Dealing with psychiatrists and counselors when you have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder can sometimes seem frustrating. It doesn't have to be that way. You can actually help your doctor develop and implement the right treatment and medication plan that works for you.

How can your help your doctor help you? It really isn't that complicated. Some people seem to think that doctors should read the minds of their patients. But doctors are not psychics; they are medical practitioners. You have to communicate with your health care workers.

Tell your doctor what is happening in your life and how these events make you feel. Talk about what causes stress in your life and how you handle the stress. Discuss changes that are coming in work, family life, or any area of your daily routine. Talk to him or her about sleep patterns and eating patterns. You may even want to maintain a journal of how you feel, what you do, what occurs and how it affects you. Changes in life can be major triggers for episodes. Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise plan, moving your home, changing jobs, even joining a new or different religious or social organization. You may well identify triggers or precursors to episodes and be able to discuss methods to avoid these episodes.

With your doctor and counselor, develop a sound treatment plan. This will include medication most likely, as specific activities and techniques to use in daily life. You may learn guided visualization, meditation or other techniques that will benefit you. Once the treatment plan is agreed upon, follow it closely every, single day. Do not deviate from the treatment plan because you read a magazine article or heard a friend does something different. Stick with your doctors' orders. Make your doctor aware of any medications prescribed by your medical doctor and any herbal supplements, nutritional supplement or vitamins you take.

In addition to your treatment plan, you must take care of your physical health as well as your mental health. This includes eating a healthy diet that is nutritious and follows any dietary restrictions placed on you by your medical doctor. If your body is not well, your mental health will suffer. Exercise every day within limits recommended by your doctor.

Find a purpose in life that gives you joy. This can be employment that doesn't cause you too much stress and earns some income. It could be volunteering to help others in an organization. This sense of purpose will help you center yourself on positive things. Talk to your doctor about these plans first, of course.

One of the most important ways to help your doctor help you is to talk your medication exactly as prescribed every day. If you notice anything that could potentially be a side effect from the medication, talk to your doctor about it. He or she can determine if this is a result of the medication and can possibly find a medication that works without undesirable side effects. However, NEVER, EVER change or stop taking medication without your doctor's knowledge and approval. This is the one certain way to experience a major set-back in your progress.

View your doctor and counselor as team members working with you. Your team goal is to develop a plan that will allow you to live a normal, healthy, productive, high-functioning life. Together, the team can achieve this goal, but only with open, trusting communication.

In summary, here are the points to keep in mind to help your doctor help you:

  • Discuss with doctor changes in lifestyle, routine, family structure, etc.
  • Discuss stresses you are experiencing.
  • Discuss changes in sleep patterns
  • Discuss with your doctor major changes you plan such as exercise plan, diet, job change, etc.
  • Discuss with your doctor medication you are taking, including herbal or nutritional supplements or vitamins.
  • Comply with the treatment plan and medication plan prescribed, discussing progress with your doctor.
  • Discuss any side effects of medications.
  • Take care of your physical health, letting your doctor hear about your nutrition and exercise programs.
  • Find purpose in life through low-stress employment or volunteer work and advise your doctor of these actions and how they make you feel.
  • Never deviate from medication instructions or stop taking medication unless your doctor tells you to do so. If your doctor changes your medication plan, talk to doctor about how the change is working for you.
  • Treat your doctor as a member of a team that, working with you, wants you to develop a productive, happy life.