Treating Bipolar Disorder

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Treating Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depression, is one of the major mental illnesses described in the DSM-IV-TR. It is characterized by episodes of depression and mania. The first article in this series, Understanding the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, explains these phenomena and discusses the different types of Bipolar Disorders. This article will tell you some treatment options.

Typically, a person with Bipolar Disorder will need a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Many people see a doctor for medication and think it will be enough to deal with the symptoms of the disorder. In order to really understand the problem, therapy is necessary. Medication can help manage, but not cure, the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. Most people are left experiencing persistent symptoms, even when taking medication. For that reason I recommend that people go to therapy.

A trained therapist can help you identify behavioral strategies to manage the symptoms of depression and mania. A common form of therapy used with Bipolar Disorder is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of therapy that teaches people to understand the thinking behind certain emotions and irrational behaviors. It can also teach people to change behaviors in order to influence their thoughts and feelings.

Another important strategy for managing Bipolar Disorder is relaxation exercises. The therapist will teach you to relax in order to manage some of the anxiety and physical discomfort that may accompany the stress. Breathing exercises, visualizations, and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) are common relaxation exercises that will improve your ability to manage symptoms.

Mindfulness is another way to manage some of the negative emotions you may be experiencing. Mindfulness is a technique that teaches you to identify and be with your emotions without over/under reacting to them. It is very useful for those who experience depression or hypomania.

Therapy is often needed, especially when first diagnosed. My motto is, “The wise are the healers.” It makes sense to have an objective, knowledgeable person to talk to as you learn how Bipolar Disorder affects your life. A therapist can help you manage the emotions you are experiencing and seek a diagnosis. Physical therapy can also help with important things such as establishing a healthy routine to help manage symptoms.

Having a healthy daily routine is very important to both managing and identifying symptoms. The best ability you have to maintain a simple daily routine will be to notice if the episode of depression or mania begins. Also, regular exercise will help you keep yourself in balance.

Keeping a daily mood chart is one way to notice if your mood starts to change and if there are any triggers or patterns to your mood changes. A therapist can help you identify important points to include in your daily schedule. Seeing your mood begin to change is one way to help yourself manage the symptoms and not be ‘blindsided’ by an event.

Diet and exercise can also help treat Bipolar Disorder. Exercising daily can help reduce the number of depressive episodes you experience. Similarly, a low carb, high Omega 3 diet can help stabilize mood swings. You can talk to a doctor, nutritionist, or therapist to learn more about dietary options.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is another common way to treat Bipolar Disorders that do not respond to medication. ECT involves electrical shocks to the brain administered in a controlled environment by a trained physician.

We do not expect you to know how to manage the symptoms of this disorder because you have been diagnosed with it. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help from friends, family, doctors or therapists. People with Bipolar Disorder can live healthy, productive lives when treated with the right medication and learn behavioral skills to manage symptoms.

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