Getting Help for Bipolar Disorder
Getting Help and Choosing Treatments
If you think that you or someone you love is suffering from bipolar disorder, seek professional help right away. Early detection of bipolar disorder and treatment provides a better chance of getting and staying well. Seek a board certified mental health professional in your area to make sure your symptoms are related to bipolar disorder and get the professional help you need.
Treatment for bipolar disorder can free and provide you the opportunity to live a free and productive life, without the constant mood swings and unsurity. Effective treatment of bipolar disorder provides relief of most symptoms, reduces the intensity of many manic episodes, and allows you to function freely in your daily life.
B.P. Treatment: What Patients Should Know
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition. It has major ups and downs. Untreated, these ups and downs can have a catastrophic affect. The recurring depressive and manic episodes make it difficult to lead a stable, productive life. In the manic phase, you may display impulsive behaviors that cause great harm to your daily life. In the depressive phase, it may be difficult to do anything at all. Early treatment and professional help can help avoid some of these problems.
Monitored treatment of bipolar disorder depends on a few things. Prescription medication alone is usually not the answer. To get the most out of any treatment it’s good to educate yourself of all possible treatments that are available to you, talk with family member and communicate openly with your therapist or doctor, consider lifestyle chances and look to secure a positive support system.
Recovery takes time and a commitment on your part. Locating the best treatment for you or your love one is very important. With proper management and a positive support system, you can regain control of your life.
What are some things I can do that might help me feel better?
Know the difference between your symptoms and your true self. Your health care providers can help you separate your true identity from your symptoms by helping you see how your illness affects your behavior. Be open about behaviors you want to change and set goals for making those changes.
Educate your family and involve them in treatment when possible. They can help you spot symptoms, track behaviors and gain perspective. They can also give encouraging feedback and help you make a plan to cope with any future crises.
Work on healthy lifestyle choices. Recovery is also about a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular sleep, healthy eating, and the avoidance of alcohol, drugs, and risky behavior.
Find the treatment that works for you. Talk to your health care provider about your medications' effects on you, especially the side effects that bother you. There are many options for you to try. It is very important to talk to your health care provider first before you make any changes to your medication or schedule.
Source: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Bipolar Disorder - Exams and Tests
There are no lab tests for bipolar disorder Instead, your doctor will ask detailed questions about your symptoms, including how long they last and how often you have them. He or she will discuss your family history and may do a mental health assessment.
A mental health assessment tests your emotional functioning and your ability to think, reason, and remember. It includes an interview with a health professional, a physical exam, and written or verbal tests. During the interview, the health professional assesses your appearance, mood, behavior, thinking, reasoning, memory, ability to express yourself, and ability to maintain personal relationships. Blood and urine tests, such as a test of your thyroid, may be done to make sure another problem is not causing your symptoms. A toxicology screen examines blood, urine, or hair for the presence of drugs.
The earlier bipolar disorder is diagnosed and treated, the better your chances of getting the illness under control and improving the quality of your life. Early detection and treatment can help reduce your risk of complications, such as alcohol and drug abuse or suicide.
About 10% to 15% of people with bipolar disorder will die from suicide. Up to 60% of those with bipolar disorder develop drug and alcohol abuse problems, which interfere with successful treatment of the disorder. Source: (Web M.D.)
Types of Bipolar Disorder
There are several types of bipolar disorder. Each type is identified by the pattern of episodes of mania and depression. The treatment that is best for you may differ depending on the type of bipolar disorder you have. Your doctor will look carefully to determine where your symptoms fit.
Bipolar I Disorder (mania and depression) – Bipolar I disorder is the classic form of the illness, as well as the most severe type of bipolar disorder. It is characterized by at least one manic episode or mixed episode. The vast majority of people with bipolar I disorder have also experienced at least one episode of major depression, although this isn’t required for diagnosis.
Bipolar II Disorder (hypomania and depression) – Mania is not involved in bipolar II disorder. Instead, the illness involves recurring episodes of major depression and hypomania, a milder form of mania. In order to be diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, you must have experienced at least one hypomanic episode and one major depressive episode in your lifetime. If you ever have a manic episode, your diagnosis would be changed to bipolar I disorder.
Cyclothymia (hypomania and mild depression) – Cyclothymia is a milder form of bipolar disorder. Like bipolar disorder, cyclothymia consists of cyclical mood swings. However, the highs and lows are not severe enough to qualify as either mania or major depression. To be diagnosed with cyclothymia, you must experience numerous periods of hypomania and mild depression over at least a two-year time span. Because people with cyclothymia are at an increased risk of developing full-blown bipolar disorder, it is a condition that should be monitored and treated.
Is It Bipolar Disorder or Depression?
Bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed. One cause for this is that many individuals with bipolar disorder seek treatment when they are in the most depressive state. When they’re in the manic stage, they don’t realize the problem is presenting itself. Most individuals with bipolar disorder are suffering from symptoms a greater percentage of the time than when they’re manic or hypomanic.
Being misdiagnosed with depression is a serious problem because the treatment for bipolar depression is much different from regular depression. Antidepressants can sometimes make bipolar disorder worse. So it’s the best interest of the individual to see a mood disorder specialist who can help determine what’s going on.
Indicators that your depression is really bipolar disorder:
- You’ve experienced repeated episodes of major depression.
- You had your first episode of major depression before age 25.
- You have a first-degree relative with bipolar disorder.
- When you’re not depressed, your mood and energy levels are higher than most people’s.
- When you’re depressed, you oversleep and overeat.
- Your episodes of major depression are short (less than 3 months)
- You’ve lost contact with reality while depressed.
- You’ve had postpartum depression before.
- You’ve developed mania or hypomania while taking an antidepressant.
- Your antidepressant stopped working after several months.
- You’ve tried 3 or more antidepressants without success.
Source: Help Guide
Exploring Bipolar Disorder Treatment Options
If your therapist feels that you have the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, your therapist should provide you with treatment options and possibly prescribe medication as part of your treatment plan. You therapist may also refer you to another mental health professional, such as a psychologist, counselor, or a bipolar disorder specialist. As a team, you should work with your healthcare providers to develop a treatment plan that works for you.
Comprehensive Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
A comprehensive treatment plan for bipolar disorder aims to relieve symptoms, restore your ability to function, fix problems the illness has caused at home and at work, and reduce the likelihood of recurrence. A complete treatment plan involves:
Medication – Medication is the cornerstone on bipolar disorder treatment. Taking a mood stabilizing medication can help minimize the highs and lows of bipolar disorder and keep symptoms under control.
Psychotherapy – Therapy is essential for dealing with bipolar disorder and the problems it has caused in your life. Working with a therapist, you can learn how to cope with difficult or uncomfortable feelings, repair your relationships, manage stress, and regulate your mood.
Education – Managing symptoms and preventing complications begins with a thorough knowledge of your illness. Education is a key component of treatment. The more you and your loved ones know about bipolar disorder, the better able you’ll be to avoid problems and deal with setbacks.
Lifestyle Management – By carefully regulating your lifestyle, you can keep symptoms and mood episodes to a minimum. This involves maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding alcohol and drugs, following a consistent exercise program, minimizing stress, and keeping your sunlight exposure stable year round.
Support – Living with bipolar disorder can be challenging, and having a solid support system in place can make all the difference in your outlook and motivation. Participating in a bipolar disorder support group gives you the opportunity to share your experiences and learn from others who know what you’re going through. The support of friends and family is also invaluable.
Living and Coping with Bipolar Disorder
Medication Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Most people with bipolar disorder need medication in order to keep their symptoms under control. When medication is continued on a long-term basis, it can reduce the frequency and severity of bipolar mood episodes, and sometimes prevent them entirely. If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you and your doctor will work together to find the right drug or combination of drugs for your needs. Because everyone responds to medication differently, you may have to try several different medications before you find one that relieves your symptoms.
Check in frequently with your doctor. It’s important to have regular blood tests to make sure that your medication levels are in the therapeutic range. Getting the dose right is a delicate balancing act. Close monitoring by your doctor will help keep you safe and symptom-free.
Continue taking your medication, even if your mood is stable. Don’t stop taking your medication as soon as you start to feel better. Most people need to take medication long-term in order to avoid relapse.
Don’t expect medication to fix all your problems. Bipolar disorder medication can help reduce the symptoms of mania and depression, but in order to feel your best, it’s important to lead a lifestyle that supports wellness. This includes surrounding yourself with supportive people, getting therapy, and getting plenty of rest.
Be extremely cautious with antidepressants. Research shows that antidepressants are not particularly effective in the treatment of bipolar depression. Furthermore, they can trigger mania or cause rapid cycling between depression and mania in people with bipolar disorder.
Source: Help Guide
Therapy for bipolar disorder: An Important Part of Treatment
Research indicates that people who take medications for bipolar disorder are more likely to get better faster and stay well if they also receive therapy. Therapy can teach you how to deal with problems your symptoms are causing, including relationship, work, and self-esteem issues. Therapy will also address any other problems you’re struggling with, such as substance abuse or anxiety.
Two types of therapy are especially helpful in the treatment of bipolar disorder:
In cognitive-behavioral therapy, you examine how your thoughts affect your emotions. You also learn how to change negative thinking patterns and behaviors into more positive ways of responding. For bipolar disorder, the focus is on managing symptoms, avoiding triggers for relapse, and problem-solving.
Living with a person who has bipolar disorder can be difficult, causing strain in family and marital relationships. Family-focused therapy addresses these issues and works to restore a healthy and supportive home environment. Educating family members about the disease and how to cope with its symptoms is a major component of treatment. Working through problems in the home and improving communication is also a focus of treatment.
Complementary Treatments for Bipolar Disorder: Word of Caution
"The reality is that there are not a lot of data on complementary therapies for bipolar disorder," says Muskin. "That doesn't mean these products shouldn't be used, but when patients try to find out about them, they shouldn't expect to be able to go to [Web sites] like The New England Journal of Medicine and download a lot of articles."
Muskin recommends ConsumerLab.com as a reputable site where people can go to research complementary therapies. He says, "You can find out whether or not the product you're buying really contains the product you think it does, as well as what it's indicated for and whether it has contaminants." The National Institutes of Health also provides an extensive online database of dietary supplements that includes detailed product and manufacturer.
Most of these therapies are safe, and with the exception of St. John's wort, there is limited evidence of negative interactions with prescription medications. Regardless, patients and their family members should actively research these products before taking them, especially since complementary therapies do not undergo the same strict review process as pharmaceutical medications.
Source: Help Guide
Related Links for Bipolar Disorder Treatment
Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis
How Is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?: Learn about the diagnosis of manic depression, including other conditions that should be ruled out. (University of Maryland Medical Center)
Bipolar Disorder Treatment Options
Treatment of Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families: Learn about the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder. Includes a thorough discussion of treatment options for both the acute and preventive phase of the illness. (Postgraduate Medicine Special Report)
Wrestling with Bipolar Disorder: Article on the treatment of bipolar disorder, including new medication guidelines and the place of psychotherapy. (Psychology Today)
Finding a Bipolar Disorder Treatment Provider:
Finding a Mental Health Specialist: What to Look For and Questions to Ask: Advice for people with bipolar disorder on picking a therapist or psychiatrist. (PsychEducation.org)