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Parenting with Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that affects approximately 5.7 million adults or about 2.6% of the U.S population ages 18 and older. Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness, treatment for bipolar disorder through medication and counseling can help you not only manage mood swings but better function within your daily tasks and relationships.

Moreover, those that suffer from bipolar disorder may wonder about the additional challenges of raising a family. Parenting is a difficult role for anyone, as you learn how to balance your own needs with your children’s needs. Though bipolar disorder has its own set of challenges, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a loving and caring parent to your children.

Below we discuss living with bipolar disorder as well as tips for parenting with bipolar disorder.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is classified as a mental illness where a person experiences extreme changes in mood, including mania and depression, and struggles to complete day-to-day tasks. These mood shifts can vary from multiple times a day to a couple of times during the year. In some cases, people with bipolar disorder can experience both mania and depressive emotions.

The four common types of bipolar disorder include:

  • Bipolar I Disorder—Those with bipolar I disorder have extreme manic episodes that last for a minimum of 7 days and may require hospital care. A person can also experience depressive episodes or a combination of both manic and depressive episodes.

  • Bipolar II Disorder—Those with bipolar II disorder have one or more extreme depressive episodes as well as an episode of hypomania. The hypomanic symptoms are not at the same level as full-blown manic episodes found in bipolar I disorder. Normal moods between extreme depressive episodes can occur.

  • Cyclothymic Disorder—Those with cyclothymic disorder have several hypomanic episodes and less severe depressive episodes for two-plus years. Although this is a milder form of bipolar disorder, the intensity can vary over time.

  • Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)–Those with NOS have a bipolar disorder that doesn’t follow a specific pattern of the three disorders listed above.

Although there is no single cause for bipolar disorder, some risk factors include family history, genetics, and brain structure/chemistry.

Coping with bipolar disorder

Living with bipolar disorder is more manageable than it may seem when proper treatment is in place. Those that struggle with bipolar disorder are those that fail to become an active participant in learning about their condition and being involved in developing and executing their treatment plan. That said, it’s important to create a long-term treatment plan with your physician that includes both medications as well as counseling. Ask questions and through trial and error, find what helps you overcome your mood swings and helps you function in your daily life. Learn more about some of the therapy methods used in the treatment of bipolar disorder.

Furthermore, Adele C. Viguera, MD, psychiatrist and associate director of the perinatal and reproductive psychiatry program at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio explains, “Parenting with a bipolar disorder can be immensely challenging, but is often a good motivation for patients to stay compliant with their medication.” As mentioned above, in order to take care of your family, it’s vital that you take care of yourself.

In addition, part of coping with bipolar disorder is involving your family and friends in your treatment. Have them attend doctor’s visits, therapy sessions, etc. so they can understand your illness better and know how to help you.

Tips for Parenting with Bipolar Disorder

Develop a schedule and stick to it

In order to maintain treatment, you’ll most likely need a schedule set in place. Your daily actions have a direct impact on your emotional well-being. When you have a schedule in place, it can stabilize your moods. This is especially important when it comes to sleep. Too little sleep can trigger bipolar symptoms.

In addition, it may be beneficial to create a routine around your child’s schedule. If you need more sleep, try to sleep at the same time as your child. Make doctor and therapy appointments while your child is at an activity or school.

Keep track of your symptoms

As with any emotional or behavioral illness, it’s important to monitor your symptoms. If you feel like you’re starting to experience symptoms of bipolar disorder, seek help as soon as possible. Have emergency plans in place that put your children in proper care while you can tend to your symptoms.

Develop your parenting strengths

It’s easy to get down on yourself, especially when you suffer from bipolar disorder, but instead of focusing on your faults, work to develop your strengths as a parent. The more positive behavior you display to your children, the better they can model after you as well as see the benefits of developing their own talents.

Set healthy living goals

In addition to treating your mental health, it’s important that you also look after your physical health. This includes eating a healthy diet, incorporating exercise and getting enough sleep. Such goals can include going to the gym 3-5 times a week, eating 5-10 fruits and vegetables daily and get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Avoid alcohol as it could trigger bipolar symptoms.

Make time for your children

Lastly and most importantly, give your best time to your children. Plan activities that they love to do that won’t cause stress or anxiety on your part. It’s a great way to create memories with your children and to develop a deeper bond.

At Well Street, we are proud to be the only e-counseling service designed for parents, families, kids, and teens. Our services include treating those with ADHD/ADD, anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, mood disorders, conduct and oppositional defiant disorders, depression, and sleep disorders. Our low-cost subscriptions give you 24/7 access to a counselor and weekly 1:1 sessions by chat or video.

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