Accepting bipolar II disorder as a lifelong and relapsing condition

I really struggled with the bipolar label and accepting medication was difficult for me. I think that sometimes got in the way of doing things to manage my illness...When I came to terms with my diagnosis I was willing to enter into a discussion and, actually talk to my doctor about options for treatment

- Lee, 21 years old, diagnosed for 1 year.

Bipolar II disorder is a condition where the person has many repeated (or recurrent) mood swings into ‘lows’ (depression) and ‘highs’ (hypomania) over their lifetime.

You may find it hard to accept BPII as a lifelong and recurrent mental health condition. Young adults who have just been diagnosed often find this hard because:

  • they may have had fewer mood swings compared to middle-aged adults who are newly diagnosed or have been diagnosed for a longer time.
  • accepting BPII as lifelong and recurrent might raise particular concerns for young adults who are just starting out their adult life. It can be stressful not knowing what a diagnosis of BPII means in terms of future employment, relationships and starting a family.
  • they are still forming their identity and so a diagnosis of BPII and side-effects of some BPII medications (e.g., difficulties thinking or sedation) might make them question their sense of self and how this relates to their BPII.

Acceptance will take time. This said, accepting the diagnosis of BPII appears to be an important part of accepting treatment and taking an active role in your treatment decision-making and long-term management of the illness. For example, it may be hard for you to accept that long-term medication is needed for staying well unless you accept that BPII is a lifelong condition and that the mood swings may be recurrent.

Clinicians and people with BPII say that learning about BPII helps people feel more comfortable with/accept their BPII diagnosis and its treatment. You can learn more about BPII by:

Other strategies like focusing on creative activities and trying out new roles such as volunteering self-management strategies can help rebuild your sense of self and accept your diagnosis.