Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that, when left untreated, can have devastating consequences. It is characterized by recurring manic and depressive episodes that negatively impact a person’s ability to live a stable, healthy, and productive life. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential, and can allow a patient with bipolar disorder to live a relatively normal life.
The first challenge with bipolar disorder is that the characteristic mood swings can be difficult to distinguish from other conditions such as depression, ADHD and borderline personality disorder. Additionally, some medical conditions (for example thyroid disorders or epilepsy) as well as some medication responses (for example anti-anxiety drugs and drugs for Parkinson’s disease) can mimic the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
The seriousness of this condition, plus the challenges in diagnosis, make it essential that one consult with a psychiatrist who has specific experience in bipolar disorder treatment.
Recovery does not happen overnight and more than medication is required (although that is usually a key component). Ongoing psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal/social rhythm therapy, family therapy, and group therapy is likewise essential.
Another important factor in treatment is a commitment to overall wellness. This includes keeping to a regular routine, eating a well-balanced diet, and getting regular exercise and adequate sleep. Use of alcohol or illicit drugs can cause or worsen symptoms and also render prescription medications less effective, so avoidance is key. Participating in a bipolar disorder support group can also be beneficial, as it allows a patient to share their experiences and learn from the experiences of others.
Unfortunately, some patients, when they reach a point where they are feeling stable, lose their motivation and cease treatment. This all but guarantees a relapse into periods of mania and depression. That’s why keeping up with therapy and surrounding oneself with a strong support system, while heeding the advice of one’s psychiatrist, is essential to staying on the path toward recovery.