Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental health condition that is characterized by extreme and sudden mood swings. Symptoms of bipolar disorder can include an extremely high mood phase known as mania and episodes of depression. Due to the manic episodes, bipolar disorder is sometimes also known as manic depression or bipolar disease. People with bipolar disorder have trouble managing their day to day tasks at work or school.
They also find it challenging to maintain their relationships. There is no cure for this illness, but medications can help people manage their symptoms. If left untreated, then mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder can make it difficult for a person to keep a job, carry out their duties, and even hold on to a job for long. So how do people with bipolar disease manage their condition and hold on to their job as well?
Here’s all you need to know about how to manage your bipolar disorder and work.
Overview and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is today quite a common mental health condition. In fact, nearly five million adults in the United States, or around 2.8 percent, have been diagnosed with the illness. (1) It has been observed that the average age when people start experiencing the symptoms of bipolar disorder is 25 years.(2) People with bipolar disorder experience cycles of having elevated moods, a phase known as mania or hypomania, to extremely low moods, known as depression.(3,4) This cycle of mood shifts, combined with the other symptoms of bipolar disease, presents a unique set of challenges in a person’s social, personal, and professional life.(5,6)
Having bipolar disorder or any other mental health disorder makes it difficult for a person to find a job, function properly and carry out their duties in that job, and sustain a career. This is all the more true if their symptoms affect their day to day functioning. A survey found that 58 percent of people with bipolar disease or depression quit working outside their homes, and 88 percent of people found it difficult to work due to their health condition.(7,8)
While there are several different types of challenges for people with bipolar disorder to find and keep a job, experts recommend that working can be helpful for people with this condition. This is because work provides a proper sense of structure, increases confidence, and also decreases depression in people with bipolar disorder. Working also helps improve your overall mood and makes a person feel empowered.
What Type Of Job Should A Person With Bipolar Disorder Look For?
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all job for anybody, leave alone people with mental health conditions. However, people with bipolar disorder should focus on looking for a job that suits their individual personality. If you have bipolar disorder, here are certain things you should keep in mind while deciding what type of job would be right for you:
Focus on the work environment: Will the job be able to support your lifestyle that revolves around managing your symptoms? Will the job be too stressful and challenging in terms of irregular hours and high-stress levels? – These things can negatively impact the mental health condition of a person having bipolar disorder.(9) A quiet and relaxed working place can help a person with bipolar disease to maintain a regular schedule and also improve their overall functioning.
What will the work schedule look like?: People with bipolar disorder find it helpful to have part-time work with a flexible schedule. It also helps such people to work during the day and avoid night shifts. Overnight and night shifts are not a good idea for people who have bipolar disorder, as having a proper sleeping schedule is important in managing the symptoms. It is necessary to maintain a regular sleep and wake pattern when you have bipolar disease.(10,11)
Focus on your co-workers: It is best to find a job where your co-workers tend to have values that are in line with your own and who maintain a work-life balance. This is very important for the overall health and well-being of a person with bipolar disorder. Having supportive co-workers also helps you feel understood and works as a coping mechanism when you are going through an episode.
Will the job bring out your creativity?: It has been found that most people with bipolar disorder perform their best when they are in a job field where they can be creative.(12)
Apart from these factors, you should also consider interests, skills, personality traits, values, physical health, and your limitations and triggers while searching for a job.
For people with bipolar disorder who are unable to find a job that suits them, starting their own business is also a good idea. In fact, creating your own job allows them the creativity and flexibility they need in their lives.
Effect of Work-Related Stress on Person with Bipolar Disorder
Working environments can be stressful for everyone, especially for those with mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder. Many work environments and industries tend to be demanding, unpredictable, and challenging. All these can increase the level of stress on a person with bipolar disorder. For those with bipolar disorder, this type of stress is bound to have an adverse impact on their physical and mental health.
If you have bipolar disorder, here are some tips for managing stress at your workplace:
- Take frequent breaks, even if you feel that you don’t need one.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing to lower your stress.
- Listen to a recording of nature sounds or some relaxing music to maintain your calm.
- Take a 5-10 minute walk around the block at lunchtime.
- Have a support group you can talk to if you need help.
- Take some time off of your work for therapy and treatment whenever you feel the need.
Taking your medications and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in reducing work-related stress. It is essential to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep while following your treatment protocol.(13)
If you are having trouble finding the right job for yourself, it might be helpful to take the help of professional employment services to get a job. Your school or alma mater or your vocational rehabilitation service can also help you find a job.
When you have a mental health condition like bipolar disorder, it might not be easy to find and keep a job, especially if your symptoms disrupt your day-to-day functioning. However, with extra effort and a positive outlook, it is possible to find the right job for yourself.
- Nimh.nih.gov. 2020. NIMH » Bipolar Disorder. [online] Available at: <https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/bipolar-disorder.shtml> [Accessed 26 July 2020].
- Nami.org. 2020. Bipolar Disorder | NAMI: National Alliance On Mental Illness. [online] Available at: <https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Bipolar-Disorder> [Accessed 26 July 2020].
- Miklowitz, D.J. and Johnson, S.L., 2008. Bipolar disorder. John Wiley & Sons Inc.
- Müller-Oerlinghausen, B., Berghöfer, A. and Bauer, M., 2002. Bipolar disorder. The Lancet, 359(9302), pp.241-247.
- Grunze, H., 2015. Bipolar disorder. In Neurobiology of brain disorders (pp. 655-673). Academic Press.
- Clark, L., Iversen, S.D. and Goodwin, G.M., 2002. Sustained attention deficit in bipolar disorder. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 180(4), pp.313-319.
- 2020. [online] Available at: <http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=education_brochures_wellness_at_work> [Accessed 26 July 2020].
- Secure2.convio.net. 2020. Wellness At Work� – Depression And Bipolar Support Alliance. [online] Available at: <https://secure2.convio.net/dabsa/site/SPageServer/> [Accessed 26 July 2020].
- Cohen, A.N., Hammen, C., Henry, R.M. and Daley, S.E., 2004. Effects of stress and social support on recurrence in bipolar disorder. Journal of affective disorders, 82(1), pp.143-147.
- Harvey, A.G., Talbot, L.S. and Gershon, A., 2009. Sleep disturbance in bipolar disorder across the lifespan. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 16(2), pp.256-277.
- Meyrer, R., Demling, J., Kornhuber, J. and Nowak, M., 2009. Effects of night shifts in bipolar disorders and extreme morningness. Bipolar Disorders, 11(8), pp.897-899.
- Lloyd-Evans, R., Batey, M. and Furnham, A., 2006. Bipolar disorder and creativity: Investigating a possible link. Advances in psychology research, 40, pp.111-142.
- Malhotra, N., Kulhara, P., Chakrabarti, S. and Grover, S., 2016. Lifestyle related factors & impact of metabolic syndrome on quality of life, level of functioning & self-esteem in patients with bipolar disorder & schizophrenia. The Indian journal of medical research, 143(4), p.434.
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