Learn how to treat bipolar disorder effectively with our useful guide which details symptoms, diagnosis, prognosis and a variety of treatment methods.
As many as 5.7 million adults in the United States suffer with bipolar disorder, with 82.9 percent of them experiencing severe symptoms.
According to the World Health Organization, bipolar disorder, sometimes also called manic-depressive disorder, is the sixth leading cause for disability worldwide, affecting all races, genders, ethnic groups and socio-economic classes. This is a significant concern, especially since as many as 20 percent of sufferers will complete a suicide attempt.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes significant and unusual changes in mood, in energy and in activity levels that can affect the ability to carry out daily tasks. The symptoms are more severe than the normal ups and downs in mood. Based on current research, there is no single cause for bipolar disorder, with multiple genes and environment playing a role.
Bipolar disorder does not discriminate between genders; it occurs equally among both men and women. However, rapid cycling is more likely to occur in women, but early onset is more common in men, and they experience higher levels of substance abuse than women. Although bipolar disorder does often appear in families, twin studies have indicated that genetics is not a singular or conclusive indicator for developing the disorder.
You first need to identify the symptoms in order to know how to treat bipolar disorder effectively. Changes in emotional reactions are significant and intense for those who have bipolar disorder, and they occur in distinct time periods. They represent a drastic change in a person’s normal responses, moods and behaviors. The person may exhibit an overly elated, excessively excited or extremely sad or hopeless mood. People may experience both manic and depressive episodes, and they may be irritable or prone to temper explosions during episodes.
Manic episode symptoms include mood and behavior changes. Mood changes include a long period of feeling abnormally “high” or overly happy or gregarious. Major manic episodes include these feelings for a week or more, while a hypomania episode lasts at least four days. Episodes will include three or more of the following symptoms, as well: feelings of inflated self-esteem; a decreased need for sleep; excessive and unusual talkativeness; racing thoughts and extreme distractibility; intensified focus on goals, an increase in new projects, or high levels of agitation and restlessness; heightened participation in activities that carry high-risk for serious injury or painful consequences, including spending sprees, sexual promiscuity or indiscrete behavior or reckless business investments and decisions.
Major depressive episodes in bipolar disorder last two weeks or more, and include the following symptoms: feeling sad, empty, hopeless or tearful most of the day, nearly every day; significant reduction of interest or pleasure in all or most of all activities; significant changes in weight (when not dieting) and changes in appetite; sleeping trouble; fatigue or loss of energy; worthlessness or inappropriate guilt feelings; inability to concentrate, remember or make decisions; recurrent thoughts of death, including planning or attempting suicide.
During severe episodes, some people may also experience psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations and delusions, which may lead to a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia. Others may abuse alcohol and other chemical substances, and they may experience difficulties in relationships and with poor work performance. Symptoms may be severe enough to require in-patient hospital treatment for bipolar disorder, so it is very important to recognise the symptoms in order to know how to treat bipolar disorder effectively.
There is no “test” for bipolar disorder, despite recent claims. When making a diagnosis, doctors should include a physical examination and laboratory tests to eliminate stroke, brain tumors, thyroid dysfunction or other physical conditions as explanations for presenting symptoms. Diagnostics will also include an in-depth interview and, possibly, a self-reported questionnaire. The doctor will discuss thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns with the patient. Questions will help the doctor rule out a diagnosis of major, unipolar depression and other mental health issues. The doctor may also ask the patient to chart his or her moods to record daily moods, sleep patterns and possible triggers so they can understand how to treat bipolar disorder effectively for each individual patient.
There are four common bipolar disorder diagnoses. None is considered “worse” than another is; they differ primarily in the cycle and duration of mood episodes.
With a Bipolar I Disorder diagnosis, there must have been at least one manic episode lasting at least seven days or of severe enough intensity to require hospitalization. A Bipolar II Disorder diagnosis is applied to patients with at least one depressive period of two weeks or more and at least one hypomania episode, without a major manic episode.
Cyclothymia may be diagnosed after at least two years of hypomania and depression, both less than major episodes. The symptoms must be present at least half of the time, with symptom-free periods lasting less than two months.
Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is diagnosed when a patient has four or more major depressive or manic, hypomanic or mixed episodes in a single year.
The median age of onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years, meaning that half of all patients exhibit symptoms by that time, although it can begin later in life, as well. The disorder may take a severe, debilitating path, or episodes may be mild and infrequent. On average, a patient will experience eight to 10 episodes over his or her lifetime.
Although bipolar disorder is a long-term life concern, it can be successfully treated and controlled if a patient is willing to cooperate in his or her own treatment. Bipolar-disorder patients can and do lead full, productive and successful lives once they know how to treat bipolar disorder effectively.
A combination of medications and psychotherapy is one of the solutions to how to treat bipolar disorder effectively. Patients who participate in patient-to-patient support groups have fewer recurrences of severe episodes.
Medications for bipolar disorder typically include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and antidepressants. Most common and generally most effect among mood stabilizers is lithium. Others include anticonvulsants such as valproic acid, divalproex sodium, lamotrigine, gabapentin, topiramate and oxcarbazepine. Unfortunately, sustained use of the anticonvulsants may increase the occurrence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, so patients must be monitored closely, and antidepressants may be suggested.
Common atypical antipsychotic drugs used in treating bipolar disorder include Olanzapine, Aripiprazole, Quetiapine, Risperidone and Ziprasidone. These, especially Olanzapine, are also used with antidepressants.
Fluoxetine, Paroxetine, Sertraline and Bupropion are some of the antidepressants often used in treating bipolar disorder.
Psychotherapy is also important in controlling episodes from bipolar disorder, and can even be done in the comfort of your own home with an online psychologist. Through cognitive behaviorial therapy, patients learn to change negative and hurtful thought patterns and behaviors. Family-based therapy helps equip those in the patient’s life with strategies to help the patient and to cope with the impact of the disorder on their own lives. Interpersonal and social therapy helps patients improve their relationships with others, while assisting them in managing their daily routines and sleep patterns, which are significant to controlling bipolar disorder.
Psychological education is an important part of psychotherapy, as well. Through classes, reading and other education opportunities, patients learn to recognize their own signs of pending episodes, allowing them to seek bipolar disorder treatment early, whether that is through medication or therapy with a local or online psychologist.
In addition to these medical and therapeutic treatments, you can learn how to treat bipolar disorder effectively using electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This is an especially effective choice when medications are risky, such as during pregnancy, or when drugs and psychotherapy have not been effective in controlling the mood cycles.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is another optional treatment for bipolar disorder. In this therapy, a conductive coil is placed on the patient’s scalp, and brief magnetic pulses pass through the coil. The pulses stimulate nerve cells in the brain that regulate moods. Treatment typically include five sessions a week for up to six weeks.
In some cases, sleep medicines may be helpful in controlling mood swings. While the research is so far inconclusive, many claim that herbal supplements are effective in treating bipolar disorder. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) may help with depression, but it can diminish the effectiveness of other drugs, so patients should consult their doctors before beginning this or other herbal supplements. Other supplements being studied in connection with bipolar disorder include Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, which may lessen mania and rapid-cycling, and S-adenosyl-L-methionine, which may reduce depressive symptoms but may also trigger mania.
Researchers are also studying the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating bipolar disorder symptoms and cycling.
More than any other lifestyle change, eliminating the use of alcohol and illegal drugs can have a significant effect on symptoms. Eliminating unhealthy relationships, including those that encourage risky behaviors, is also important. Maintaining a regular habit of physical activity and exercise are helpful in maintaining weight gain as a medication side effect, as well as enhancing feelings of well-being. Getting adequate amounts of sleep helps make all of the other treatments even more efficient and effective, as well as producing a reduction in cycling.
Diet may also be an important factor in treatment for bipolar disorder. A diet high in whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, while low in saturated fats, helps maintain overall health. Eating oily fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids, like sardines and salmon, may help reduce the severity of bipolar disorder symptoms. Taking care of yourself is one of the primary ways of how to treat bipolar disorder effectively, especially if you take your prescribed medication and attend your therapy sessions.
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