Can you continue to work when you have bipolar disorder and you are experiencing a depressive episode? Many people have proven that it’s possible. Yet, research shows that maintaining employment is a major challenge for people with bipolar disorder. To overcome this challenge, following these suggestions may help you in continuing with your career path.
Recognize Symptoms Early
Recognizing your symptoms as soon as they happen is crucial. If you’re not paying careful attention to, ignoring, or denying your symptoms, your condition could become severe before you even realize you need to do something to get better.
One study revealed that patient education on symptoms and treatment improves employment outcomes. Here are some of the symptoms of bipolar depression (which is very similar to unipolar depression, or major depressive disorder),
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Decreased energy
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Problems concentrating
- Unusual memory problems
- Trouble making decisions
- Thoughts of suicide
Work is important, of course. But there are times when you need to put your treatment and self-care above your attendance. If you can’t schedule appointments outside of work hours, you may worry that treatment will interfere with your job.
However, research shows that getting treatment early can help you not only save your job but thrive in it. Seeking treatment early helps with both work productivity and the social aspects of work.
Manage Your Thoughts
When you’re depressed, your mind tends to generate negative thoughts. While you can’t help what thoughts come into your mind, you can choose which thoughts to dwell on and act on.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you learn to identify negative thought patterns and change your responses to things that trigger these patterns. Meditation is a tool that you may learn in therapy to also help you focus on the here and now, rather than dwelling on intrusive thoughts that can distract you. Talking to a psychologist can be extremely helpful for staying on track in your career.
It’s hard to stay active when you’re feeling the lethargy and indecisiveness of bipolar depression. When you allow yourself to become more sedentary, symptoms of depression usually become worse. You don’t have to start a rigorous exercise routine, but getting up and moving at various times during the day can release endorphins that can help improve your mood.
Stick to Your Schedule
Sticking to a schedule is important both outside of and during work. If you have a job with set hours, sleeping at a consistent time each night and preparing for bed with a nighttime routine can help. People who are self-employed, such as writers, independent graphic designers, personal trainers, and contractors usually have more leeway in how they set their schedule, but still need some kind of routine.
No matter what your occupation is, you need to talk to your doctor about sleep problems if they happen frequently. Get into a daily routine for all the important aspects of your life so that you are staying consistent with your physical self-care.
For people with bipolar disorder, one of the most difficult parts of dealing with the depressive part of the disorder is that when you sink too low, it becomes very easy to cycle back into mania. Some medications work better for bipolar depression than others. If your doctor suggests antidepressants, ask if they are likely to cause mania. The key to avoiding mania is to get proper treatment for your depression.
When you have bipolar disorder, your body has a hard time maintaining homeostasis of the chemicals in your brain that affect your mood, concentration, and other things that can affect your day-to-day at work. The best things you can do for your career if you’re bipolar are to learn more about your condition, and seek treatment as needed.