How to Find Help Treating Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a common psychiatric disorder characterized by severe and unusual shifts in energy, mood and activity levels. If you suspect that a friend or family member is suffering from bipolar disorder, call us at 1-888-997-3147 to discuss the situation with one of our knowledgeable advisors.
Understanding Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings known as manic and depressive episodes. The disorder is sometimes called manic-depressive illness. In understanding bipolar disorders, it is important to know the disorder causes a person to experience periods of extremely elevated mood. Most people suffering from bipolar disorder have periods of depression and periods of stability. These mood states may or may not follow a pattern.
How to Diagnose Bipolar Disorder
The only way to diagnose bipolar disorder correctly is to schedule an evaluation by a doctor. The doctor may administer an interview, a physical examination and lab tests to rule out illnesses other than bipolar disorder. If no other contributing factors are found, the patient will most likely be referred to a psychiatrist for further evaluation.
As mental illness is largely hereditary, the psychiatrist will discuss the patient’s medical and family history for incidents of mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder. The doctor may also speak with the patient’s spouse or relatives to get their description of the patient’s illness. Finally, the doctor will examine the patient’s symptoms.
As discussed on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, symptoms differ between manic and depressive states. Some people experience both states at the same time, called a mixed-state episode. Other symptoms of bipolar disorder are difficulties in school, in relationships and at work. They also include irritability, poor judgment, aggressive and risky behavior, an increased sex drive and spending sprees. People with bipolar disorder have poor impulse control and are prone to substance abuse.
Steps You Can Take to Help Someone Who Is a Manic-Depressive
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) gives steps you can take to help someone who is a manic-depressive. The first step is to help your friend or relative get treatment. This may mean making an appointment with a doctor, accompanying the person on the visit and encouraging your loved one to continue treatment. Other steps you can take include:
- Offer encouragement, understanding, patience and emotional support
- Learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder
- Talk to your relative or friend
- Listen when your relative or friend tries to express their feelings
- Learn about trigger symptoms of bipolar disorder
- Invite your relative or friend to do things while encouraging positive activities.
- Keep telling your relative or friend that the disorder will get better with time and treatment.
Always take your loved one’s comments about self-harming behavior seriously and report these comments to the treating doctor.
Talking to Someone With Bipolar Disorder
Talking to someone who is in a manic state can be frustrating. People who are in manic states experience racing thoughts. They have feelings of grandiosity and inflated self-esteem. They become extremely talkative and easily distracted, often cutting off other people’s sentences or talking over them. When you are trying to talk to someone who is manic, exercise patience and try to remember your friend is unable to control their frantically elated feelings.
Adolescents and Teens
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than one-half of the total number of bipolar disorder cases manifest between the ages of 15 to 25. It is more difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder in adolescents and teens, especially those who do not experience depressive states because so many of the symptoms of mania mimic symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
A diagnosis should be made based on symptoms of mania that are not shared with ADHD. Some of those symptoms include elation, grandiose behavior, a decreased need for sleep, elaborate ideas and hypersexuality. It is also more likely that children will experience rapid cycling, or cycling through many episodes of mania and depression during the day.
Learning to Cope With Bipolar Disorder
Learning to cope with bipolar disorder will help you stay motivated in treatment and help you to explain your condition to family and friends. The Mayo Clinic suggests joining a support group. It is helpful to connect with people who understand the disorder and can relate to your experience.
Remain focused on your goals, and concentrate on repairing past relationships that were hurt by your illness. Engage in hobbies and activities that help you channel your energy in healthy ways. Find ways to deal with stress and learn methods of relaxation. Yoga and meditation are just a couple of suggestions to manage stress and maintain a stable mood.
How to Treat Bipolar Disorder
Although bipolar disorder has no cure, the illness can be managed with treatment. Learning how to treat bipolar disorder properly can lead to balanced moods and well-being. This is even true for those who have the most severe forms of bipolar disorder. A long-term treatment plan will include psychotherapy and medication. These forms of treatment reduce the severity of symptoms and prevent relapse.
Deciding Between Bipolar Disorder Solutions
Deciding between bipolar disorder solutions involves deciding which medication or combination of medications your illness responds to and causes the least severe side effects. You will also need to choose a form of psychotherapy. The NIMH lists some of the more common medications used in the treatment of bipolar disorder.
The first choice is a mood-stabilizing medication, which works well for long-term treatment. Some of the most common mood stabilizers are lithium (also known as Lithobid or Eskalith), valproic acid (Depakote), lamotrigine (Lamictal) and gabapentin (Neurontin). Common side effects of mood stabilizing drugs are:
- Dry mouth
- Brittle hair and nails
- Unusual discomfort in cold temperatures
- Bloating or indigestion
- Joint or muscle pain
Some people can manage bipolar disorder with just mood stabilization medication while others may need to add atypical antipsychotic medications, which differ from conventional antipsychotics, and/or antidepressants to their regimen. Commonly used antipsychotics are olanzapine (Zyprexa), aripiprazole (Abilify), quetiapine (Seroquel) and risperidone (Risperdal). Side effects of these medications include:
- Skin rashes
- Blurred vision
- Dizziness when changing positions
- Menstrual problems for women
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sensitivity to the sun
Those who take antidepressants are typically required to take a mood stabilizer to prevent mania or hypomania. Some routinely prescribed antidepressants are fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft) and bupropion (Wellbutrin). Common side effects are:
- Agitation or a jittery feeling
- Nausea, which usually subsides after a few days
- Headache, which normally subsides within a few days
- Sleepiness or drowsiness
- Problems having or enjoying sex
The types and brands of medication will partly depend upon your particular symptoms. If you have severe side effects from any of the medications, discuss your concerns with your doctor. With your doctor’s help, you can try different medications until you find the right combination for you.
Aside from medication, you will need to engage in psychotherapy. You may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy to help you manage or change negative and harmful behaviors and thought patterns. If you live with your family, you may want family-focused therapy, which can also help your family members who live with your illness. Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy helps you manage daily routines and improve your relationships with others. Psychoeducation offers a way to learn about bipolar disorder and how to spot signs of relapse.
Where to Find Bipolar Treatment for a Friend or Family Member
Information about bipolar disorder can be obtained from local mental health facilities and area hospitals. Local support groups may be able to teach you about bipolar disorder and what you can expect from a treatment program. For more information about where to find bipolar treatment for a friend or family member, please call us at 1-888-997-3147. We’re available 24/7 to help you.