a diagnosis. You will be asked about your family’s mental health history. Your doctor may give you a blood test to rule out other conditions that could affect your moods.”

An official diagnosis of bipolar 2 requires that you have experienced at least one episode of hypomania and at least one major depressive episode. The episodes must have significantly disrupted your ability to function. You can find a guide to bipolar disorder diagnosis here.

Bipolar 2 is most often treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Medications could include:

  • Mood stabilizers.
  • atypical drugs
  • anxiety medications
  • You should take medications to sleep.

The types of psychotherapy most helpful in treating bipolar 2 include:

  • Social rhythm therapy.
  • cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Therapy is family focused.
  • Therapy for behavior.
  • Group therapy.

How to help someone with bipolar 2

In a 2016 study that examined the unmet needs of people with bipolar disorder, researchers said people in a depression episode most need:

  • They are in a depression period.
  • Encouraging to follow through on treatment
  • Acceptance, tolerance, and empathy are the four words.

People with bipolar disorder are likely to feel worried about relapse, fearful of the stigma, and guilty about the impacts the disorder has on other people. As a family member, you also experience considerable stress because of the practical ways the disorder affects everyone in the family. For some people, family therapy may be a good option for increasing support and resolving conflicts.

Treatment can be effective in managing symptoms of the disorder. If you follow your treatment plan and take care of yourself, you may go for long periods where you have few or no symptoms. Some people may have symptoms even when they follow a treatment plan.

The picture looks different without treatment. People with a mental illness are more likely to have mood swings and may be at greater risk of harming themselves.

If you or someone in your life has been diagnosed with a mental illness, you may be able to take a new course that will help you out of the highs and lows that have disrupted your life.

The hypomania and depression that have made your life so hard can be managed with medication, therapy, support, and healthier habits.

It will take time to get your treatment plan in place, and you may need to change it at times as your body, mind, and life go through changes. You can find a way to balance mental and physical health with the help of treatment for bipolar disorder 2.