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Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Bipolar disorder is a common mood disorder affecting around 2.3 million adults. Learn more about bipolar disorder treatment here. 

What Does It Mean to Be Bipolar?

Bipolar disorder is a common mood disorder associated with chronic, uncontrollable mood swings. With bipolar disorder, you may experience two moods: depressive lows and manic highs. 

In the United States, around 2.3 million adults are affected by bipolar disorder.1

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Understanding Bipolar Disorder

There is no singular cause of bipolar disorder. However, some of the factors that may play a role in development include both genetic and environmental factors. 

Bipolar disorder is also unique in the way mood swings appear. While common misconceptions lead many to believe that bipolar mood swings are rapid from minute to minute, the mood swings occur in phases that can last days, weeks, or even months. Highs and lows aren’t featured in every type of bipolar disorder, which we’ll discuss further below, but at least one type of mood is present. Mood swings and other tell-tale symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary in severity and appearance.

bipolar disorder treatment

bipolar disorder treatment

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The exact symptoms of bipolar disorder depend on three factors: the individual, the type of bipolar disorder, and whether it is a manic or depressive episode.

Common Symptoms

While there is no single, uniform list of symptoms that is identical for everyone, there are several common symptoms that are often experienced:

Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is diagnosed by the presence of manic and/or depressive episodes or mood swings. There are three different types of bipolar disorder, each differing in its symptoms and severity. Regardless of the type of bipolar disorder, the frequency and severity of mood swings can be made worse by several factors including:

  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Substance abuse

Bipolar I

Bipolar I is characterized by full manic episodes that are also present. While depressive episodes can occur in bipolar I, they’re more common in bipolar II. 

Bipolar II

Bipolar II is characterized by more frequent depressive episodes. Like bipolar I, they can occasionally experience mood swings more on the “high” side of the spectrum but not always. The manic stages in bipolar II are also unique, featuring symptoms that lead to them being known as hypomanic episodes. 

Cyclothymic Disorder 

Cyclothymia disorder is an uncommon mood disorder that is typically less severe than bipolar I or bipolar II. It only affects around 1% of the population.2 While it does feature the same mood swings between high and low like bipolar I and bipolar II, it is a milder mood disorder with less severe symptoms.

It is a milder mood disorder, although it is still characterized by the same swings between high and low, like other types of bipolar disorder. Some of the signs and symptoms of cyclothymic disorder can include:
  • Euphoria
  • Extreme optimism
  • Grandiose self-image
  • Increased talkatively
  • Poor judgment and decision making
  • Increased irritability

Bipolar Disorder and Related Mental Health Comorbidities

Comorbid disorders are multiple disorders that affect a single person at one time. With bipolar disorder, there is an elevated risk of developing another disorder or illness, typically due to the symptoms of bipolar.3

Substance Abuse

Bipolar disorder and substance use disorders have a strong correlation.4 First, the symptoms of bipolar disorder can resemble those of addiction and substance use disorder, mainly because there are such prevalent mood swings. However, bipolar disorder may also lead to substance use disorders and vice versa.

Because bipolar disorder can be treated with medication, discussed in further detail below, misuse or dependency can lead to addiction. However, substance abuse can also alter brain chemistry in such a way to lead to the development of bipolar disorder, especially when risk factors or other significant causes are present. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

One of the proposed causes of bipolar disorder is trauma. As a result, it is not uncommon to see PTSD and bipolar disorder occur comorbidly. 

Anxiety

Many studies have been conducted on the comorbid appearance of anxiety and bipolar disorder.5 Anxiety is more common during daily life and depressive mood swings, while it may not be as notable during a manic and hypomanic episode.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Many bipolar symptoms, such as impulsivity, elevated energy levels, and increased irritability, can mimic the symptoms of ADHD, despite the latter not being a mood disorder. They may also occur together, which can lead to more severe symptoms. 

Eating Disorders

While researchers are still learning the exact extent and reasoning, studies have shown a correlation between eating disorders and bipolar disorder, with those with bipolar disorder being more likely to develop an eating disorder.6

Treatment For Bipolar Disorders

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

While navigating bipolar disorder can be challenging, there are treatments available that can help cultivate a better quality of life. By helping manage symptoms and treat the causes of bipolar disorder, this variety of treatments can help individuals with bipolar disorder better connect with those around them and restore the balance in their life. 

Medications for Bipolar Disorder

Medication can help treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder and work to help correct any abnormalities with brain chemistry that may be a source of the disorder. Some of the medications used for a bipolar disorder treatment include:

  • Mood stabilizers
  • Antipsychotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Antidepressant-antipsychotic
  • Anti-anxiety medications

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is one of the most beneficial treatments for various mental health disorders, including bipolar disorder. Therapy helps target the source of the disorder while also managing symptoms. Therapies for bipolar disorder can include

  • Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Psychoeducation
  • Family-focused therapy

Alternative and Future Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

As technology advances, so do the treatments available for bipolar disorder. From new homeopathic treatments to advance therapies, these are just some of the alternative and future treatments available for bipolar disorder:

  • Natural Supplements
  • Cannabis and Bipolar Disorder
  • Psychedelics
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation 
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