If you know someone in the family who has bipolar disorder, you know it’s not something easy to manage. And the stigma attached to it doesn’t help, either. To improve the quality of life of those who have it, it’s important to understand what it is, it’s symptoms and treatment options.

To that end, here’s an overview of what we will be covering in this article:

  • Bipolar disorder definition
  • Emotional highs/lows
  • Sleep, energy, and behavior impacts
  • Types: Bipolar I, II, and others
  • Diagnosis criteria
  • Prominent symptoms
  • Medications: mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety
  • Complementary, integrative therapies
  • Alternative treatments: natural remedies, CBT, psychoeducation
  • Collaboration with a mental health professional

Bipolar disorder, sometimes referred to as manic depression, is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood fluctuations, including emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

During depressive episodes, individuals may experience feelings of sadness or hopelessness and lose interest in most activities. In contrast, mania or hypomania can result in feelings of euphoria, increased energy, or unusual irritability. These mood shifts can impact sleep, energy, activity, judgment, and behavior.

This disorder has three main types: Bipolar I disorder, Bipolar II disorder, and others. A diagnosis of Bipolar I disorder occurs when an individual has experienced at least one manic episode, possibly preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. In some instances, mania can lead to a psychotic break. 

Bipolar II disorder is diagnosed when a person has had at least one major depressive episode and one hypomanic episode but has never experienced a manic episode.

Other bipolar disorder types include those induced by specific drugs, alcohol, or medical conditions.

Symptoms To Look Out For

The most prominent bipolar disorder symptoms involve mood highs and lows, accompanied by changes in sleep, energy, thought processes, and behavior. 

Individuals with bipolar disorder may experience periods of excessive happiness and energy, as well as periods of profound sadness, hopelessness, and lethargy. 

Approximately half of those experiencing mania may also have delusions. Some individuals with bipolar disorder may exhibit milder symptoms, and hypomanic episodes can make them feel highly productive and positive. 

However, family and friends might perceive these mood swings and activity level changes as unusual.

Medications That May Be Prescribed

Various medications can help treat bipolar disorder, such as mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications. The specific medication prescribed depends on the individual’s symptoms and medical history. 

Mood stabilizers are frequently used to control manic, hypomanic, and depressive episodes. Common mood stabilizers include divalproex sodium (Depakote), lamotrigine (Lamictal), lithium (Lithobid), and carbamazepine (Tegretol, Equetro). 

Antipsychotic medications may also be prescribed to manage depression or mania episodes that persist despite other treatments. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can be used with other drugs to treat symptoms. It’s crucial to remember that medications are often used alongside psychotherapy to treat bipolar disorder. 

It is important to work with a healthcare provider to figure out the best treatment plan based on a person’s symptoms and medical history.

How Alternative Treatments May Help

Alternative bipolar disorder treatments include natural remedies, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychoeducation, and complementary and integrative therapies. 

Natural remedies such as omega-3 fatty acids, St. John’s wort, and SAMe have demonstrated potential in managing bipolar symptoms, particularly depressive ones. 

CBT is a form of counseling that can help reduce relapse rates, improve depressive symptoms, decrease mania severity, and enhance psychosocial functioning. 

Psychoeducation can assist individuals in coping with a bipolar disorder diagnosis and the associated stigma. Complementary and integrative therapies like acupuncture, massage, and meditation may help manage bipolar symptoms, but scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness is limited.

It’s essential to understand that alternative treatments should not replace primary bipolar disorder treatments like medication and psychotherapy. Collaborate closely with a mental health professional to devise the most effective treatment plan for your needs.
For more information, visit Canada Drugs Direct