Understanding Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes fluctuations in the person’s energy, mood, thinking patterns, and ability to function. People with bipolar disorder will experience intense emotional states that cycle between manic/hypomanic episodes (abnormally happy or irritable mood) and depressive episodes (sad mood). Bipolar disorder presents itself differently from person to person, ranging in severity of mood episodes and length of periods, ranging from days to weeks. Living with the mental disorder can impact a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, interpersonal relationships, and school or work performance. Comprehensive bipolar disorder treatments, including medication, online therapy, support groups, and lifestyle changes, can help individuals manage their symptoms successfully.
Bipolar disorder can be separated into three different diagnoses: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder. Bipolar I disorder has the most severe and prolonged manic episodes and bipolar II has more pronounced depressive episodes. Every person will experience bipolar disorder differently; however, there are common symptoms of mania, hypomania, and depressive episodes.
Mania and hypomania symptoms may include:
- Increased energy, activity, or agitation
- Abnormally upbeat or agitated
- Inflated sense of well-being and self-confidence
- Decreased need for sleep
- Racing thoughts
- Talking fast and changing train of thought quickly
- Poor decision-making, including spending large amounts of money, taking sexual risks, or making foolish investments
Depressive episodes may include these symptoms:
- Feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or tearful
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed or feeling no pleasure in all activities
- Changes in appetite, either increased appetite or loss of appetite
- Sleeping too much or insomnia
- Slowed behavior and/or speech
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Bipolar
Psychotherapy is an effective, evidence-based treatment for bipolar disorder. Trained therapists can use various forms of psychotherapy to treat bipolar disorder, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), one of the most effective forms of therapy. CBT helps individuals identify and change distorted or unhelpful thinking. Counselors and therapists will use CBT to help clients replace unhelpful or “negative” thought patterns and behaviors with more positive ones.
CBT helps develop effective coping skills for managing bipolar disorder symptoms instead of working through childhood trauma or past experiences. Through CBT, individuals can alter changes in mood and thinking experienced in manic or depressive episodes which influence behavior. During sessions, clients will also learn about psychological, biological, and social factors contributing to their condition. They can learn about triggers and symptoms that are precursors to an episode in an attempt to stop them. Cognitive behavioral therapy for bipolar disorder can also help regulate emotions and keep episodes from escalating.
The Role of Therapy in Bipolar Disorder Management
Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” is vital to comprehensive bipolar disorder treatments. It can be done in individual, family, or group settings. Therapy sessions can help you talk about your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors which are contributing to your problems. It helps understand issues surrounding bipolar disorder and what you can do to prevent those issues in the future. Talk therapy is beneficial for staying on track with consistent treatment, medications, lifestyle changes, and improving self-esteem.
Medications for Bipolar Disorder
Some cases of bipolar disorder may require taking medications in addition to talk therapy. Several medications for bipolar disorder can help individuals manage their symptoms. The types and doses of medications prescribed are based on an individual basis and can include:
- Antipsychotics: Adding antipsychotics to treatment can help manage symptoms of depression or mania such as olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), and aripiprazole (Abilify).
- Mood stabilizers: Typically, mood stabilizers decrease abnormal activity in the brain and are needed to control manic or hypomanic episodes. Examples include carbamazepine (Carbatrol), divalproex sodium (Depakote), and lithium (Lithobid).
- Antidepressants: These are used to manage depression but because they can trigger a manic episode, they are usually prescribed along with mood stabilizers.
- Antidepressant-antipsychotic: Symbyax combines the antidepressant fluoxetine and antipsychotic olanzapine.
- Anti-anxiety medications: Benzodiazepines are usually used short-term to help with anxiety and improve sleep.
The Importance of Medication Management
People who use medications for bipolar disorder tend to recover faster and control their moods more easily than with therapy alone. Also, therapy can take months to learn and implement coping skills and tools learned. Medications can serve as a way to manage symptoms while the effects of therapy set in. They can also help prevent future manic or depressive episodes from occurring and reduce severity. It is important to take medications as prescribed to reduce side effects and should always be used under the direction of a healthcare provider.
Lifestyle Changes for Bipolar Disorder
Along with treatment from a mental health professional, healthy lifestyle habits can help manage bipolar disorder symptoms, which include:
- Eating well and exercising regularly: A healthy diet is needed to regulate mood-related biochemicals and hormones. Regular exercise is also important for maintaining mental health.
- Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule: Sleep hygiene can help manage bipolar disorder symptoms. Going to sleep and waking simultaneously, limiting caffeine, and reducing screen time can improve sleep and reduce the risk of manic or depressive episodes.
- Avoid alcohol and other drugs: Alcohol and caffeine can trigger a manic or depressive episode.
- Reduce stress: Try stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercise as stress triggers mood swings.
- Maintain a routine: Keeping a routine can help reduce stress and give your life more control, which is important for overall mental health.
The Impact of Healthy Habits on Bipolar Disorder
Continuing unhealthy habits such as eating processed foods, not getting enough sleep, and long periods of laying down or sitting can be detrimental to mental health, including bipolar disorder. Just like physical disorders, the body has difficulty managing bipolar disorder when it is not cared for. Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy. It takes time and consistency to develop healthy habits. Often it can be easier to use alcohol, drugs, or unhealthy foods to mask symptoms, but they can worsen symptoms. Making small changes, such as incorporating more fruits and vegetables in your diet and going for a 30-minute walk outside can make a big difference and set you on your way toward long-term healthy habits.
Support Groups for Bipolar Disorder
Support groups for bipolar disorder offer emotional support from other people with similar diagnoses and understand what it is like living with bipolar disorder. They should not be used as a substitute for psychotherapy or other professional care, but they are a great addition to any comprehensive bipolar disorder treatment plan. Mental health professionals run some groups while volunteers with bipolar disorder run others.
Coping with bipolar disorder can be isolating and difficult for friends or family to understand what you are going through. Support groups are great for meeting others with similar symptoms or concerns. It can provide a way to get advice from others who have experienced similar situations, insight on how to handle certain problems, and motivation for continuing with treatment. Joining a support group can help you feel less alone and find a community that understands what you are experiencing.
The Power of Shared Experiences
Support groups allow a safe place to share experiences without judgment. It is a place to receive encouragement, learn coping skills, and share concerns. Sharing your experiences with bipolar with others who understand can help you feel less isolated. Meeting others with bipolar disorder can reduce stigmas surrounding mental health and help you learn how to manage symptoms.
Navigating the Path to Recovery: Managing Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health disorder that requires a lifetime of management. Managing bipolar disorder symptoms is possible through comprehensive treatment plans which include a combination of therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and support networks. Bipolar disorder can affect different areas of a person’s life, requiring different treatment types to address various aspects of the disorder. While each type of treatment can be beneficial, they work best in conjunction with one another.
Medications can help control and prevent manic and depressive episodes. They also aid symptom management as individuals learn and implement various coping skills and tools learned in therapy. Psychotherapy plays an important role in providing a safe space to discuss various issues and struggles with bipolar disorder while educating clients, improving self-esteem, and motivating treatment adherence. Support groups for bipolar disorder bring individuals with similar experiences and issues together to provide mutual support and create a community to reduce loneliness and isolation. Lastly, healthy lifestyle changes can improve mental health and overall well-being which can improve bipolar disorder symptoms as well.
The Journey to Stability
The journey toward successfully managing bipolar disorder symptoms can be long and requires much hard work. The key to long-term management relies on staying consistent with comprehensive treatment plans, including medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and support groups. However, bipolar disorder management is possible, no matter how severe the symptoms are. Many people have gone on to live successful, independent, and happy lives while living with bipolar disorder, which means you can too. While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, you can reduce symptom severity and frequency of episodes through primary treatments.
FAQs About Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong mood disorder that causes extreme mood swings, changes in energy, and ability to function. Mood swings range from extreme highs (mania or hypomania) to extreme lows (depression). Symptoms vary in severity and frequency from person to person. Bipolar disorder can severely impact various areas of a person’s life, including interpersonal relationships, school or work performance, and the ability to carry out daily tasks. However, by staying consistent with comprehensive treatment plans, including medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and support groups, anyone can successfully manage their symptoms and live seemingly normal lives.
How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?
A mental health professional usually does bipolar diagnosis. They may perform a physical exam, including blood work and scans, to determine if another condition, such as hypothyroidism, is causing your symptoms. If no underlying cause is found, they will perform a psychological evaluation to diagnose bipolar disorder or another mental health disorder correctly.
What is the role of medication in treating bipolar disorder?
Medications for bipolar disorder can help individuals recover more quickly and control their moods more easily than through therapy alone. Learning and implementing tools and skills learned in therapy also take time. Medications can fill in that gap to reduce symptoms. They also help to prevent future manic or depressive episodes as well as reduce their severity. Types of medications used include antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and anti-anxiety medications.
Can lifestyle changes help manage bipolar disorder?
Along with medication and therapy, lifestyle changes can help manage bipolar disorder symptoms. Healthy habits such as eating well, daily exercise, getting enough sleep, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and maintaining a routine can improve overall mental health and well-being. Healthy lifestyle changes can keep the body healthy which reduces stress on the mind and body, lowering the chances of a manic or depressive episode being triggered.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and how does it help those with bipolar disorder?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that is effective for various mental health issues, including bipolar disorder. Therapists use this technique to help clients identify and change negative thoughts and behavioral problems contributing to their symptoms. It teaches skills and tools to cope with difficult situations and reevaluate distorted thinking. CBT for bipolar disorder aims to stabilize mood, energy and thought patterns.
How do support groups benefit individuals with bipolar disorder?
Support groups for bipolar disorder are beneficial for receiving encouragement, learning coping skills, and sharing concerns. Individuals can provide mutual support with others who know what they are going through, which can reduce loneliness. Bipolar support groups can also help members receive feedback about issues and learn how others have successfully managed their symptoms.
Mindfuli offers online therapy for the management of bipolar disorder symptoms. Through a quick online questionnaire, we will match you with expert therapists and peer support counselors that fit your needs and preferences. We offer affordable treatment plans through live video conferencing, voice-only therapy, or online chat. Please contact us online or call us at 888-703-3004 to begin your wellness journey today.