Treatment & medication
Currently, bipolar disorder is a lifelong recurrent illness with no available cure. However, medications and therapeutic treatments may be used to help smooth out the mood swings and related symptoms and manage bipolar disorder on a long-term basis to avoid relapse, according to the Mayo Clinic.” Bipolar Disorder Treatment is with mood stabilizers,” Krakower said. “But in addition to medication you can have psychosocial interventions, get patients involved in the community, and also teach the family how to manage the condition.
Mood stabilizers such as lithium and valproate are used to prevent the extreme highs and lows, according to the Mayo Clinic. A possible side effect of lithium treatment is low thyroid levels, which has been associated with rapid mood cycles and weight gain in some people, especially women during their first two years of lithium treatment, according to a 2002 study in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience.
Other medications may be used to treat specific symptoms, which may include antidepressants, anticonvulsants and antipsychotics. Anticonvulsants such as valproic acid (Depakene), gabapentin (Neurontin), topiramate (Topamax) and lamotrigine (Lamictal) also act as mood stabilizers and appear to possess a broad spectrum of effectiveness, according to a 2010 review published in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry. However, the Food and Drug Administration and a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association both warned that there’s an increased risk of suicidal behavior among patients using seizure medication and they should be monitored for notable changes in behavior.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is also used to treat some patients with bipolar disorder. It’s particularly suitable for highly agitated or suicidal patients or those with psychotic or catatonic symptoms, according to the NIMH. ECT involves administering a brief electrical stimulus through the scalp to the surface of the brain. Though the treatment is generally effective, especially to those who are not responding to medication, there’s concern as to whether the therapy could cause long-term permanent memory impairment and deficits, according to a 2007 article in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience.
Coping & management
Beyond medication, patients with bipolar disorder can also seek additional help and emotional support through psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Various programs and support groups can also help the patient stay focused on recovery goals, according to the Mayo Clinic. Since the disease and its symptoms can affect spouses, family members, friends and caregiver, it is also important to extend emotional support to them and help prevent physical and mental exhaustion, according to the NIMH.