How To Treat Bipolar Disorder In 4 Steps

Updated August 28, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

Mood swings are a normal part of human life, but when the emotions felt are excessive and out of place, it might be a symptom of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a brain and behavior disorder characterized by extreme mood swings, both emotional highs referred to as mania or hypomania or emotional lows commonly known as bipolar depression, making it challenging for an individual to function. The exact cause of Bipolar Disorder is unknown, but some symptoms of bipolar disorder can aid in its diagnosis. Some of these symptoms include Extreme irritability, Increased sexual behavior, poor concentration, aggressive behavior, suicidal thoughts, etc. There are three types of Bipolar Disorders that people experience. Cyclothymic disorder is the mildest form of Bipolar Disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, Cyclothymic disorder is identified by frequent mood swings and few sessions of mania or depression. Bipolar disorder (I) leads to sudden mood swings between episodes of depression and manic. An individual diagnosed with bipolar (I) disorder is likely to experience sessions of normal moods between depression and manic. The last type of bipolar Disorder is Bipolar Disorder (II); it is diagnosed when a person never experiences full-blown mania but experiences a major depressive episode.

The manic episodes and mood swings that a person with bipolar disorder may experience occur once or multiple times a year. Between episodes, most people with bipolar disorder may experience some emotional symptoms, while some others may not experience any at all. Bipolar disorder can substantially impact productivity; however, people with Bipolar Disorder can live long, healthy lives with adequate treatment.

An Accurate Diagnosis For Bipolar Disorder

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The first step to take in treating bipolar disorder is getting an accurate diagnosis. As simple as it may sound, getting an accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder is not easy. Some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be difficult to distinguish from that of other mental illnesses. Bipolar disorder is often wrongly diagnosed for depression, and several people with bipolar disorder often visit the doctor several times before the problem is identified correctly.

Even for trained professionals, the diagnosis of bipolar disorder may be complicated, so it is best to see someone with experience treating bipolar disorder. During the diagnostic exam for bipolar disorder, the bipolar disorder specialist will carry out a complete psychiatric history, which involves answering questions about your symptoms, the timeline of your symptoms, and previous treatment you might have received. Although there are no lab tests used to diagnose bipolar disorder, the doctor will carry out a physical exam to be sure that your symptoms are not caused by any medication or illness other than bipolar disorder.

After a specialist determines that you have bipolar disorder, you must understand your treatment options, and this article adequately explains the various treatment options for bipolar disorder.

Medication In Bipolar Disorder Treatment

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When diagnosed with bipolar disorder, one of the most effective treatment options is medication, and it is regarded as the cornerstone of bipolar disorder treatment. The significance of bipolar disorder medications comes to play when controlling mania and bipolar depression; it helps manage mood disorders and prevents relapse once your mood is steady. The right drug and dosage can determine how effective bipolar disorder medication will stabilize manic episodes and depression, and it is necessary to work hand-in-hand with a doctor or specialist to re-evaluate your bipolar disorder medication regularly. Finding the right bipolar disorder medication happens over time; this is because different people diagnosed with bipolar disorder respond differently to various bipolar disorder medications, so you might have to test a couple of bipolar disorder medications before finding the right one. The appropriate dosage will be determined after seeing the bipolar disorder medication that works best for you. Administering the wrong dose may be harmful to the individual, and there is a thin line between an effective treatment and a harmful one. Be patient, take time to get the right bipolar disorder medication it goes a long way in helping you.

Although there are risks involved with bipolar disorder drugs, taking bipolar disorder drugs consistently and combining it with other forms of treatment has proven to be very effective in treating bipolar disorder. Properly taking your bipolar disorder medication involves consulting your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Keeping track of the side effects that you may experience from the bipolar disorder medication, their severity, and the time they occur will be important to notify your doctor. It is also important to pay attention to potential drug interactions, which often cause unexpected side effects and may even be harmful to your body. Hence it is essential to watch what food and beverages you take; mixing bipolar disorder medication with certain foods and drinks can cause problems.

Finally, as relevant as it is to take medications to treat bipolar disorder, there are other ways you can manage your symptoms of bipolar disorder and eventually even reduce the amount of bipolar disorder medication needed.

Psychotherapy For Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Talking about the effect of Bipolar Disorder in your life can help you manage the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that cause you problems. Psychotherapy, according to the American Psychiatric Association, is a way to help people with a variety of mental illnesses and emotional difficulties. People with Bipolar Disorder fall under this category, and psychotherapy helps such people eliminate and control troubling symptoms like bipolar depression and manic episodes. Working with a therapist helps you to open up about various uncomfortable feelings and teaches you how to cope with these feelings that may trigger bipolar disorder. Three types of therapy have proven effective in the treatment of Bipolar disorder; they are Cognitive-behavioral therapy, Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, and family-focused therapy.

In the case of bipolar disorder, cognitive-behavioral therapy aims at managing the symptoms of bipolar disorder, preventing triggers for relapsing, and solving other personal problems. Negative thinking patterns can trigger symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, and cognitive-behavioral therapy helps change such habits into positive ways of responding. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are treated by carefully analyzing your thoughts and how those thoughts affect your emotion.

One of the triggers of bipolar disorder is stress; interpersonal therapy helps reduce mood cycling, which in turn reduces stress. Interpersonal therapy targets issues affecting your current relationships and helps you treat the important people in your life correctly. Social rhythm therapy is often mixed with interpersonal therapy when treating people with bipolar disorder. People with Bipolar Disorder are often considered to have sensitive biological clocks, the disruption of daily patterns, also known as social rhythms, usually throws the clock off balance. Keeping your social rhythm stable translates to a stable biological rhythm, which includes your mood; hence social rhythm therapy is effective in treating the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Family-focused therapy aims at educating family members about bipolar disorder and how to cope with the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Having to live with someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder can be difficult and may result in a strain on the family and marital relationships. A poor relationship within the family can be a trigger for the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

It is important to get a fully licensed professional when seeking treatment. At BetterHelp, you can gain access to professionally trained therapists licensed to administer medication if the need arises.

Lifestyle Changes

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Various daily activities trigger the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. When your sleep cycle is disturbed, your stress level increases, and the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder may be triggered. The disruption of your sleep cycle can increase the severity of the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule helps to keep symptoms of bipolar disorder and stress levels to a minimum.

Self-management and self-awareness are essential in treating Bipolar Disorder. It is necessary to understand the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, this helps you to understand the right bipolar disorder medication to take when experiencing any of the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. A particularly effective method of monitoring environmental and activity triggers of the symptoms of bipolar disorder is maintaining a mood chart. It is important to pay attention to subtle changes in your mood and activity levels as the symptoms of bipolar disorder often offset gradually. According to Medical News Today, people with bipolar disorder have a high chance of participating in addictive activities; individuals with bipolar disorder often have a strong urge for rewarding experiences. Creating good relationships with people that understand your bipolar disorder helps in creating a support system to dissuade you from taking risky decisions and indulging in addictive activities.

Complementary Treatments For Bipolar Disorder

There are a couple of bipolar disorder treatments that have been effective in treating patients with bipolar disorder. Most of these bipolar disorder treatment options are used alongside medication and therapy and other changes in the lifestyle of a bipolar disorder patient. Some of these options include; Mindfulness meditation, research has shown that meditation helps treat many symptoms of bipolar disorder. The approach uses breathing exercises and other techniques to break negative thinking patterns, which is a trigger for bipolar disorder. For these complementary bipolar disorder treatments to be effective, the person should have a positive mindset, it is a crucial factor in having a good life even with bipolar disorder.

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Another treatment that has shown potential overtime in treating bipolar disorder is acupuncture. Several researchers believe that acupuncture helps people with bipolar disorder modulate their stress response. Acupuncture primarily stimulates the central nervous system, releasing a chemical called endorphins that patients with bipolar disorder may not produce in adequate amounts. The process helps patients with bipolar disorder enjoy a substantial reduction in their symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Similar to the social rhythm therapy, the light and darkness treatment aims at balancing the biological clock of patients with bipolar disorder. A slight disruption of the biological clock can trigger symptoms of bipolar disorder. This form of therapy focuses on reducing mood cycles by regulating a person’s natural rhythm. The process involves creating a comfortable environment with regular darkness, achieved by restricting every form of artificial light for ten hours every night. The light and darkness therapy helps induce sleep during a manic episode, during such episode’s people with bipolar disorder tend to need less sleep; some people may have a few hours of sleep and feel healthy. In contrast, in extreme conditions, a person can go days without any rest. This therapy helps induce sleep and effectively avoid the symptoms of bipolar disorder.


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