Bipolar disorder can be one of the most difficult conditions to live with. One day, an individual may feel on top of the world and able to accomplish anything. But euphoria, joy, and confidence are inevitably followed by a period of profound sadness and feelings of hopelessness. For the person suffering from bipolar as well as everyone close to her, it can be a roller coaster ride that never stops.

Unfortunately, while treatable, bipolar disorder is not preventable. "It does tend to run in families and the exact cause of it is not well-understood," says Bryan Bruno, MD, acting chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Certain factors may precipitate an episode, he says. When a person experiences a heavy load of social and psychological stress in a short period of time, "This could precipitate an episode if someone has an underlying propensity to develop it for biological reasons," Bruno says.

Bipolar Disorder Management

Although biopolar disorder may not be preventable, there are a variety of steps you can take to lessen its devastating effects, says Scott Bea, Psy.D, of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

1. Learn the early signs of an episode of mania, Bea advises. When an individual with bipolar is feeling manic, it's more likely that he will engage in negative behaviors like gambling or going on a no-holds-barred shopping spree. To decrease the chances of this, "Create barriers so certain behaviors don't have a chance to occur," Bea suggests. "For instance, maybe have someone hold onto your credit cards so that you can't use them."

2. Speak with your psychiatrist about your medications, Bea says. "Ask the doctor if any of your medicines should be modified," he says. Since a manic episode may mean that you need adjustments in your medication, Bea notes, it is crucial that you keep your doctor in the loop.

3. Get counseling. "Just talking to other people in a group situation can be very helpful," Bea says.

4. Try to avoid major fluctuations in your sleep habits, Bruno advises. "Manic episodes can be triggered by lack of sleep," he says. "So one of the most important things  to do is to get enough sleep."

5. Practice stress reduction techniques. "Reducing and managing stress is crucial," Bruno says. "This is really an under-recognized area." Since bipolar disorder is a biological illness, it's easy to forget that there are psychosocial factors at play, Bruno explains. Make it a point to get regular exercise and consider taking up yoga as well. These can reduce stress and make you generally feel better.

6. Educate yourself about bipolar disorder, Bruno says. "Make sure that you are aware of symptoms so that when you are experiencing an episode, you can prevent it from getting worse," he says.

7. Don't lose hope. Bipolar disorder affects various individuals quite differently, Bea says. It can be very mild and not reoccur, or it can be a nearly constant challenge. "Bipolar disorder is more common than many people think it is," he says. "And many people manage it quite successfully."

Bryan Bruno, MD, acting chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, reviewed this article.