When a Bipolar Coping Skill Stops Working

April 8, 2018 Natasha Tracy

Bipolar coping skills are critical to surviving this mental illness but, unfortunately, sometimes a bipolar coping skill stops working. What do you do when you rely on a bipolar coping skill and it stops working?Unfortunately, it is the case that bipolar coping skills can sometimes stop working. This echoes the unpleasant experience of many with medications that can stop working due to tolerance. One doesn’t develop a physical tolerance to a coping skill, but sometimes changes in life or treatment can cause a bipolar coping skill to stop working. Here’s how to handle it when you rely on a bipolar coping skill that just stops working.

My Bipolar Coping Skill that Stopped Working

I used to rely on a bipolar coping skill somewhat like meditation pretty much every day. Every day in the afternoon, I would spend time being quiet, with my eyes closed, focusing my thoughts. When I did this, the unwanted thoughts of bipolar disorder would lessen. My brain would be more under my control. It was like a mini bipolar vacation that I needed to make it through the day.

Unfortunately for me, this bipolar coping skill stopped working a few months ago. I, literally, just can’t do it anymore.

Why Might a Bipolar Coping Skill Stop Working?

Bipolar coping skills are great but they sometimes are time-dependent. Sometimes they work in one situation but the identical skill won’t work in another.

Additionally, bipolar coping skills often work depending on your level of illness. For example, if you’re experiencing moderate depression, a coping skill is much more likely to be effective than if your depression is severe and life-threatening.

Also, medications can change your brain to the point where bipolar coping skills stop working. Such is the case for me. I’m on a medication cocktail right now that is highly problematic because of its induction of severe agitation.

What to Do When a Bipolar Coping Skill Stops Working

Unfortunately, it’s really hard when a bipolar coping skill that you rely on stops working. I really relied on this one and now it’s no longer in my toolbox. I’m not happy.

But, it is a toolbox. More than one thing fits in that toolbox. And if something has changed in my life to the point where a specific bipolar coping skill stops working, it stands to reason that a different skill might take its place. This is what I’m looking for now. To some extent, moving around (one might call it “exercising”) seems to help at times but I’m still looking for something better. I will say that exercise would have never worked before because of the severe depression, so things have definitely changed.

I think the important part is to be open to new techniques and even try old techniques that didn’t work the last time. Because I do believe there are effective bipolar coping skills out there for everyone, but we have to do the work to find them.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2018, April 8). When a Bipolar Coping Skill Stops Working, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Mike Oberholzer
April, 20 2018 at 1:10 am

I have coping skills, learnt over a long period of work, does not work, time teaches us those we can rely on. I know now that when I am manic, and finally it "clicks"? to just get out, take time out, go sit by myself. Same goes for depressive episodes the best is to be on my own, I will get over it. My Christian Faith plays a big role also, but I've come to the conclusion that introverts may cope better, I am, they not so linked to needing people around them all the time

April, 14 2018 at 12:56 pm

I have looked repeatedly over the years for someone experienced in or at least open to non prescription management of bp. Have not found anyone within my traveling radius, and especially no help since limited to Kaiser Sr advantage. will be checking again, also for peer support aimed at no prescription or minimal prescription management.
Things DO change: maybe there will be more options this time.

April, 12 2018 at 12:14 am

I have really been struggling over the last ten years because one of my major coping skills is no longer available to me. From childhood onward, I was very physically active and participated in lots of sports. That has always helped me focus and maintain a half-decent sleep/wake pattern.
By about 20 years ago, had to give up most of that due to fibromyalgia, so switched to daily hour long brisk walks each morning and occasional brief cross country skiing or swimming. That worked for another 15 years.
Then, 5 years ago, problems with RA got so bad I couldn't exercise much. BP got much worse, especially deeper depressive episodes and lack of focus / organization, really messed up sleeping patterns.
Am 65 years young, and also have very severe MCS [multiple chemical sensitivity] and had very atypical severe reactions to psych meds taken briefly when I was much younger, so very hesitant to even consider them as an option.
Also, have recently lost most of my support network, too. Mainly to sudden death or disability: most were older than me.
So, at this point, trying to find my way out of a stuck place...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natasha Tracy
April, 12 2018 at 9:07 am

Hi Di,
I'm very sorry to read this. I hope you're seeing a therapist as they may be able to help you through this difficult time.
- Natasha Tracy

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