Bipolar disorder is one of the most difficult mental health disorders to live with. From one day to the next those who struggle with bipolar disorder never know which mood state will rise to the surface. These moods, whether a depressive episode or a manic episode, color everything about their world, affecting their ability to work, maintain friendships, sustain a relationship or marriage, and their overall quality of life.
Fortunately, there are an increasing number of bipolar medication options available for individuals with this complex disorder. In addition to psychotropic drugs designed specifically for bipolar, there are several medications being used “off label” that have been shown to be effective in managing the symptoms of the disorder.
Bipolar medication is just one component in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Other evidence-based therapies along with holistic therapies and lifestyle adjustments also help to control the symptoms of bipolar. When symptoms become so severe that the individual is in a psychiatric crisis, acute stabilization services can be appropriate on a short-term inpatient basis.
About Bipolar Disorder
Affective disorders, or mood disorders, include the group of mental health disorders related to unstable moods, including bipolar disorder. It generally emerges in the late teens or early adult years, and affects an equal number of males and females. Approximately 4.4% of adults in the U.S. struggle with bipolar disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Here is a brief overview of bipolar disorder:
What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?
The symptoms of bipolar will differ depending on whether the individual is experiencing mania or depression:
Symptoms of manic episodes:
- Express intense euphoria
- Bursts of energy
- Racing thoughts and rapid speech
- Using poor judgment
- Reduced appetite
- Aggressive or violent behavior
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Reduced sleep
- Grandiose thoughts and opinions
Symptoms of depressive episodes:
- Persistent sadness or hopelessness
- Changes in appetite, weight gain or loss
- Changes in sleep habits, excessive sleep or insomnia
- Extreme fatigue
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once enjoyed
- Suicidal thoughts
What are the types of bipolar disorder?
There are five types of bipolar disorder with unique features that distinguish them from each other:
- Bipolar I. Bipolar I is the most commonly from of diagnosed bipolar disorder and features extreme mood swings between mania and depression.
- Bipolar II. This type is bipolar features at least one depressive episode and one hypomanic (milder mania) episode. Depression symptoms are more prevalent in bipolar II.
- Cyclothymic disorder. This form of bipolar features milder versions of both mania and depression that occur often.
- Mixed features or not otherwise specified. This type of bipolar has symptoms of mania and depression that do not meet diagnostic criteria.
- Rapid cycling bipolar. A form of bipolar disorder that features four or more distinct mood events, versus one or two mood episodes with bipolar I or II.
What causes bipolar disorder?
Ongoing research and clinical studies continue to seek the cause of bipolar disorder. Meanwhile, science has identified some factors that are believed to contribute to developing bipolar disorder, including:
- Genetics, a family history of bipolar disorder or other serious mental health disorders
- Environmental factors, such as history of childhood abuse, death of a parent, or a stressful home life
- Irregular brain functioning or structures or a chemical imbalance
- Some substances, such as cocaine, hallucinogens, or meth, can cause the symptoms of bipolar disorder
Treatment for bipolar disorder will rely primarily on medication, although psychotherapy is usually prescribed as well. There is a wide range of medications that may significantly help individuals with bipolar achieve better daily functioning, mood stability, and a better quality of life overall. It may take some time to discover the best medication fit for the individual, as there are so many factors that might have caused the disorder. After some trialing the individual will likely find a drug or combination of drugs that will help them.
There are five types of drugs that are considered for bipolar disorder. Bipolar medications include:
- Antipsychotics. These drugs are prescribed in addition to other medications if the mood swings persist. They include:
- Antidepressants. Antidepressants are prescribed to help manage the depressive episodes, but because these medications can trigger mania they are often used along with an antipsychotic or mood stabilizer. They include:
- Mood stabilizers. Mood stabilizers are prescribed to help manage manic episodes. These drugs include:
- Anti-anxiety drugs. In some cases, anti-anxiety medications, or benzodiazepines, are used to treat insomnia and anxiety symptoms. These drugs include:
- Antidepressant-antipsychotics. Symbyax is a combination bipolar medication that includes olanzapine and fluoxetine, which helps manage depressive episodes and also stabilize moods.
Residential Psychiatric Care for Bipolar Disorder
A residential program offers more focused interventions in a safe environment that is free of the usual triggers or stressors that can result in the mood swings that characterize bipolar disorder. Residential care allows a clinical team to provide more individualized attention. Each person’s treatment plan will be customized to reflect the specific features of their bipolar disorder, and includes the following:
Acute Stabilization. Someone with deteriorating bipolar disorder may experience extreme depressive or manic episodes that can put them in danger of harming themselves or others. As this is considered a psychiatric emergency, the individual will required specialized stabilization interventions and monitoring until they can step down to the residential programming.
Medication. Depending on the type of bipolar disorder, the bipolar medications may include antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedatives, or mood stabilizers, or any combination of these drugs. Current bipolar medications are evaluated and adjusted if needed. It is important for patients to comply with their medication schedule and dosing to maintain stability following discharge from the program.
Psychotherapy. Because thoughts can influence behaviors, and negative thoughts can lead to self-destructive behaviors, cognitive behavioral therapy is an excellent therapy for helping individuals with bipolar disorder. CBT helps one identify and correct the irrational and troublesome behavior patterns associated with bipolar disorder. In addition to CBT, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy and family-focused therapy are helpful as well. If there is a comorbid substance use disorder, psychotherapy might also include contingency management and motivational interviewing.
Group therapy. Supportive group sessions allow those with bipolar disorder to share with each other in a safe, nonjudgmental environment where discussions and topics are facilitated by the licensed therapist or clinician.
Holistic and experiential activities. Because stress is a factor in bipolar disorder, learning how to regulate it is a key treatment element. There are several stress-reducing activities that complement the traditional treatment protocols, including:
- Meditation. Meditation involves controlling the thoughts and gaining a deeper awareness of emotions, and then arriving at a calmer state of being. This can be helpful for individuals struggling with bipolar disorder by helping to better regulate thought distortions.
- Yoga. Yoga’s stress reducing properties can be useful for those with bipolar disorder. Yoga is a blend of physical fitness, meditation, and focused breathing, all which help control stress.
- Journaling. Writing about feelings or events in a journal can be helpful, as the writing process helps to sort out emotions and reduce the stressful impact of negative events.
- Art or music therapy. Participating in art or music therapy can be soothing to the spirit by shifting attention away from thoughts and toward expression of feelings through artistic outlets.
- Deep breathing. Controlling your breathing through practicing deep breathing techniques can quickly induce relaxation.
Psychosocial education. Individuals will gain more useful information about their bipolar disorder, as will their loved ones when family members join the classes. This helps them to better predict an oncoming mood episode, and also teaches them coping techniques and improved social skills.
Lifestyle counseling. In residential treatment, the individual will learn ways to improve health and wellness, which in turn will promote mood stability. Establishing healthy habits, such as getting enough sleep, adding regular exercise into the routine, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and healthy dietary choices can benefit the individual with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorder
Individuals with bipolar disorder tend to have high rates of substance abuse. This may be due to the desire to self-medicate as a way of managing the distressing symptoms. Unfortunately, the use of drugs or alcohol can further accentuate the negative effects of the bipolar disorder. In addition, there is a high risk that the individual will develop a co-occurring substance use disorder.
Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among individuals with bipolar disorder. In particular, alcohol with its sedating effects is used to help reduce the effects of mania. When a alcohol problem, or any substance issue, leads to dependence or addiction, the individual will need a comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment program that will treat both disorders.
Mental Wellness by Ken Seeley Residential Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Mental Wellness by Ken Seeley is a mental health and dual diagnosis treatment center located in Palm Springs, California. Ken Seeley is a renowned interventionist featured in the hit A&E series, Intervention. His mental health and addiction treatment center encompasses the full spectrum of care, including intervention services, residential and outpatient treatment, transitional housing, and aftercare services. If you are struggling with ongoing bipolar disorder that is worsening, contact Mental Wellness by Ken Seeley to learn more about our comprehensive residential mental health and dual diagnosis programs. Call today at (888) 312-4262.