Getting Support for Bipolar Disorder Online: Some Suggestions for Streamlining the Process

Posted on July 3, 2012 by


If you’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (BD), and you feel alone, or isolated, or desirous of more information about the illness, or you just want to connect to others who share your situation, you need walk no further than to your computer chair.

Between online support groups, blogs, Twitter, you can get information and support with the click of a mouse. In fact, there’s so much available for BD support, that teasing out what works for you as opposed to what’s best left other clickers can become somewhat of a task.

In the interest of preventing overwhelm, this post highlighs some of the top [and maybe some not-so-top, I'll admit] resources for online BD support.

If it’s an online support group you’re wanting, there’s a multiplicity; the trick is really picking and choosing until you find something that meets your needs. Should you desire news features, information about medications, emotional support–it’s all out there.

The WebMD® Bipolar Disorder Community is moderated by WebMD, so it’s a cut above. As opposed to so many conversation threads that you find on the online support groups [including, ahem, some mentioned later in this post], the discussions are focused, to-the-point, practical and helpful. For example, on the day I went on, there were questions about meds causing migraines, whether physical illness was a trigger for mood swings, and what medications a woman could take while pregnant.

It’s got such a wealth of useful information that I can’t summarize it here, but highlights include a list of blogs and websites to use as resources and an extensive list of crisis assistance options. Additionally, the slideshow, “Understanding Bipolar Disorder,” is particularly well-done.

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance has an interesting approach to online support.

They explain the rules:

The DBSA Online Support Groups meet at selected times. Please note that you will not be able to access the online meeting room outside of these times. Each online support group is capped at 12 participants and the room opens 10 minutes before the meeting time. Groups fill up quickly, so try to arrive early. Participation in the groups is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The setting of a time and limiting of participants makes the conversation more focused-and weeds out some ridiculousness [yes, you're bound to found it] that can arise in arenas with unlimited air time for all.  (Perhaps the 3am websurfers are less choherent, especially after having taken Ambien.)

A step down in quality, but still appealing to number of users, Bipolar Disorder Connect is related to the app on your smartphone. [I featured it in my post, "There’s a Bipolar App For That, Part II: Beyond Just Mood Tracking," if you want a different day's viewpoint.]

With the tagline, “Fresh information and real support.Fueled by an active, caring community,” the site has you join to feel truly connected. Just so you’re forewarned, the discussions can range from the sublime to the ridiculous, and some have such a periperhal connection to BD that I get lost.  Their news articles, although variable, tend to be of a higher caliber than the discussions.

Their health center is the real deal, though, with videos on topics  from the definition for Major Depressive Disorder to symptoms and causes of BD, and articles on antipsychotic medications, preventing manic episodes, stigma–what you’d like to get from a support site.

PsychCentral has a list of online bipolar support groups, featuring their own forum, which does require that you log in, and thus is more targeted.

A personal recommendation from their more extensive list is Bipolar support group, which writes of itself:

This is a support list for individuals who have been diagnosed with an affective disorder. This list also offers support for those significant others who want to learn more about this disorder to better understand the chemical imbalances. It’s not fun having this disorder and it’s important to find others who can support you when you’re struggling with these highs and lows. That’s why we’re here and we can offer support to each other. . .

They also add a warning which I believe most people truly looking for support would appreciate: “anyone looking for info for projects, surveys, or is NOT legitmately bipolar or a supporter of one are not welcome.”

Finally, despite a tendency towards profanity and levity on Reddit, their bipolar subreddit is remarkably supportive.

The subreddit’s mission is :

A Reddit to share information about who you are, how you think, and what helps you cope in life. Only text/self posts are allowed in this reddit. Please post your desired links in the self post with a description of the link, and start a discussion around it :) Please let this sharing be constructive, informative, and polite.

A few of today’s entries were “Diet and Bipolar,” “Another change in medication on its way,” and “I feel so lost right now I just need to let it out.” It’s a highly responsive group, so each one of the above has multiple comments, providing give and take in response. Additionally, you can sign in to Reddit with a pseudonym, so your identity is completely protected as you work your way through your challenges, and respond to others’.

If Twitter’s your bag, there seem like a limitless number of tweeps;   you can feel the situation out until you find some you’re comfortable with. Personal recommendations for quality, relevant tweets include @thebalancedmind, @bipolar_news, @natasha_tracy, and @BipolarLine.

Additionally, there’s Bipolar Twibe, dedicated exclusively to tweets on BD by pre-approved tweeps. It describes itself  as “For people who have or know someone with bipolar disorder, to provide support, and discuss treatments and coping tools.”  You can tweet on the site without having your tweet go through to your Twitter account. [For those of you who are lost, a 'twibe' is just a fancy, Elmer-Fudd-sounding word that defines a group of Twitter users with a common interest. Tweeps are, for lack of a better word, Twitter-ers.]

A July 3rd check finds tweets on substance abuse and BD, living with BD, and BD and pregnancy.

The bipolar blogging community is vast and deep. Many people find support once they’ve established a niche for themselves, and comments are positive and frequent. If you’re a WordPress user and want some suggestions about where to get started, please contact me; there are excellent, positive and responsive bloggers who create a real community.

If you’re looking for more professional blogs, Healthline puts out a list of the Top Best Bipolar Blogs every year, and sure enough they’ve got one for 2012, which is worth going through.

You’ll notice a small pattern here, as Natasha Tracy, whom I recommended on Twitter, has an excellent site dedicated mostly to Bipolar II, entitled the Bipolar Burble, featured by Healthline. Another favorite is Bipolar Beat, PsychCentral’s blog, moderated by Dr. Candida Fink [and who couldn't like someone with that first name?] and Joe Kraynak, the writing talent behind the operation, who also has a family member with BD.

Dr. Fink focuses on the medical piece, while Kraynak provides resources and more of a narrative touch. On the day I checked, Dr. Fink had an informative post on “Regulating Your Circadian Rhythm With Lithium” based on a PLOS study, while Kraynak was writing of his experiences starting a NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) group in his Indiana town, and soliciting ideas for the best way to run it. The blog is definitely a cut above in terms of information and professionalism. It has fewer comments and less reader interaction than some of the more ‘home-grown’ blogs, so you just have to know what you like.

Many people are big fans of Bipolar Hope, run for and by people with BD and their caregivers, family and friends. It’s less medically oriented than Bipolar Beat, and more inviting of reader contribution. Blogger posts are mostly based on personal experiences, rather than research, and it’s generally an easier, breezier read than Fink’s and Kraynak’s blog.

One not on the list that should have been, I believe, is Madam Bipolar. Lisa McLean, the brains behind this operation, writes of her blog, “As a former health journalist and consumer advocate, I aim to provide bipolar disorder information and insights into mental health in Australia. . . .This blog is about information and advocacy for bipolar disorder. It is also about my journey from diagnosis to acceptance.”

Don’t be frightened off by the Down Under allusion–the blog is applicable to anyone with a mental illness, particularly BD. Brief posts, with a breezy and accessible writing style, and a finger on the pulse of issue of concern to people with BD, made this blog a go-to place for so many for years.  Some of my favorite posts are “Five Ways Not To Support Someone With A Mental Illness,” “Five Things About Bipolar Disorder & Depression,” and “You haven’t changed, except for your issues.” It’s much less medically focused than Fink’s pieces.

Unfortunately, Lisa McLean, the brains behind the operation, has been trying to move on, and leave Madam Bipolar for other avenues–but her fans have been giving her a hard time about letting go. Currently we’re guest editing for a stint, with pieces on medical comorbidities and BD [first part here], and hopefully she can keep that structure, of guest editing and guest posts, going. Meanwhile, all her old, superlative posts still stand, waiting for an interested reader.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. There are people all over the globe just waiting for you to find them on your Mac or PC–or mobile, now that I think of it–so you can travel this landscape together. Start clicking today.