How to Deal With a Coworker Diagnosed With Bipolar Disease


Learn about the disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression), according to the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, there may be periods where an individual with bipolar disorder does not appear affected by the disorder at all. By understanding the symptoms of the disorder, you can be better prepared for the episodes. Moreover, understanding the disorder will help reduce stigmatization and encourage coworkers to make others aware of their health problems. Journalist Sandy Naiman received national attention when she told coworkers about her bipolar disorder. Her coworkers largely applauded her effort to provide immediate supervisors with information about her illness, emergency contact numbers and information about what to do if she became ill. In understanding the disorder, her coworkers found it easier to manage.

Many speakers travel from workplace to workplace to talk about bipolar disorder at work and reducing stigmatization. One example is Victoria Maxwell, whose website can be found below. If possible, arrange for one of these speakers to appear at your workplace.


Maintain an optimal work environment. Numerous triggers can send an individual with bipolar disorder into a depressive or manic episode. Many of these triggers can be avoided by taking simple steps within the workplace. For example, lack of sunlight can lead to a depressive episode for those with bipolar disorder. Thus, ensuring an individual with bipolar disorder works in an area with a window or installing full-spectrum lighting that mimics natural light can be beneficial.


Take suicide threats seriously. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of the suicides that occurred in 2003 and 2004 involved a victim with at least one documented mental health diagnoses. Moreover, bipolar disorder was the second most documented mental illness, with depression being the first. Consequently, if your coworker is talking about suicide, you should encourage him or her to seek immediate medical attention.

Bipolar disorder affects roughly 5.7 million adults in the United States in a given year, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. Bipolar disorder generally develops in a person's teenage or early adult years, but it can develop later. Although bipolar disorder can make life difficult on the coworkers of individuals who have been diagnosed, there are ways to work alongside an individual who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.