Bipolar Center

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Bipolar disorder treatment
Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) is a highly treatable medical illnesses.  At the moment, there is no cure for bipolar disorder. But the goal of treatment is to control bipolar symptoms. Most people can get help for mood changes and behavior problems. Because bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness, long-term preventive treatment is strongly recommended and almost always indicated. A strategy that combines medication and psychosocial treatment is optimal for managing the disorder over time.

Medications for bipolar disorder are prescribed by psychiatrists with expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. While your primary doctor may prescribe medications, people diagnosed with bipolar disorder are recommended to see a psychiatrist to supervise drug treatment.

Medications known as "mood stabilizers" are most frequently prescribed to help control bipolar disorder. In general, people with bipolar disorder continue treatment with mood stabilizers for extended periods of time (years). Other medications are added when necessary, typically for shorter periods, to treat episodes of mania or depression that break through despite the mood stabilizer. Some medications doctors prescribe to treat bipolar include:

  • Anticonvulsant medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Atypical antipsychotic medications
  • Benzodiazepine medication
  • Lithium
  • Psychotropic medications
  • Thyroid supplements

People respond to medications in different ways, so the type of medication prescribed will vary by case. You may need to try different medications before you identify which are best for you. Before starting a new medication for bipolar disorder, always talk with your psychiatrist and/or pharmacist about possible side effects.  Report all bipolar medications side effects to your doctor. Also, it's vital that someone experiencing bipolar disorder withdraw from medication with a doctor's help. Stopping medication suddenly can be dangerous, and it can make bipolar symptoms worse.  Some people may also need sleep medications during treatment.

Different kinds of psychotherapy can help people with bipolar disorder. A licensed psychologist, social worker, or counselor typically provides these therapies and often works together with the psychiatrist to monitor a patient's progress. The number, frequency, and type of sessions should be based on the treatment needs of each person.  Psychosocial interventions commonly used for bipolar disorder are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy
  • Psycho-education

Counseling can help you with stress, family concerns and relationship problems. It's important to get counseling if you have bipolar disorder.  Therapy can help people diagnosed with bipolar to change behavior and better manage their lives. Psychotherapy can also help you get along better with family and friends. It is important to follow the treatment plan for any psychosocial intervention to achieve the greatest benefit.

Other treatments
It's helpful to track bipolar symptoms on a calendar so that you can work with your doctor to monitor the illness.  Chart daily mood symptoms, treatments, sleep patterns, and life events to better understand trends. Herbal and natural supplements, such as St. John's wort or omega-3 fatty acids may help manage bipolar symptoms. "Electroconvulsive therapy," or ECT, provides a quick "shock" that can sometimes correct problems in the brain.  Sometimes hospitalization can help stabilize moods during extreme manic-depressive episodes.

Even though episodes of mania and depression naturally come and go, it is important to understand that bipolar disorder is a long-term illness that currently has no cure. Mood changes can occur even during ongoing treatment and should be reported to your doctor immediately. The doctor may be able to prevent a full-blown manic or depressive episode by making adjustments to your treatment plan.  Stick with your treatment plan, even during good times, to keep the disease under control and reduce the chance of recurrent, worsening episodes. Finally, work closely with your doctor and communicate openly about treatment concerns and options for optimum treatment effectiveness.

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