Approximately 2.6 percent of American adults live with bipolar disorder according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI, 2013). People with bipolar can succeed in nearly any career, depending on their aptitudes and ability to manage stress and to stay healthy. However, people with bipolar should be aware of some challenges of bipolar and of careers that may better suit their personalities. Being conscious of the traits of the ideal career is more important than the title of the job itself for someone with bipolar disorder.
Jobs with lower stress and more flexibility suit people with bipolar best. Bipolar disorder may require you to take time off for counseling or for manic or severe depressive episodes, so part-time or flexible hours may be important. A work environment that is sensitive, supportive, and willing to work with you to accommodate the challenges of bipolar disorder is necessary. You may do best in a job that has steady hours rather than shift work or on-call positions. Getting regular sleep is a primary factor in maintaining good mood stability. It is important for you to have some autonomy at work. You might need the ability to schedule your workload and avoid excessive overload times, keeping a relaxed atmosphere in your workspace and keeping a structured work environment conducive to proper concentration. You may do best when you set your own goals and can use some creativity on the job. Predictable hours and consistency in work projects, team members and the chain of command are important qualities in the ideal job.
The worst jobs for people with bipolar disorder are those involving high stress. Stress, combined with poor sleep, is a common trigger for mood swing episodes. A steady workload is better than experiencing sudden, unexpected projects and deadlines. You might need to switch career paths within your current vocation. You may want to work limited hours with less stress. Any position that presents distractions such as noise, activity or interruptions may not be your best choice. Many people with bipolar disorder also do not fare well in jobs that require repetitive physical or mental activities, shift work, travel, swing shifts and night shifts. Try to stay with regular daytime hours. A research study published in August 2013 in the journal Biological Psychiatry reported that inconsistent sleep schedules, such as traveling across time zones, working shift work or night shifts, or anything that upsets your body's natural circadian rhythms, is an important element to triggering manic attacks.
In short, there is no ideal job for a person with bipolar disorder. Any job or career, even one in progress, can be scaled to focus around your well-being. Every person can contribute in ways that suit their talents and abilities without jeopardizing their health. Find a career that is rewarding, even if it means making less money. Utilize the many free online classes to learn new marketable skills, or put your energies into a hobby that helps you feel rewarded. If your current job does not support you, or it is too high stress, you may need to consider a change. Because people with bipolar disorder tend to act impulsively, talk about the effects of a job change with your therapist and family before taking any action.