Bipolar disorder like many disorders with a fairly long history of treatment and diagnosing is treated using a combination of methods. Typically this means two methods: mood stabilizing drugs and psychotherapy. People who aren’t psychiatrists or pharmacists might be able to tell you the most common drug used to treat bipolar disorder is lithium carbonate, but the list goes on and includes a number of other anti-epileptic and some newer antipsychotic medications. Other mood stabilizers include valproic acid, carbamazepine, Lamictal, Topamax and Gabitril.
While psychotherapy with an Orange County Therapist may have fallen out of favor in other treatment contexts it still occupies a fairly prominent position in treating bipolar disorders. In fact, most forms of psychotherapy are in use in treating bipolar conditions. They include behavioral, cognitive and individual or group therapy sessions. Since bipolar episodes are periodic and far from continual, either manic or depressive episodes, psychotherapeutic sessions can serve to enhance a patient’s understanding of their condition and its effect on those around them when periods of rationality prevail. There are also inpatient Bipolar treatment centers available.
Those around them include most prominently family members, whom it is important to involve in therapeutic efforts and efforts to understand the disease. Family members can play a significant therapeutic and a preventative role in regard to bipolar episodes.
As mentioned previously lithium has long been the drug of choice for treating bipolar disorders. In fact, this is all the more remarkable since science still doesn’t completely understand how it works in reducing mania in particular. It’s also effective as a preventative for depression. Nowadays it can be used in conjunction with antidepressant medications. Lithium does have side effects and doesn’t always work as intended. Other mood stabilizers have proven their effectiveness in treating manic and depressive phases of the disease. Using these substances in combination with lithium is also fairly common. Pharmacological advances continue apace. Treatment-resistant cases are reported to respond well to Lamictal. Combination therapy involving mood stabilizers as well as antidepressants is quite common in treating depressive phases of the disorder. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors are probably the most commonly employed drugs in this context, owing to their lack of side effects as compared to other drugs.
Treating Depression without Drugs
Depressive episodes are still treated using electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). In fact, since falling out of favor around 40 years ago improvements in ECT have led to a steady resurgence in its popularity. It is most often used for severely manic or depressed individuals, especially those who do not or cannot be treated pharmacologically. That group would include individuals with drug sensitivities and pregnant women. The speed at which ECT therapy shows improvement makes it worth considering for patients who are at great risk for committing suicide.
Innovations in nonpharmacological treatment for depression have also come online. They include: VNS (Vagal Nerve Stimulation) and TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation).
When bipolar depression is associated with seasonal affective disorder light therapy has proven to be effective. A light box emitting full spectrum light for as little as 20 minutes a day has proven to be a successful treatment.