If you have a friend or loved one with bipolar disorder, you know this condition can be a challenge. The extreme mood swings and erratic behaviors can be hard for the person with the condition, as well as the people in their life.
Bipolar disorder is much more complicated and grave than dealing with the ups and downs of normal life.
Although the cause is unknown, certain risk factors may include biochemistry changes in the brain, family history, and environmental factors such as severe stress. Bipolar disorder requires lifelong treatment and maintenance, which may cause adverse long-term effects on the body. With treatment and through their own efforts, people with bipolar disorder can live rich, rewarding lives. Treatment for bipolar disorder usually includes a variety of strategies to manage the disease over the long term. Medications are typically an important part of treatment. Those medications may include mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications or antidepressants. Such medications usually need to be taken daily and regularly to be effective.
Treatment for bipolar disorder usually includes a variety of strategies to manage the disease over the long term and the most effective treatment varies from person to person. That’s because our brains, while structured similarly, work differently. While researchers are still trying to pinpoint exactly what causes bipolar disorder, there are numerous treatments available to help calm the symptoms of the disorder.
In a recent report prepared for the Canadian Psychological Association, researchers reviewed numerous studies of bipolar disorder treatment and found that when psychotherapy is used in conjunction with medication, it can significantly reduce rates of relapsing into manic and depressive states and also improve overall functioning and well-being (Canadian Psychology, 2013).
Medications. The goal of bipolar medication treatment is to help alleviate anxiety, depression, mania, and other symptoms. A doctor will often prescribe one medication to see if it works. Depending on the symptoms that you present with, your doctor may prescribe a combination of medications to treat your symptoms. Antipsychotics may be used in acute mania requiring hospitalization, but mood stabilizers (such as lithium) are generally considered the mainstay of therapy for bipolar disorder. In some patients, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may also be used to treat depressive symptoms.
If you regularly take your medication, you should feel some kind of desired effects. Your mood should improve or at least stabilize. You should feel more at ease and overall better about your condition. Some medications can take weeks to reach their full, expected results. Make sure you ask your doctor how long your specific medication should take to kick in and what the expected results should be.
Counselling. In a recent report prepared for the Canadian Psychological Association, researchers reviewed numerous studies of bipolar disorder treatment and found that when psychotherapy is used in conjunction with medication, it can significantly reduce rates of relapsing into manic and depressive states and also improve overall functioning and well-being (Canadian Psychology, 2013).
Counsellors can help people with bipolar disorder recognize and manage symptoms of the disease, change negative thought patterns and behaviours, manage daily routines and improve relationships with family and friends. Also, psychologist-led interventions such as family-focused treatments can also help the relatives of people with bipolar disorder learn strategies for helping their loved one.
To get the most out of counselling therapy you will have little success unless you come ready to share your thoughts and emotions. This may include talking about some painful or embarrassing memories. You may have to reveal parts of your personality that you aren’t proud of, but your therapist is not there to judge you. Discussing the issues that bother you most can help you either change or learn to accept yourself.
Some types of therapy require you to do to “homework” assignments. These generally consist of practicing a skill or technique between therapy sessions. If your therapist assigns you “homework,” make sure to do it.
Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder may come as a shock. But the disease is treatable, and a psychologist can help you manage the disease to live a full and fulfilling life. Generally, there’s little risk in having psychotherapy and medication treatment. But because it can explore painful feelings and experiences, you may feel emotionally uncomfortable at times. However, any risks are minimized by working with a skilled therapist and competent, knowledgeable, health care provider (physician, psychiatrist).
- Bipolar disorder. National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Bipolar-Disorder. Retrieved October 1, 2018 from:
- Bipolar disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved October 1, 2018 from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml.
- Post RM. Bipolar disorder in adults: Choosing maintenance treatment. Retrieved October 1, 2018 from: http://www.uptodate.com/home.
- Stovall J. Bipolar disorder in adults: Pharmacotherapy for acute mania and hypomania. Retrieved October 1, 2018 from: http://www.uptodate.com/home.
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