Learning to Live with Bipolar Disorder

Learning to Live with Bipolar DisorderMany people lead happy, fulfilling lives with bipolar disorder, but ongoing treatment is necessary. Just like many other chronic diseases, bipolar disorder is manageable but not curable.

Identifying Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder has two phases: mania and depression. Behaviors during these phases are vastly different from normal changes in mood and activity. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the following behaviors are typical during a manic episode:

  • Feeling extremely happy or outgoing
  • Feeling irritable and agitated
  • Feeling restless and unable to sleep
  • Exhibiting impulsive behavior

Examples of symptoms during a depressive episode include the following:

  • Losing interest in enjoyable activities
  • Feeling tired
  • Experiencing trouble concentrating and making decisions
  • Feeling restless
  • Experiencing altered habits of eating, sleeping and other daily activities
  • Contemplating or attempting suicide

Often the most difficult part of understanding bipolar disorder is diagnosing the disease. There are several types of bipolar disorder, and some of the symptoms are similar to other disorders, such as inattentiveness that may be confused with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Medications and Bipolar Disorder

When a bipolar individual finds the right medications, the symptoms of the disease stabilize, and the person is able to lead a normal life. Unfortunately, it can take time to find the right medicine since individuals respond differently to each of the recommended options.

Mood stabilizers are the most prescribed bipolar drugs, according to the NIMH. Anticonvulsant medications are sometimes prescribed; this class of drugs also regulates mood. The most effective medications for bipolar disorder include the following:

  • Lithium (also known as Eskalith or Lithobid)—Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the 1970s, it is effective for controlling mania symptoms and preventing further episodes.
  • Valproic acid or divalproex sodium (Depakote)— Used to treat mania, this drug received FDA approval in 1995 and is a popular alternative to lithium.
  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal)— This drug recently received FDA approval and is a maintenance therapy for bipolar disorder.
  • Other anticonvulsant medications, including gabapentin (Neurontin), topiramate (Topamax) and oxcarbazepine (Trileptal)—There are no large studies showing these medications are more effective than mood stabilizers.

Most often, a clinical psychiatrist prescribes medication although standards vary by state.

Controlling Bipolar Disorder

Many people find it helpful to keep track of their daily activities and moods in order to flag any significant changes. A chart with significant information might include the following:

  • Daily mood symptoms
  • Treatments
  • Sleep patterns
  • Life events

Individuals who stay on medications and seek psychological counseling are best able to control bipolar disorder.

Need Help Finding Treatment for Bipolar Disorder?

It’s important to find the right treatment for bipolar disorder, which often includes a combination of medication and talk therapy. If you need advice on the best treatment for you or a loved one, call our toll-free number now. We are available 24 hours a day to share information and options. Take the next step to a healthy, productive life and call today.