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Bipolar Disorder and Treatment

1-800-315-2391  |  April 7th

Bipolar Disorder and Treatment

Bipolar Disorder is an extremely serious mental disorder which is also referred to as manic depressive illness. People who suffer from Bipolar Disorder often go through sudden dramatic mood swings ranging from extreme highs and being unbelievably energized to being down and irritable or hopeless and sad. These emotions can continue to go back and forth experiencing normal moods in-between.

When the individual experiences highs and lows and irritability back and forth as mentioned above, this is referred to as 'mania' or 'manic' episodes. The down, sad and hopeless feelings are depression.

Individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder experience very unusual shifts in mood and levels of energy and have a difficult time doing everyday normal tasks most of the time. The unusual shifts in moods are nothing like normal ups and downs that we normally experience and they're much more severe. Without treatment for this serious mental disorder the individuals relationships can suffer, performance in school or at work is greatly reduced and can result in suicide.

It's not always easy to spot bipolar when symptoms first start because they can be somewhat confusing. Many people sadly suffer for a long time, sometimes years before they're diagnosed and able to receive treatment for this disorder. There is no specific age that bipolar develops but usually it starts in the late teens or early adult years. Each person suffering from bipolar is different, some people develop symptoms very early as a child and others develop symptoms later in life.

As serious and devastating as this depressive illness is, there is hope because it can be treated. This is not to say that bipolar disorder will go away but with treatment this long-term mental illness can be managed throughout a person's life. It's extremely important that the person suffering from bipolar disorder receives the right treatment and the right diagnosis. Episodes of mania and depression subside but usually continue to come back over time. This will continue throughout their life without help.

Not everyone has exactly the same levels of mood symptoms or exact same mood shifts or severity of them. The symptoms the individual experiences and shows during episodes of mania or manic episodes can either be mood swings of; extended periods of excitability and feeling ecstatic and giddy or overly sociable, then; highly agitated and cantankerous, feeling antsy, wired or keyed-up. Behavioral changes experienced during mania or manic episodes are as follows:

  1. Communicating and talking a mile a minute bouncing from one subject to another without taking a breath while continuous thoughts race through their head.
  2. Very easily distracted and hard to stay focused
  3. Taking on activities that are goal oriented
  4. Very restless and can't seem to stay still
  5. Unable to sleep but when they do it is for very short periods of time
  6. An unrealistic view of themselves and what their abilities are

Their behavior is very impulsive as they take part in risky activity like; careless spending binges, spending money and making business decisions without thinking, and having impulsive sexual activity.

Symptoms of depression or depressive episodes show mood swings of; extended periods of feeling apprehensive and worried and distressed then; unable to experience enjoyment from things they use to which includes sexual pleasure. Behavioral changes experienced during depression or depressive episodes are as follows:

  1. Feelings of over-all fatigue
  2. Unable to think straight, focus, remember things and decision making is difficult
  3. Irritability and restlessness
  4. Normal habits change like eating and sleeping
  5. Thoughts of dying or taking one's own life or trying to take actually take their own life

Most of the time people suffering from bipolar disorder find their symptoms become worse if they don't seek treatment. Without treatment when episodes reappear they may become worse than before; it's important to find the right diagnosis and treatment for each person.

Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse

It's not uncommon for an individual suffering from Bipolar Disorder to either dabble in drugs or alcohol use or to abuse one or the other and sometimes both. Because of the mood swings and depression associated with this illness many people look for ways to feel better. This is especially true for those suffering from this mental illness who have never had the disorder diagnosed or who don't receive treatment. There have been thousands of people that have entered into a drug addiction treatment program and were properly diagnosed for the first time but are now battling addiction too. Abusing drugs and alcohol is very dangerous for anyone but can be even more dangerous for someone living with this disorder.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Medications that stabilize a person's mood are generally prescribed to treat bipolar disorder. In the 70s Lithium which is also referred to as Eskalith or Lithobid was approved by the FDA for the treating mania in patients. Lithium has proved to be quite effective for keeping the symptoms of mania under control while preventing manic and depressive episodes from recurring. There are other mood stabilizers that have been prescribed for treating mania and they include; Depakote, Lamictal, Neurontin, Topamax, and Tripletail.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is very effective for treating patients with bipolar disorder. This form of therapy helps the individual learn to change negative, risky and harmful patterns of behavior as well as their risky thought process. They are taught new positive ways to manage negative thoughts that may cross their minds such as compulsive risky behavior. Changes don't take place overnight but when combined with the proper medication CBT is very essential for any individual suffering from bipolar disorder.

Family Therapy is also essential when treating bipolar disorder. Bipolar is not only hard on the individual who suffers from this illness but the whole family suffers as well. Family Therapy focuses on each member of the family helping them to understand the seriousness of this mental disorder. Family members learn new ways to solve problems that may arise, learn better communication skills, and learn to recognize episodes in their early stages in order to help their loved one. The most important thing for an individual suffering from this very serious disorder is early detection and treatment.

References & Resources

Comments & Replies:

  • James @ April 11th, 2011

    I have a brother that was diagnosed as bi-polar. He refuses to see the doctor and get medicine. He likes to self-medicate himself with marijuana in the morning, afternoon and evening. He also drinks during the evenings. When he does drink he tends to overdo it. It's like he can't function or deal with life on a daily basis without the booze and drugs.

    I wish he would get the help he needs. It's so hard for the family to watch him live this life especially when he gets in a deep depression. That's when we all really worry because there is the possibility of suicide with depression.

    When he is working he will give 1000% to his job but when it comes to bills, home repairs, cleaning ect. He won't do anything. He is just lazy. If you ask him to do something he just says w/e and walks away. He doesn't meet his bills when their due. He actually can care less that his bills are behind.

    So hard to watch him heading down the wrong path.

  • Patty Covey @ June 11th, 2011

    I have a 22 year old son who is bipolar as well as addicted to drugs. He smokes marijuana all the time, as well as crushing and snorting any pills he can get his hands on. I am trying so hard to help him and save his life. Do you have any suggestions?

  • Britni @ December 18th, 2011

    I'm almost 19 myself (turning 19 this coming March) and was misdiagnosed with depression during the seventh grade, and then a little less than a year after that a psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar disorder.

    I can understand in a few ways what your son is going through. Although everyone is different in what they experience with their manic/depressive episodes, I understand the emotional pain he must experience on a day-to-day basis. Something that has been effective with me has been finding someone I feel comfortable with to talk my feelings and bipolar episodes with, who is able to really listen without passing judgment. While it helps a little bit at a time, it still helps. After all, Bipolar Disorder is a never ending battle. And as far as trying to save his life, I hope you are able to find a method that works for you, your son, and your family. It's a very difficult journey (my grandmother is bipolar and almost 60; she's been battling it her entire life.) Ultimately, I think that the best route to begin on is to just do what I'm sure you have already been doing - continue to tell your son that you love him and want nothing but the best for him.

    Something else that has slowly worked for me is finding something I'm truly passionate about - music. For some people it's art, for some it's something more elaborate or even simpler. Finding a safe outlet, I think, could help your son a lot.

    There is a website for a non-profit organization that I hold so so close to my heart. The organization is 'To Write Love On Her Arms.' The organization's ultimate goal is to spread awareness about depression, self-injury, addiction, and suicide. The organization started from the story of a girl named Renee Yohe. (Her story is on the page. It's incredible how much she was able to overcome.) I think her story resonates quite a lot with a majority of those who have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. There are quite a few 'treatment plans' on the site.

    As I said, the ultimate goal is to make sure he never forgets he isn't alone in his constant battle with his own episodes. Thousands of people are left un-diagnosed. Thankfully he was diagnosed. I'm going to be thinking everyday of you, and your son, and hoping that you are able to find a solution that works to end his addiction.

  • Doris @ July 18th, 2014



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