Information Guide

Bipolar Disorder Information Guide

informationThose suffering from bipolar disorder can encounter a host of unique difficulties as moods and body chemistry cyclically fluctuate between depression and mania (or hypomania, in less severe cases). Untreated cases of bipolar disorder can lead to a host of hazards, from job loss and social isolation to self-harming behavior, interpersonal violence or even suicide. Unfortunately, for many years, those with bipolar disorder were stigmatized by both a society – and at times, the psychiatric community – that simply did not understand the disease enough to treat it effectively. Fortunately, attitudes toward and available treatment of bipolar disorder have progressed over the years, allowing many bipolar individuals to lead stable and successful lives through a combination of mental health therapy and medication.

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Bipolar Treatment

Bipolar disorder is known as a “spectrum disorder,” meaning that the type and severity of symptoms varies from milder forms (such as Cyclothymia) to more intense forms of bipolar disorder such as the Bipolar I or Bipolar II diagnoses.

As such, each individual with bipolar disorder may have different treatment needs. Some patients with bipolar disorder can benefit from outpatient treatment programs – largely through personal therapy and the use of medications. However, in cases where day-to-day functioning has become impaired, or high-risk or dysfunctional behaviors (such as promiscuity, gambling sprees, shopping sprees or harm to self or others) take hold, inpatient treatment for bipolar disorder may be necessary. Manic phases can be monitored to avoid harmful behavioral patterns, while depressive episodes can be managed by a combination of medication, therapy or individualized counseling.

Benefits of Inpatient Treatment

For many individuals suffering from bipolar disorder, inpatient treatment can offer a level of care and supervision necessary for recovery of mental and lifestyle stability. Many inpatient treatment programs for bipolar disorder offer round-the-clock medical supervision or nursing care, licensed counseling staff, group activities, structured schedules, nutritious food preparation and exercise regimens in a holistic inpatient setting. In combination with physician-prescribed psychological medications – the most commonly prescribed being Lithium or related drugs known as for mood stabilization – holistic inpatient treatment programs can help bipolar individuals resolve the highs and lows of mania and depression. The time- and treatment-intensive experience of an inpatient stay can also provide calibration of medications, supervision for those with suicidal tendencies or detrimental manic behaviors, as well as the support and camaraderie of guided group therapy. Some inpatient treatment centers also offer alternative therapies for bipolar disorder alongside traditional ones, allowing each patient to experience the treatment combination that is most effective for their particular state and condition.

Medication

For milder cases of bipolar disorder, medication, such as mood stabilizers, anticonvulsants, benzodiazepines or antidepressants, may be prescribed. Among mood-stabilizing medications, lithium carbonate is regarded as the most trusted and effective drug for medical treatment of bipolar disorder, notable for its reduction in suicidal episodes in particular. Depressive episodes can be managed with psychopharmaceutical drugs such as lamotrigine, while “rapid cycling” – relatively fast shifts between mania and depression – can be managed through anticonvulsant drugs such as carbamazepine.
In the wake of severe manic episodes, antipsychotics may be used in order to combat delusional thinking, rare hallucinations or perceptual problems. Depending on the patient, treating psychiatrists or physicians may prescribe drug combinations or composite drugs, while monitoring patient response. In fact, monitored response to medication – both to ensure prescription compliance and to assess patient responses – is one of the strongest arguments for inpatient treatment of bipolar disorder.

Information on  Therapies

Medication alone is rarely enough to treat the majority of cases of bipolar disorder. While group therapy sessions can be helpful for those with bipolar disorder, an emphasis on individualized clinical therapy is usually integrated into a patient’s treatment plan. One of the most effective modes of therapy for bipolar disorder is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a therapy centered on creating specific behavioral goals, attitude and perspective adjustments and cognitions through the use of practical and repetitive exercises. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) has also been shown to be successful in the course of treatment for bipolar disorder, particularly for those who have experienced incidents of self-harming behavior (such as burning or cutting), suicide attempts or eating disorders. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy has traditionally been used in cases of Borderline Personality Disorder, but integration of DBT techniques into bipolar therapy has been shown to aid progress in many cases due to its focus on distress tolerance, interpersonal communication, mindfulness and emotional modulation. In some cases of bipolar disorder, Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) may also be employed, using electrodes and electrical waves, though primarily in cases where the bipolar patient is not responsive to other forms of therapy.