How Can I Effectively Manage Bipolar Disorder In the Workplace?

When a person has bipolar disorder, they will find that it weaves itself into all aspects of their life. This holds true for both home and work. When bipolar begins affecting someone’s job, it can start to feel overwhelming in an entirely new way. However, there are a variety of ways to deal with it and make it far less problematic.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

When a person is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it can mean a variety of things. The issue that comes with diagnosing is that bipolar disorder exists on a scale. That being said, it is primarily a chemical imbalance in the brain. Some people may feel overwhelmed, while others may have low-level symptoms.

These symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Insomnia
  • Manic episodes

Some people may experience these symptoms for short periods with very little warning. Others may find they have consistent issues that feel completely unmanageable. In the most extreme cases, people will find that their inability to sleep will keep them awake for days, leading to irrational behavior and possible hospitalization.

How Can Bipolar Disorder Affect Work?

For people with bipolar disorder, work can become a minefield. Regardless of an individual’s profession, the ups and downs of bipolar disorder can create an erratic environment. 

The other problem is that work, unlike a person’s personal life, is often far less about the individual and more about the community around them. When a person has a manic or depressive episode, it may feel as though it becomes everyone else’s problem.

Another issue is the stigma surrounding mental health. People may believe they are being judged for their disorders and the behaviors that arise from them. Also, in most professions, it is illegal for employers to ask about your medical/mental health history. This may lead to questions about performance issues that cannot be answered or that individuals do not feel comfortable sharing.

What Treatments Exist to Help Create Coping Techniques for Bipolar Disorder?

Thankfully, there are a number of treatments available to those who require assistance coping with their bipolar disorder.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

One of the most common forms of talk therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Clients will work with a mental health professional in a structured environment, attending a certain number of sessions. CBT helps people become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so they can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them more effectively.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Often coupled with talk therapy, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications in treatment. It is used in combination with therapeutic techniques to help provide an overall approach to the treatment of various disorders. Medications relieve the issues that accompany chemical imbalances in the mind. When provided at the proper dose, medications used in MAT have no adverse effects on a person’s mental capability.

Family Psychoeducation

A technique that helps people with bipolar disorder is family psychoeducation (FPE). This approach is designed to help families and individuals with mental health disorders better understand their conditions while working together to assist with real-world problems.

The process involves families coming together to create a social support group for their loved ones. Together, they will learn to problem-solve specific situations and learn how to develop better coping skills. When this happens successfully, individuals will realize they are surrounded by a supportive community that has taken the time to educate themselves. This can make it easier to have conversations regarding a person’s bipolar disorder.

How to Implement Bipolar Disorder Techniques at Work

The best part about starting the healing process and learning more about a disorder is that individuals can immediately begin to implement new techniques.


One of the first things that will change is the way a person looks at themself. There will be an immediate boost to confidence as they realize the people around them are more concerned with their output and ability to do their job. It can be refreshing to realize that coworkers are not sitting in judgment and that they value the way a person handles themselves in the workplace.

Interpersonal Skills

A particular set of techniques a person will learn through therapy programs are interpersonal skills. These are especially important when in a work environment and there is a bipolar episode. It is important to remember that the way a person is able to understand the people around them, the better they can be at handling themselves. 

There may be people who are taken into confidence as part of the social safety network. These are coworkers that can be counted among those a person trusts to pull aside and have a quick talk about how they are feeling. This may be enough to get a person through the episode.

Putting Self First

Although work is important, people will be shown how to put themselves first. When this happens, the idea of taking a quick walk or using a lunch break to self-reflect does not seem strange or out of place. The idea of putting work first will often get in the way. However, when individuals take care of themselves, work will feel that much easier.

There Is Hope

Every person has difficulties with work. The only difference is that those with bipolar disorder often feel that their difficulties spring from within and are erratic. With the right kinds of therapy and implementation, work will become just another day. Handling it will begin to feel like nothing more than having some additional self-reflection.

Living with bipolar disorder can be difficult. However, it can feel even more insidious when it begins to become an issue at work. Even for those who have their disorder under control, the idea of its effects seeping into one’s work life can be frightening. There are even people that fear losing their jobs should they have a bipolar episode. Alter Behavioral Health can offer outpatient programs to help people control their bipolar disorder and learn coping mechanisms. Regardless of where they are in their mental health journey, they will find that this additional advice and direction can create a sense of well-being. For more information, call Alter Behavioral Health at (866) 691-4386.