Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that requires a lifelong treatment course in order for the sufferer to remain stable and carry out a day-to-day normal life routine. It also was once called manic-depressive illness or manic depression. This terminology changed in the early 1990’s because the American Psychiatry Association wanted to change the social outlook on the condition and detach it from the stigma given to patients with depression.
Bipolar disorder is characterized mainly by excessive changes in mood from the very low to the very high degrees. It comes in cycles and it is never known if it will last for just a few days, a few weeks, or a few months.
The condition is very unpredictable and varied from patient to patient as well as episode to episode. It disrupts not only the life of the sufferer, but those around him as well. Family, friends and co-workers often suffer the results of the changes in behavior.
Treatments for bipolar disorder involve a very individualized approach. Since no two people exhibit exactly the same symptoms it stands to reason that a cookie cutter approach to treatment protocols would be doomed to failure.
Treatment for bipolar disorder is a long-term process. Even after individuals feel that an episode has come and gone, treatment must be continued and must be ongoing. The bipolar patient’s mood must be stabilized and maintained at all times in order to keep these episodes at bay.
Unfortunately this is also one of the biggest complaints of the person with bipolar disorder. Once having experienced the incredible highs of the manic state they often are willing to suffer through the depression to reach the creative highs. Some individuals crave these highs so much that they forgo their medication, often losing relationships, jobs and homes to experience the days and weeks of artificial highs as a result of their condition.
In other cases individuals complain about the incredibly stable mood that they feel. They may not be ‘addicted’ to their highs but they want to feel something. Their complaint is that the medications maintain their moods so well that they no longer feel depressed or high. These stable times represent times of boredom to them.
The most common form of treatment for bipolar disorder today is counseling and medications. A person who suffers from bipolar disorder must continue to receive their recommended protocols to maintain a stable emotional environment.
The manic aspect of this disorder is treated with benzodiazepines and/or antipsychotic medications. These will control such symptoms as hyperactivity, sleeplessness, irritability, and/or hostile feelings. Some anticonvulsant medications or lithium are used to stabilize any mood swings that the bipolar patient exhibits. ECT, or electroconvulsive therapy, is sometimes used if mood stabilizers are ineffective. Antidepressants are often used to help control any depressive type symptoms.
There are only two drugs presently approved to maintain a bipolar patient specifically. These two drugs are lithium and Lamictal. As with any medication these medications do not come without side effects. Side effects from these medications include rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors of the hands, poor coordination, sedation, memory difficulties, decreased concentration, hair loss, polyuria (urinating a lot), polydipsia (thirsty), thyroid problems, confusion, and/or weight gain.
As equally important in the treatment of this disorder is psychotherapy. The combined treatment of psychotherapy and medication can make a world of difference in the treatment for bipolar disorder. With supportive therapy such as this and continued emotional support in the home amongst family and friends a person with bipolar disorder can have a chance towards a normal, everyday healthy lifestyle.
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