Bipolar Disorder, also called manic-depression, is one of the major mental illnesses described in the DSM-IV-TR. It is characterized by episodes of depression and mania. The first article in this series, Understanding Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, defined these episodes and discussed the different types of Bipolar Disorders. This article will inform you of some of the treatment options.

Typically, a person with Bipolar Disorder will need a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Many people see a practitioner for medication and think that it will be enough to cope with the symptoms of the disorder. In order to really understand the disorder, therapy is pertinent. Medication can help manage, but not cure, the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. Most people are left experiencing continued symptoms, even when taking medication. It is for that reason that I strongly advocate that a person attend therapy.

A trained therapist can help you identify behavioral methods to manage symptoms of depression and mania. A common type of therapy used with Bipolar Disorder is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of therapy that teaches a person to understand the thinking that is behind some irrational emotions and behaviors. It can also teach a person to change behaviors in order to positively affect thoughts and feelings.

Another important technique for managing Bipolar Disorder is relaxation exercises. A therapist will teach you to relax in order to manage some of the anxiety and physical discomfort that can accompany the disorder. Breathing exercises, visualizations, and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) are common relaxation exercises that will improve your ability to manage symptoms.

Mindfulness is another way to manage some of the negative emotions you may experience. Mindfulness is a technique that teaches you to recognize and be present with your emotions without over/under reacting to them. It is very useful to those experiencing depression or hypomania.

Supportive therapy is often needed as well, particularly when the diagnosis is first made. My motto is, “smart people have therapists.” It is wise to have an objective, knowledgeable person to talk to as you learn how Bipolar Disorder affects your life. A therapist can help you process the emotions you are experiencing and come to accept the diagnosis. Supportive therapy can also help with important things such as establishing a healthy routine to help manage symptoms.

Having a healthy daily routine is very important to both managing and recognizing symptoms. The better able you are to maintain a daily routine the easier it will be to notice if an episode of depression or mania begins. Also, a routine will help you keep yourself in balance.

Keeping a daily mood chart is one way to notice if your mood begins to change and if there is any trigger or pattern to your mood changes. A therapist can help you identify the important aspects to include in your daily chart. Seeing your mood begin to change is one way to help yourself manage the symptoms and keeps you from being ‘blindsided’ by an episode.

Diet and exercise can also help to treat Bipolar Disorder. Exercising daily can help decrease the number of depressive episodes you experience. Likewise, a low carb, high Omega 3 diet can help stabilize mood swings. You can speak to a physician, dietician, or therapist to learn more about dietary options.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is another fairly common way to treat Bipolar Disorders that are not responding to medication. ECT involves electrical shocks to the brain done in a controlled environment by a trained doctor.

It is not expected that you know how to manage the symptoms of this disorder just because you have been diagnosed with it. Never be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help from friends, family, physicians or therapists. People with Bipolar Disorder can live healthy, productive lives when treated with the right medication and taught behavioral skills to manage symptoms.

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