Bipolar treatment is aimed at helping people live as normal a life as possible, reducing the number and severity of episodes of depression and mania. It includes a combination of medications and psychological and lifestyle approaches that can include psychotherapy, behavioural therapy and family-focused therapies.
Antidepressants (sometimes called mood stabilizers) are used to treat the most severe symptoms of bipolar disorder, including depression and mania. Antidepressants are not suitable for everyone with bipolar disorder, but they are usually effective in preventing relapse.
It’s important to keep on the medication you’re prescribed by your doctor as it will prevent withdrawal effects, relapse and the need for hospital admission. It also reduces the risk of serious side effects, such as suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
Your GP will also check that you are taking the right dose of your medicine. If you’re not, they will change it.
Medication is often the first line of treatment for people with bipolar disorder. Mood stabilisers, like lithium, are the most common. Other treatments include antipsychotics, which help with severe mood changes, and antidepressants.
Other types of drugs that can be used to treat bipolar disorder are antiepileptics, such as valproic acid and carbamazepine. These can be used as a single drug or in combination with other antipsychotics to reduce mania, hypomania and depressive symptoms.
Some alternative and complementary medicines are not regulated the way prescription drugs are, so they can have dangerous interactions with certain bipolar disorder medications. Be honest about which ones you use or would like to try, and tell your GP if any of them cause problems.
Talking therapies are an important part of treating bipolar disorder. They help you cope with and overcome the symptoms of your illness, re-build relationships and improve quality of life. They can be particularly helpful in addressing issues at home, which can lead to stress and strain for families of people with bipolar disorder.
It’s a good idea to keep a mood diary or journal. This will help you identify triggers, monitor how well your treatments are working and spot any changes in your eating or sleeping patterns that may need to be addressed.
Exercise can be helpful in reducing the frequency and severity of episodes of bipolar disorder. Aerobic activities that activate the arms and legs, such as running, walking, swimming, dancing or drumming, are especially effective.
Avoiding high-stress situations, maintaining a healthy work-life balance and practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or deep breathing can also help.
Getting educated about bipolar disorder is another step to help you understand your condition and how to manage it. This will help you feel more empowered and motivated to stick to your treatment plan and stay on top of your symptoms.
It’s also a good idea to talk about the disease with your family and friends. They can help you learn to recognize the signs of a manic or depressive episode and get them help as soon as possible.