A Guide to Balanced Bipolar Living For Patients and Caregivers

Important Precautions for Bipolar Disorder Patients

Be aware of the possible need for immediate help. People with bipolar disorder - as well as their loved ones - should be aware that there are times when medical attention may be needed immediately. This may mean calling 911 or going to an emergency room. Here are some examples of behaviors that may mean that a person with bipolar disorder is out of control and in need of immediate professional medical care.

  • Having thoughts or making plans for taking one's own life
  • Doing things to hurt one's self
  • Acting violently toward people, pets, or property
  • Not eating
  • Unable to care for self

Get help for alcohol or substance abuse problems. More than 60 percent of people with bipolar disorder also suffer from alcohol or drug abuse problems. There is some evidence to support the following theories about the relationship between alcohol and drug abuse and bipolar disorder.

  • That bipolar disorder may make a person more likely to use and abuse drugs and alcohol.
  • That alcoholism or drug abuse may trigger the development of bipolar disorder in someone predisposed to bipolar disorder because of genetic makeup.
  • That bipolar disorder, alcoholism, and substance abuse may have a common biochemical or genetic cause.

A guide to balanced bipolar living for patients and caregivers with important precautions for bipolar disorder patients.Alcohol and drug abuse can have a disastrous affect on anyone's life. When a person with bipolar disorder is addicted to alcohol or drugs, studies have shown that a variety of problems are likely to result, including:

  • More recurrences and hospitalization
  • Poor compliance with medication
  • Poorer socialization and job success
  • Higher rates of suicide

Problems with drugs or alcohol are not easy to admit. Sometimes the person does not even realize he or she has a problem that needs addressing. Talking to a health-care professional about possible problems with alcohol or drugs is an important first step to getting help.

Be aware of the risk of suicide. Having suicidal thoughts or behaviors is the most dangerous emergency situation for someone with bipolar disorder. The facts about bipolar disorder and suicide are grim, but people with bipolar disorder and their loved ones should be aware of them.

Approximately 25 percent of people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide at some time during their lives.

Approximately 11 percent of people with bipolar disorder commit suicide. Suicide prevention involves decreasing access to the means to commit suicide and increasing access to support systems (health-care professionals, family members, and friends).

Be sure the doctor who treats your bipolar disorder knows about any other medical conditions you have. Prescription drug treatment of bipolar disorder must be safely and effectively coordinated with the treatment you receive for other medical conditions. In particular, be sure to let your doctor know if you have or are being treated for:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart, liver, kidney, or lung disease
  • Cancer
  • Thyroid disorder
  • HIV infection

Learn to recognize early warning signs of mania (severely elevated mood) recurrence. It is wise to get medical attention early if you think you are heading for an episode of mania. Seeing a healthcare professional early can help to ensure that you get adequate treatment as early as possible in the course of an episode.

There are many signs and symptoms that a person with bipolar disorder may experience if he or she is heading for an episode of mania. These are called "prodromal" signs and symptoms, and they vary from person to person.

Prodromal means that these signs and symptoms are sometimes experienced or observed before the onset of an actual manic episode. Studies have found that certain prodromal signs and symptoms are more common before an episode of mania. These are listed below.

Mania - common prodromal signs and symptoms:

  • Sleeping less or lack of interest in sleep
  • Engaging in impulsive activities
  • Having racing thoughts
  • Acting more irritable than usual
  • Becoming excited easily or feeling restless
  • Spending recklessly
  • Extreme change in weight or appetite

It is not always easy to recognize signs and symptoms in yourself. Do your best to pay attention to what your mind and body are telling you. If things do not seem right, tell someone. Make sure the person is someone you can trust to ensure you receive prompt medical attention.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 15). A Guide to Balanced Bipolar Living For Patients and Caregivers, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: April 6, 2017

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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