Electroconvulsive Therapy

For some individuals, medications and therapy may be less helpful for treating their symptoms of bipolar disorder. In such cases, doctors sometimes prescribe electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a medical treatment that involves sending a low-level electric current through the brain for about one minute to induce a small seizure. This is commonly conducted in a hospital under the care of physicians. ECT is usually tried when other treatments don't work, and it can be especially helpful for those...

Challenges With Disclosure

Below are some common questions people ask about sharing their diagnosis with others. We've provided general information in response to each concern, but because everyone is unique and every situation is different, it's important to discuss your concerns with your treatment team. That way you can get information relative to your situation and receive the support you need. Question What if people judge me or don't understand Answer It's common to have worries and concerns about what others will...

Common Cooccurring Disorders And Symptoms

Sometimes when you have an illness you may also experience other disorders or symptoms. Two or more disorders that occur at the same time are known as comorbid disorders. Comorbid disorders that tend to occur with bipolar disorder can make it more difficult to manage your symptoms. However, educating yourself about these additional disorders or symptoms can help you prolong periods of wellness. More than 50 percent of people with bipolar disorder experience severe anxiety (Simon et al. 2004)....

Antidepressant Medications

It was once thought that antidepressants (medications commonly prescribed to treat depressive disorders and anxiety) were necessary to treat bipolar depression. Research now shows that mood stabilizers alone can help with both mania and depression, so taking an antidepressant might not be necessary (Sachs, Sylvia, and Kund 2009 Altshuler et al. 2009). For many people with bipolar disorder, taking an antidepressant without a mood stabilizer can cause a manic episode (Ghaemi, Lenox, and...

The Positive Side Of Bipolar Disorder

The media often portrays people with bipolar disorder as being out of control or constantly experiencing symptoms. While this may be true for some individuals, many people with bipolar disorder have full and satisfying lives (Coryell et al. 1998). Even though many people struggle with this illness, about 25 percent of people with bipolar disorder report that their work and social lives are good or better, with as many as 15 percent describing their professional and personal abilities as...

Triggers

Equally as important as identifying warning signs is thinking about what causes those warning signs to occur. Sometimes things that happen in your life, both good and bad, can influence your mood. These are called triggers because they may result in mood symptoms or an episode of mania or depression. Importantly, triggers tend to come before warning signs. So if you can identify your triggers, you can intervene even sooner, taking care of yourself and implementing strategies to prevent mood...

Staying Well and Staying Hopeful

Once people are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the focus on symptoms, mood management, and wellness tends to overshadow some of the good that comes with the diagnosis. One key benefit is that it opens the door to setting wellness goals for managing your illness and improving your general well-being. We begin our last chapter with some examples of wellness goals to get you started. We'll also briefly discuss some of the positive traits associated with bipolar disorder, including creativity,...

Preparing For The Appointment

The goal of the initial consultation with a bipolar disorder specialist is for the care provider to learn more about your history and experiences. This first session with a doctor or therapist is often the longest. For example, you may need to arrive early to read and complete paperwork, such as consent forms and the privacy policies we mentioned earlier. The provider will ask you questions about your symptoms, the history of your concerns, and any family history of mental illness. If you've...

The Biology Of Bipolar Disorder

As we stated at the beginning of this chapter, bipolar disorder is a biological illness. Although we know that bipolar disorder results from biological changes, there are currently no medical tests, such as brain scans, blood tests, or genetic tests, that can confirm a bipolar diagnosis or the likelihood of developing the illness. Stressors such as childhood trauma, poor family relationships, and sleep deprivation can bring on or worsen symptoms, but they don't cause bipolar disorder. In this...

Fdaapproved Medications For Bipolar Disorder

Medications for bipolar disorder work by increasing the function of neurotransmitters, the chemicals in the brain that help regulate mood (discussed in chapter 1). In this section we'll discuss medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA is the U.S. federal agency responsible for ensuring that medications provide benefits and are safe for use by the general public. To be approved by the FDA, a drug must go through several stages of review, including tests comparing...

Developing Your Own Disclosure Script

Now that you've seen some examples of disclosure scripts, take some time to think about how you'll tell other people about your illness. Remember that you may want to use different disclosure scripts with different people. Even so, the same general guidelines will apply in all cases. The point of a disclosure script isn't to hide aspects of your illness, but to provide clear information about the less stigmatizing aspects of your symptoms when telling others about your diagnosis for the first...

Identifying Warning Signs And Triggers

In this section, we provide some strategies to help you identify your warning signs and triggers by looking for patterns in your moods and experiences. Keep in mind that this can be a challenging task, and it may take some time to get into the habit of practicing these strategies. However, the more you learn about yourself and your experiences with bipolar disorder, the easier it will be to notice changes in your mood, thoughts, and behavior. In chapter 6, we'll talk about what to do once you...

The Importance Of Sleep

Since changes in sleep are known to trigger mood episodes, it's particularly important to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Seven to nine consecutive hours of sleep is the ideal for adults. Sleeping five hours at night and then taking a two-hour nap doesn't add up to seven hours of consecutive sleep. Also note that it's important to maintain your sleep schedule on the weekends. Sometimes you may stay up late for whatever reason. When this happens, try to stick to your schedule. It's better to...

Use a Daily Mood Chart

One useful strategy for identifying mood patterns is to use a daily mood chart to track changes in your mood day to day. There are many free online tools you can use to do this. For example, http moodtracker.com has a helpful worksheet to record how you feel each day. It allows you to graph when you're feeling high or low, how much sleep you're getting, and any changes in your medications. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) has a website (www.facingus.org) featuring a mood...