Bipolar disorder treatments
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Clinically Reviewed 
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Bipolar disorder affects 2% of the world; of those, approximately 5.7 million people in the U.S. It is a mental health condition that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, resulting in struggles with energy, completing activities, concentration and the completion of day-to-day tasks. It involves intense bouts of depression and mania. Symptoms of these episodes can vary depending on the person and type of bipolar disorder they have. 

3 types of bipolar disorder and their symptoms

Bipolar disorder is classified by three different types. There is also a fourth category of unspecified bipolar disorder for those who experience symptoms, but they don’t fit in the three categories. The three types of bipolar disorder are classified as:

  • Bipolar I –- Classified by manic episodes lasting for at least seven days or are so severe, immediate care is needed. Depressive episodes last around two weeks. Experiencing four or more cycles in a year is considered “rapid cycling.” 
  • Bipolar II — Follows a pattern of depressive and hypomanic episodes. Hypomanic episodes are less severe than manic episodes. Bipolar II is less severe than Bipolar I.
  • Cyclothymic — Recurring symptoms of depression or mania, but not enough to be full-blown episodes 

Bipolar disorder is typically diagnosed in late adolescence to early adulthood, although it can manifest early in children. It can go misdiagnosed as depression, as those with bipolar disorder are more likely to seek help in a depressive episode than in a manic episode. A bipolar disorder diagnosis typically requires lifelong treatment.

Bipolar disorder treatments and how they can help

Bipolar disorder and its treatments are complex. There haven’t been massive advancements for treatment for bipolar disorder. This is a result of not fully understanding the disease and the difficulty in getting people to participate in studies. Similar to other mental health disorders, bipolar disorder has carried a large stigma with it in the past. 

The goal of bipolar disorder treatments is to stabilize moods to prevent swings from depressive to manic or vice versa, to prevent relapse once stable, and to treat any other symptoms bipolar disorder may cause. Balance is delicate due to treatments for depression possibly triggering mania, hypomania or cycling episodes. Treatments for mania also may trigger depressive episodes. 

Stability can be possible with one or a combination of treatments such as:

  • Medications — Mood stabilizers are prescribed to prevent mood episodes or help reduce severity. If an antidepressant is taken without a mood stabilizer, it can trigger mania or rapid cycling. Lithium is often used for long-term relapse prevention and has a proven record. Medications should be taken consistently even if the individual is feeling well. Medications should never be stopped suddenly. Any concerns or side effects should be reported to one’s health care provider or therapist immediately.

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) — ECT is a brain stimulation that can help relieve severe symptoms if other treatments haven’t improved symptoms. It can also be used if the person has a high suicide risk or is catatonic.

  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy — Bipolar disorder can be related to changes in the circadian rhythms. Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy is an adaptation of interpersonal psychotherapy for depression. It is a problem-solving approach that encourages those with bipolar disorder to maintain and regulate their daily routines and sleep/wake rhythms. It can help expand time between relapses.

  • Talk therapy — Talk therapy aims to identify and change any troubling thoughts, emotions and behaviors associated with bipolar disorder.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) — CBT is adapted for manic episodes, focusing on the excessive optimistic thinking it can bring. It presumes that recurrences are determined by pessimistic thinking. It is important to depression therapy.

  • Family-focused therapy — Therapy including the person’s family and caregivers allows them the chance to better support their loved one. Their participation may help the person with bipolar disorder be willing to seek treatment. Individuals with bipolar disorder who have family participate in family-focused therapy have a 30% to 35% lower rate of relapse.

  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)rTMS uses magnetic waves to help relieve depression. This noninvasive procedure can help decrease the likelihood of needing long-term medications. 

Long-term, ongoing treatment can help control the symptoms of bipolar disorder and help enable you to live a healthy lifestyle. Bipolar disorder can be a challenging diagnosis, but working with a health care provider and following your individualized treatment plan can help. Be patient and kind to yourself and stay connected to your support system. 

Lightfully can help treat your bipolar disorder and help you be your best self 

Our mission at Lightfully with people is to show compassion and help change their lives. We strive to provide our clients with top-notch care. We are proud to offer a variety of services to best meet the needs of our clients. Our therapists can offer their extensive experience of helping clients navigate the complexities of bipolar disorder. 

Therapy is a tool to help you make sure you have what you need to work through your struggles with your mental health to help you achieve a better future. Our licensed, clinical experts see more than a diagnosis; they see the whole complex human.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step to treat your bipolar disorder, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together toward the fullest and brightest version of you. 

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