Bipolar disorder has a very poor prognosis if not treated. It is a progressive disease, meaning that it generally worsens over time, so seeking treatment for bipolar disorder is essential once you’ve been diagnosed. The good news is that bipolar disorder has an excellent recovery rate if treated properly.
There are three different components to bipolar disorder treatment.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a specific form of talk therapy that teaches patients how to control their reactions to trigger situations and change their thinking to change the way they feel. The idea behind cognitive-behavioral therapy is that our thoughts about what is going on create our emotions, which then create our behavioral reactions to things.
Because there is such a problem with impulsive behavior with bipolar disorder, CBT can help the patient learn to control their impulsive behavior and make more helpful decisions when faced with those situations. While working with a therapist on CBT techniques, a patient will be asked to slow down and assess what they are thinking when they’re feeling an impulse. This lag time allows them to stop for a moment and recognize what is really going on. Impulsive behavior comes from a place of, “Shoot first, ask questions later.” Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches the patient to work the other way around—“Ask questions first, then decide whether or not to shoot.” By assessing their thoughts and feelings before taking action, individuals with bipolar disorder can avoid making rash decisions that get them into trouble.
Bipolar disorder is often detected when someone with bipolar disorder seeks treatment for a major depressive episode. If given only antidepressant medication, a person with bipolar disorder will enter a manic or hypomanic state. While someone with bipolar disorder who is currently experiencing a major depressive episode may need to use an antidepressant for a short time to stabilize their mood, antidepressants should always be used in conjunction with a mood stabilizer.
In general, mood stabilizers are used for long-term treatment of bipolar disorder. In recent years doctors have also been prescribing antipsychotics for treatment of bipolar disorder, but this is generally only advised in severe cases of the disorder. Someone experiencing bipolar disorder type II would not use antipsychotics for treatment of their symptoms. The most common mood stabilizers used for bipolar disorder are lithium and depakote.
Lifestyle Treatments for Bipolar Disorder
Research in recent years has shown a need for bipolar patients to engage in specific lifestyle treatments along with their medication and talk therapy treatments. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and, most importantly, an adequate sleep schedule will help alleviate symptoms of the disorder and prevent relapse once the mood swing cycle is under control.
It is essential that someone with bipolar disorder go to bed and get up at the same times every day, allowing for the full eight hours of sleep. Inadequate amounts of sleep can trigger a manic episode, setting the mood swing cycle in motion. When someone with bipolar disorder holds him or herself to a rigid sleep schedule, they reduce their risk of experiencing symptoms of their bipolar disorder.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet are always recommended for mood regulation, and this is especially important for someone with bipolar disorder. Specific foods help keep neurotransmitters in balance, and exercise helps regulate the sleep/wake cycle for more restful sleep.