Sanity and the City: Relationships at Work

Managing bipolar disorder at work

There’s no doubt about it that creating and maintaining successful relationships in work situations can be hard, and there are many reasons for this. Three of the most significant are “The three Ps” – personalities, politics and pressure.

In any working environment you’re thrown together with people with whom you may have nothing in common or would actively try to avoid in the outside world. Also, however harmonious an atmosphere, people will always have their own agendas they want to pursue and these may not always meet with your own. Then there’s the competitive nature of most workplaces with pressure to perform against what can sometimes seem to be totally unrealistic targets.

Plus, if you’re one of the 1% of people thought to suffer from bipolar disorder at some point in your life, surviving the workplace environment can be harder still.

While time in the office can present problems then social occasions may be even more difficult to negotiate. Someone in a manic phase can find it all too easy to feel over stimulated and be encouraged to drink too much. Or, for someone in a more depressive mood, there’s unlikely to be the desire to go out and be the life and sole of the party.

Many mental health professionals believe that it’s important for people with a bipolar disorder to be open with employers and colleagues about how they’re feeling at any particular time and also to create situations in which they feel comfortable asking for help when they need it.

Of course, the one person who can do the most to help the situation is the sufferer themself and a great deal of this involves being able to monitor their own mood and to be aware of any changes that could be on the way.

Signs to look out for are starting to feel hyper-critical of others as well as losing feelings of empathy and understanding as these could signify the beginnings of a manic phase. On the other hand, lethargy, indecisiveness and feelings of pointlessness could indicate a depressive episode’s on the way.

Dr Kaleem Baig, a consultant psychiatrist at The Priory Hospital Southampton believes that a degree of self-control can be very beneficial in limiting these kinds of mood swings at work. So his advice is primarily to concentrate on having a healthy lifestyle by minimising stress, sleeping and eating well and steering clear of drink and drugs. Also, by explaining to co-workers what it’s like to suffer from a bipolar disorder it promotes understanding and tolerance.

Naturally, there are also times when professional mental health intervention is vital and this is when getting in touch with experts is the most sensible course of action.