As a treatment resistant bipolar, I have been through almost every treatment regimen that exists. I have an excellent doctor and therapist and they both are truly committed to my recovery. We just have not hit upon the right combination of treatment yet…YET.
So many medications are available for the treatment of bipolar disorder. Most often a “cocktail” of prescriptions is the answer to balancing the traumatic mood swings that disrupt the bipolar’s life. Always ask your doctor the reason he is prescribing a new medication for you and what side-effects you might expect… Is it a mood stabilizer, an anti-depressant, an anti-anxiety med, an anti-convulsant, a sleeping aid, and so forth. Lithium, lamictal, zyprexa, depakote, klonopin, seroquel, risperdal, carbamazepine, ambilify, topomax, the list goes on, as do the effects and results. Do your own research, and ask lots of questions. Pay attention to how your body responds.
Cognitive therapy is almost always used in conjunction with pharmaceutical therapy. Working one-on-one with a counselor to identify and discuss moods, triggers, reactions, and tools for response can be immensely effective in managing the disorder.
Group Therapy, Intensive Outpatient Therapy, and other support groups can provide hope and vital information, as well as reassuring the individual that they are not alone in their efforts to manage the disorder. For more information on support groups:
Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is a more extreme option especially effective for the depressive side of bipolar disorder. Side effects include some memory loss and disorientation for a period of time. As with many of the drugs, it is not always effective.
Studies also lend credence to the corelation between lifestyle changes that can play a positive role in managing the treatment of bipolar disorder. Sleep schedules, diet changes, regular exercise, and appropriate light exposure can have a direct effect on the brain chemistry.
Most important for the bipolar individual is having a plan and a support network to call on during depressive and manic episodes. Close friends and family members should be educated about the illness and in tune with symptoms of impending episodes...The bipolar individual may try to mask such symptoms such as lack of sleep, racing thoughts, too much sleep, suicidal thoughts, etc. The support team should maintain close contact and recognize symptoms. Whoever is closest should be alerted in order to respond whether it means sitting with the individual, calling in the doctor, or taking the individual to the emergency room.
Suicidal and self-destructive behaviors are very real threats when the bipolar individual is in the grips of either extreme of the spectrum. Any mention of suicide should be taken seriously. With a solid plan and a dedicated support group, positive outcomes are possible.