Do Natural Remedies For Bipolar Disorder Exist?
By Sarah Fader
Updated February 24, 2020
Reviewer Aaron Horn
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder which is characterized by extreme highs and lows. Those highs and lows are called mania and depression. When a person is in a manic state, they might engage in risky sexual behavior, compulsive spending, and make impulsive decisions that could be dangerous. They might sleep very little or not at all during this time, and they may encounter grandiose thinking. When someone is manic or hypomanic, they may become increasingly irritable and on-edge, or they may feel rather euphoric. Their energy levels are increased, and they might experience a heightened sense of creativity.
The other side of the coin is depression. When a person is in a depressed state, they'll experience low mood and low energy levels. For some people, this results in possible suicidal ideation or actively trying to harm themselves or end their life. During a depressive episode, one may experience feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and loss of enjoyment in activities that they once found pleasure in.
Depression is Real
If you see these symptoms in yourself, it's important that you see a mental health professional.
Bipolar disorder is highly treatable with medication and therapy, which are the two main lines of treatment for the condition. If you have Bipolar disorder, it's important to see a medical doctor and to have a treatment team that can help you with your condition. Having people (including professionals) that you can come to for support regarding your illness is vital. If you're currently only seeing a medical doctor, it's important that you see a therapist and psychiatrist as well to make sure that you're leading a healthy life and managing your illness. You might be wondering if there's anything else that you can do. Perhaps you're thinking "what else is out there? Are there natural remedies for Bipolar disorder?"
In addition to medication and therapy, natural remedies can help you manage your Bipolar disorder. Different things work for different people, and for most people, it takes some time to figure out what works for them as an individual. Here are some of the things that you can add to your regimen in addition to medication and therapy:
Lifestyle Changes in Bipolar Disorder
Sleep hygiene is extremely important for those living with bipolar disorder. If you do not sleep or sleep too little, it can trigger mania for a person living with the condition. Some people don't sleep for days and don't just experience mania, but experience psychosis as well, which can include delusions, hallucinations (both auditory and visual), and more. Sleep is extremely important because it can mitigate how severe a manic episode is. Make sure that you're doing everything that you can to get a good night of sleep. If you don't sleep, you might not experience psychosis, but you will experience increased severity of other symptoms such as mood shifts, mood swings, and it can also trigger suicidal thoughts.
Here Are Some Tips to Help You Get a Good Night of Sleep
Make sure that you have a routine and go to bed and wake up at the same time daily if possible.
Make sure that where you sleep is comfortable and that it's a place that makes you feel relaxed.
Don't work or do anything stimulating where you sleep; it's recommended to cut off screen time a couple of hours before going to sleep. This includes your phone as well as your laptop and television.
- Make sure that your bed is for sleeping and sex only.
- Don't eat a heavy meal too close to bedtime if you find that eating too close to bed impacts your ability to fall or stay asleep.
- Avoid drinking alcohol to self-medicate; don't use it as a "nightcap" to try to go to sleep. Alcohol is a depressant, and while it may appear to help you fall asleep, it will actually disturb your sleep patterns and will likely make you feel more depressed in the morning.
Getting adequate nutrition is important. If you're eating foods that make you feel satisfied, energized, and well-nourished, that is optimal. Many people find that eating sugary or acidic foods at night can really impact their sleeping habits. Getting fresh fruits and vegetables and eating a balanced, nutritious diet is advantageous for physical and mental health. Some medications for Bipolar disorder can raise your blood sugar or cause diabetes, so it is important that you get tested to ensure that you stay healthy. Check the side effect list of your medication and make sure that you're keeping any potential side effects (such as increased blood sugar or blood pressure) in mind. If you have any concerns about the medication that you're taking, don't stop it abruptly. Make sure to check in with your doctor and tell them about your concerns.
Going along with the element of routine, creating a meal plan, or preparing meals for the week may be helpful and decrease stress for some. Make sure that you eat consistent, adequate meals throughout the day. If you struggle with food insecurity, look for resources in your local area such as supplemental nutrition programs and food banks. Engaging in exercise or enjoyable movement regularly is often very helpful for those with the ability to do so.
It's important to make sure that you're getting out of the house and moving your body. The best way to do this is to go for a walk. Being in nature can be incredibly soothing and refreshing; it's highly freeing to smell the fresh air and get outside. There was a 2015 study conducted which showed that exercise can greatly help individuals with Bipolar disorder manage their depression. Many people find that it's an extremely important part of managing their condition and overall wellbeing, so make sure to engage in movement on a regular basis. You might also try something like yoga, swimming, or even a team sport. Find an activity is enjoyable and stress-relieving for you. You don't need to force yourself to engage in a form of exercise that you don't like; if you open yourself up to new forms of physical activity, you'll find something that suits your needs and feels like a good fit for you and your body. We're all different, so don't be afraid to try new things.
Living in Moderation
People with Bipolar disorder are at an increased risk for substance abuse. A study indicated that 56% of those living with Bipolar disorder also had problems with drugs or alcohol, so it's integral to remember the importance of moderation. Many people with Bipolar disorder, especially during mania or hypomania, struggle with impulsivity. The urge to self-medicate can be high, so make sure to reach out for help if you struggle with any of these issues.
Even if it's not a matter of substance use, the need to live in moderation can display in a variety of ways. You may notice excessive caffeine intake or compulsive spending behaviors, for example. It's important to keep all of these behaviors in check and to be honest with yourself because they all play a part in your overall mental and physical wellbeing. If you struggle with comorbid substance use disorder or another mental health condition in addition to Bipolar disorder, be sure to bring up these concerns with a mental health professional as well.
Supplements and Herbs
There are some supplements and herbs that are scientifically proven to help with Bipolar disorder.
Fish oil is helpful for those living with Bipolar disorder and can decrease the severity of episodes of depression. Omega-3 fatty acids have many benefits and can be an excellent addition to your treatment plan
Magnesium is shown to aid in the treatment of mania, depression, and anxiety, so a magnesium supplement may be especially valuable for you to take if you have bipolar disorder and comorbid anxiety.
Vitamin C and folic acid have been known to help those with Bipolar disorder in a variety of ways, and there's evidence to show that folic acid helps to improve cognitive function in adults living with Bipolar disorder.
As with anything, it's important to confirm any additions to your treatment plan, including supplements, with your doctor.
Most importantly, if you're living with Bipolar disorder, therapy is the number one thing to start with. Having a point person to discuss your mood disorder with is invaluable. Whether you work with an online therapist or someone in your local area, you deserve to get the help that you need. Here at BetterHelp, we have many mental health professionals that specialize in mood disorders and know about how to treat your condition. Bipolar disorder is highly treatable, so reach out to the counselors at BetterHelp today and let us help you.