Bipolar Disorder? Then “Act As If”


I hope you’re having a good day.

Today I want to talk to you about a principle I’ve learned called:


Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

When we watch other people, we learn how to “act as if.”

We watch a patient person, and we learn how to be patient.

We don’t have to spend $150 on a course we buy through the mail, or attend a college course, or get a degree in patience, or pay $1,000 to a “patience coach” to teach us how to be patient — we just “act as if” we are patient, until we become a patient person.

Over time, we will become more patient.

If we watch how good listeners listen, we can “act as if” we know how to listen.

Then, one day, we will realize that we really do know how to be a good listener!

Of course, we can’t just watch a doctor and “act as if” we’re a doctor and one day put a shingle on our door and begin practicing medicine, but I think you can understand the principle.

Here’s how it applies to bipolar disorder:

Say you have bipolar disorder, and you go to your bipolar support group, and there’s someone there who is really stable.

Well, you observe them, and you “act as if” you are stable.

Over time, IF you do the same things that they do to be stable, then, you can be stable, too.

Same thing with being a supporter.

If you see someone who’s a good supporter, “act as if” you’re a good supporter, and IF you do the same things they do to be a good supporter, then, over time, you can be a good supporter, too.

Here’s how it can work with attitudes:

If you have a bad attitude, just “act as if” you have a good attitude and, with time, you will have a good attitude!

I talk a lot about how very important it is to have a good attitude, whether you have bipolar disorder or are supporting someone who does, in my courses/systems:










If you’re in a bad mood, even, just “act as if” you’re in a good mood and, over time, you will be in a good mood.

Same thing with understanding.  Pick a person you know who you consider an understanding person.  Observe them.

Then “act as if.”

Pretty soon, you will be an understanding person, too.

And if you’re a supporter, you know how important being understanding of your loved one is.

Whatever characteristic you want, this principle will work for it.

Try kindness, for example.  Find someone who is kind, then “act as if.”

If you want to be a hard worker, find someone who is, then “act as if.”

Or creative.  Everyone can be creative in some way or another.  Now, I’m not saying everyone was born to be a Picasso or an actor or a famous composer or writer.

But everyone has some creativity in them.  Find someone you would like to model.

Then “act as if” you are creative, and you will be!

You can do anything you want to do.

You can have any characteristic you want to have.

You can be anything you want to be.

Just “act as if.”

If you have bipolar disorder, and you want stability, then “act as if” you are stable (just remember to do all the things you need to do in order to be stable as well).

If you want to be a good supporter, then just “act as if” you are a good supporter.  The rest will come over time.

If you want to be a good person, find a good person whose qualities you admire.

Then “act as if” you already have those qualities.

Over time, you will have those qualities.

Just remember the principle of:


Try this principle for yourself.

Then let me know the results.

I love hearing success stories!

David Oliver is the author of the shocking guide “Bipolar Disorder—The REAL Silent Killer.” Click Here to get FREE Information sent via email on how and why bipolar disorder kills.

  1. Dave,
    Your concepts are glorious regarding “act as if”; however, here I am, bipolar, with the world at my fingertips, so to speak, and I feel paralyzed with this illness. I have nowhere to go, nothing to do and no one to see. I have laundry to fold, a house to clean and sunshine outside to take my dog for a walk in. And I don’t want to do anything. Anything. My psychiatrist tells me, “Wanting to is not an option”. But she’s not the one with the bipolar disorder. If she had it, I’m sure she would change her tune.

    So it’s minute-by-minute for me, as I’m a rapid cycler and have had this monster inside of me for 30 years come October. And I STILL can’t seem to get on the right medication. My world is lost.


  2. HI ………..
    I don,t need to “ACT AS IF”,I no in my heart ov hearts i am a good person, and i surly do need to follow any one else,s foot steps.

    Take Care Linda x

  3. For Troy: My heart goes out to you as you seem to have a very hard time dealing with BP. I will Pray for you to get better and find the proper meds to help you so you can think and regain your creativity once again.

  4. I agree with you Dave, that the way we all learn how to “act” to fit in society is best served by observing those who do well, and by following their examples.

    Sometimes those of us who are bipolar get to a point that our main goal is to survive.Thinking very hard about positive behavior is surplanted by the need to just stay to fight another day.

    It is unfortunate that is how children learn to act who were in abusive situations when children.That is why it happens that some of those who were abused as children turn out to be abusers. Our behavior is learned by what we observe.

    When we get older hopefully we “get” that those that are getting positive reactions from others for their behavior, should be role-models for us.

    Betsy, being rapid-cycler myself, I know how dehibilating it can be. I am never sure, and the people who have close contact with me, just what mood Willy will be in a day from now. All can seem to be going well, and then the bottom falls out. I can only hope that you find some way to work things out. I know that sometimes just, living life, can seem insurmountable.

  5. Dave,

    I really liked the “act as if”. It can be used on so many aspects of life. I wanted to mention one thing. I completely agree with the part where you state how you can’t watch a doctor and then hang out a shingle and practise medicine yourself. However, for anyone that has medical issues, bipolar or anything else, you CAN research and learn as much as possible. For me, I have to deal with fibromyalgia along with bipolar, ocd, AND a strange sleeping problem where I get little REM sleep no matter how much I sleep yet it is not a sleep apnea. These issues combined make it even harder because some medicines that might help my sleep I can’t take because of the bipolar. Yet I’ve learned so much about my conditions that when I first went to my current pain doctor – he actually asked me where did I study medicine towards the end of the visit. Except I’ve never ‘studied’ medicine anywhere. I’ve just researched. I feel it is important to know myself all that I can about my medical issues and this is very important for anyone. Unfortunately there are doctors out there who are not very good or don’t care too much – at least on the pain control side and knowing about your condition can help figure this out sometimes so you can find a good doctor to help you.

  6. The ACT AS IF concept is really true. I am a supporter. My husband, whom I am separated , has bipolar and schizophrenia. I have a son with depression, one with ADHD and one with OCD. I have MULTIPLE SCHLEROSIS. So having 5 children which 3 of them have certain illnesses and a husband with illnesses it is real hard and very over whelming to deal with. I play the role of mom and dad. I work two jobs to support my children. So very over whelming indeed. Any way I could go around moping and be all down but I take it upon myself to have things go great. I play the what if game I pretend all is great and put a smile on my face and keep going. Then all is well. No my M.S. ,my husbands bipolar etc, my 3 sons illness do not go away. I still have to work 2 jobs to support my family. But I can get through it and feel good about life. Thanks for your words of advice. Great stuff.

  7. Great column, today! (As always!) Sometimes it is hard for me to “act” in what other people might describe as a “normal” way, but I do my best, and I always believe that if others can’t accept me for the way I am, and I have done everything I can to do what’s “right”, then the problem doesn’t just lie with me.

  8. My Dad was a great believer in “Act enthusiastic and you’ll BE enthusiastic!” I heard this from early childhood onward. It is sorta ingrained in me by now…

    I’m also an actress, who has appeared at Dinner Theaters, so I KNOW how to ACT AS IF. Unfortunately, it becomes harder and harder in a depression to “act as if” nothing is wrong, when in fact, EVERYTHING is wrong. During my one-and-only bout of clinical depression, I was forced to go to work every day to pay the bills. It was as if I was moving in a very dark cloud; I felt I couldn’t accomplish anything. Fortunately, I had an office all to myself with floor to ceiling windows, so when I got done with my work (which wasn’t very much, to be honest with you), I’d gaze out the windows and think of – nothing. When I had to go to another office building, I would count my steps, just as if I were in a OCD condition. I’d come home and go to bed. At this time, I had just bought my apartment house, so I had THAT and the tenants to contend with. Needless to say – it was HARD, but I survived.

    Now, I’m in “mixed episode,” but my shrink says I can take half the dosage of Klonopin because I’m dizzy AND confused, and she “may” have me on too high a dose. I’ll have to try it tonight.

    I have a blind date tomorrow afternoon at 2. He sounds like a nice guy, so I DON’T want to cancel on him. I’ll go to bed early tonight so I can get up early tomorrow morning and shower and change my Fentanyl patch. I may even do a laundry! If I DO get up in time, I’ll ascertain my “mood,” and see if I’m “UP” for the date.

    Fortunately, going on blind dates doesn’t affect my anxiety. On one hand, it encourages me to ACT AS IF I’m a normal person who can deal with other normal people, and if, by chance, I do something “out of character,” I can blame it on being nervous on a first date!

    BIG HUGS to all bipolar survivors and those who love us. May God bless you real good. I pray for my country.

  9. I heard another way of saying this at an AA meeting over 25 years ago:
    You can’t think yourself into a new way of acting, but,
    You can act yourself into a new way of thinking.

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