Treating Bipolar Disorder With Acupuncture

Bipolar Disorder (BD) – Basics

People with Bipolar Disorder (also called manic-depressive illness) experience irregular shifts in mood, energy and activity due to an abnormality in the brain. Bipolar disorder generally presents in the late teens or early adult years, and is characterized by elevated emotional mood episodes. These periods can be ones of euphoria and hyper excitement (manic episodes), extreme sadness or despair (depressive episodes), or a mix of both (mixed state).

Treating Bipolar Disorder with Acupuncture

Bipolar patients struggle with a lifelong disorder that causes unpredictable manic and depressive episodes from day to day.  An estimated 1.9 million Americans suffer from this illness, and their families, jobs, and relationships are often disrupted by the persistence of extreme ups and downs.  When properly diagnosed and treated, these individuals can enjoy a stability that allows them to be productive, functioning adults, however, there is currently no medication that can address all of the bipolar disorder symptoms.  A typical treatment plan involves medication, new lifestyle choices, and some form of alternative or complementary treatment.

One such treatment that is often used in conjunction with medication is acupuncture.  Developed in China more than 2,000 years ago, acupuncture focuses on promoting the flow of energy from the surface of our bodies in towards our organs.  This energy, or Qi, is critical to not only our spiritual health, but also to our emotional, physical, and mental balance.  The proper balance can be restored with the help of several thousand different acupuncture points that serve as a map to our primary and secondary meridians.  A practitioner can apply pressure along certain areas of the skin using a series of very fine acupuncture needles, clearing up any energy blockages and allowing the body to heal itself.  This ancient method of therapy has been shown to help bipolar patients better regulate their response to stress.  Chemically speaking, acupuncture treatment stimulates the central nervous system, releasing endorphins that bipolar patients may not produce in high enough quantities normally.  This process helps bipolar and depressed patients to enjoy a significant reduction in their symptoms of mania while following a regular course of acupuncture.

Dr. Tricia Suppes, a professor in the Psychiatry Department at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, began a formal study on the effects of acupuncture on bipolar disorder back in 2001.  The study was sponsored by the National Insititute of Mental Health, and served as a follow-up to studies done at the University of Arizona College of Medicine where acupuncture was used to treat unipolar depression.

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