Living With Bipolar Disorder

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Living with bipolar disorder is very challenging. It’s a serious, chronic mental illness characterized by intense and unpredictable mood swings. Each mood swing has the potential for turning a person’s life upside down. People with bipolar disorder have the same kind of depression as those with major depression, but occasionally experience an unusually euphoric mood called mania. In between the profound highs and lows, people with bipolar disorder experience normal moods called euthymia.

Living with bipolar disorder can be very challenging. The long periods of normal moods can fool a person into thinking that their depression and manic episodes have gone away. But depression or mania will always re-occur until a person is on a steady treatment regimen.

Living with bipolar disorder presents challenges that must be met in order to live a fulfilling and productive life. One of these challenges is living with medication.


Medication and Bipolar Disorder

Living with bipolar disorder typically requires daily medication to eliminate mood swings. Mood stabilizers, like lithium, lamotrigine, valproate, or carbamazepine are common treatments. Antipsychotic medications can also keep mania under control if it’s persistent. Without medication, a person will suffer the depths of profound depression and often psychotic highs of unrestrained mania. Many people are at first resistant to medication, however. Because their behavior is so at odds with their normal behavior during mania, people tend to discount the chances that it will recur. Unfortunately, left untreated, bipolar episodes occur more and more frequently.


Myths about Living with Bipolar Disorder

Living with bipolar disorder means dealing with myths about it. Some common myths are:

 

Myth 1: You can’t have a normal life if you have bipolar disorder. 

Fact: With consistent medication and therapy, a person with bipolar disorder can have as much of a normal, ordinary (or extraordinary) life as anyone else.

Myth 2: Willpower is what you need to be in control of bipolar. 

Fact: Bipolar disorder cannot be controlled by sheer willpower. You can’t tough it out. Medication, therapy, and awareness of the facts about bipolar disorder are what allow a person to keep it managed.

Myth 3: All medication for bipolar is worse than the disease itself. 

Fact: The right medication will allow you to feel and behave like yourself. People often talk about how a psychiatric medication made them feel like a zombie or “just not like themselves,” which is often a sign that in reality, the person is on the wrong medication or on too high a dose. It’s true that it can take several weeks for a person to adjust completely to medication, and there’s no way to rush that adjustment period. 

Myth 4: There’s no way to predict bipolar phases. 

Fact: There are known triggers for bipolar phases. For example, insomnia can trigger manic phases. A lack of restful sleep is one of the hallmark signs of an impending mood shift. As with all psychological disorders, changes in a person’s routine can also trigger mood shifts.

Myth 5: There’s only one form of bipolar disorder. 

Fact: There are several varieties of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I is the most common and involves periods of depression, normal moods, and mania. Bipolar II has the same degree of depression that bipolar I does, but a less intense form of mania called hypomania. Cyclothymia is a disorder similar to bipolar I, but the highs and lows are much less intense.

Myth 6: Bipolar disorder is cyclical. 

Fact: Mood swings in bipolar disorder may be very irregular. A person may have far more depressive episodes than manic. There isn’t a one to one relationship between extremes of mood in bipolar disorder.

Myth 7: Bipolar disorder is most often found in geniuses. 

Fact: People of all kinds get bipolar disorder. The myth of the “bipolar genius mind” is common in the media and is often used to dramatize the condition, but there’s no consistent association between bipolar disorder and high levels of intellectual achievement. 


Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

All types and intensities of bipolar disorder benefit from regular psychotherapy, and most people with type I bipolar disorder require medication. Bipolar disorder responds well when people are proactive; that is, they monitor their symptoms and take action immediately if their condition worsens. A holistic approach to bipolar disorder is one of the most useful ways to keep it in check. This includes psychotherapy, medication, good nutrition, and healthy amounts of exercise and leisure.


TMS Therapy as an effective alternative for depression

In 2008, the FDA approved the treatment of depression with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS therapy uses a powerful and precise magnetic field applied to an area of the brain that regulates mood. It is completely non-invasive, is done on an outpatient basis and provides significant relief from the symptoms of depression. TMS therapy is covered by major insurance companies, Medicare and TRICARE. 


This blog post is meant to be educational in nature and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. See full disclaimer.


Works Cited

Bipolar disorder. (2018, January 31). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355961.

Keck, P. E., McElroy, S. L., Havens, J. R., Altshuler, L. L., Nolen, W. A., Frye, M. A., … Post, R. M. (2003, June 28). Psychosis in bipolar disorder: phenomenology and impact on morbidity and course of illness. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0010440X03000890.

Lewis, K. S., Gordon-Smith, K., Forty, L., & Florio, A. D. (2018, January 2). Sleep loss as a trigger of mood episodes in bipolar disorder: Individual differences based on diagnostic subtype and gender: The British Journal of Psychiatry. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/sleep-loss-as-a-trigger-of-mood-episodes-in-bipolar-disorder-individual-differences-based-on-diagnostic-subtype-and-gender/41F07BA90B95312BF9CB73CD941DA645.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bipolar Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml.

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