Are there fields you should avoid because it might trigger your symptoms?
In attempting to answer this question it seems that research on this topic has been quite limited. However I was able to find some information along with some resources that may be useful for people with bipolar disorder who wonder what work environment/s may be best. While researching this topic a frequent theme often cropped up, that people with bipolar disorder can have a difficult time working outside of the home. However it was also often cited that some people with bipolar excel at jobs outside of the home. It appears that what may work for one person may not work for the next person. It seems to be a very individual thing depending on a person’s interests, strengths and limitations. So how does a person with bipolar disorder find a work environment or a career that will be most suitable for them?
There are a few ways that a person can try and determine what type of work may be best for them. One would be to think about whether a particular job will utilize your skills and strengths. It would also be helpful to avoid jobs that would be too stressful or demanding for you. For example if you are one to be easily distracted by a lot of noise and activity it would be wise to look for a work environment that is not too busy or noisy. One way to have more control over your environment is to become self-employed or work out of your home. Although this may not work for some people with bipolar it can be very good for others. Some examples of work at home jobs are freelance writing, data entry, and administrative work. If it is important for you to have a lot of autonomy, flexibility and control over your work environment working at home may be for you. If you are not sure about what would be best often times seeking the advice of an employment counsellor can be useful. This way your individual needs can be looked at and discussed and that can often be beneficial when deciding what type of job would be best for you to pursue.
Carol Horton Tremblay of Oregon State University did a study on workplace accommodations and job success for persons with bipolar disorder. In this study she found that certain job characteristics helped 39 outpatients with bipolar I and II be more successful at their jobs. These characteristics are: flexibility in work schedule policies, autonomy, and a supervisor willing to accommodate individuals. Some examples from this study are things like freedom to work at home, allowances for leaves of absence, frequent breaks, control over goal-setting, creativity required on the job and avoidance of jobs with a pace set by machinery. The study also suggested that repetitious physical activity or mental activity should be avoided. It stated that other things to avoid are jobs with shift work, travel and night shifts as these types of jobs can cause sleep disturbance/deprivation in many people with bipolar disorder. Although this is only one study it at least gives people with bipolar disorder some sort of idea as to what to look for in a job and a workplace environment.
Other careers that have been suggested for people with bipolar are: writer, artist, photographer, reporter, actor/actress, singer/songwriter, inventor, and freelance work. Of course these jobs may not be suitable for everyone but many people with bipolar disorder excel at these kinds of jobs. For high school, college and university students who have bipolar disorder it would be wise to seek advice from a school counsellor if you are having trouble deciding on a career choice. It may be difficult for some students to disclose their bipolar disorder to a counsellor but it is vital that you do. Everything you tell the counsellor is kept confidential. The information you share about your bipolar disorder will help the counsellor give you advice on what type of career may be best for your individual needs. If you have trouble verbalizing or disclosing information about your bipolar an option would be for you to write it out ahead of time and give it to your counsellor to read.
If seeing a school or employment counsellor is not for you, obtaining some information on career choices can be sought through websites or books. For instance a book called “What Color is My Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers”, by Richard N. Bolles discusses ways of trying to find a job that takes advantage of your gifts and talents. Another book that may be helpful to you is “The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide”, by David J. Miklowitz. Some websites that may be useful are: www.isbd.org , www.bipolarworld.net , www.mcmanweb.com and www.onestops.info , www.askjan.org , www.dbsalliance.org , www.everydayhealth.com
Keep in mind that when deciding on a type of career or work environment there is not one particular field that is best suited for a person with bipolar disorder. A lot will depend on your own interests and individual needs.
Thank you for your question. Please visit www.askabipolar.com in the future if you have more questions to pose to our writers – Vicky