Woman consoles man who suffers from bipolar disorder.

Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder 

Living with bipolar disorder can feel like riding a rollercoaster of emotions. Imagine moments of extreme joy quickly followed by deep sadness. This isn’t just occasional mood swings; it’s the harsh reality for people dealing with bipolar disorder. 

But it’s more than just ups and downs. Bipolar disorder affects every part of life, like work and relationships. Imagine trying to stay focused on your tasks or keeping your relationships healthy when your emotions are everywhere. 

Thankfully, there’s hope. There are treatments available to help manage bipolar disorder and take back control of your life. In this article, we’ll talk about the different types of bipolar disorder, ways to cope and the medications that can help. 

Types of bipolar disorder – What’s the difference?  

When we think of bipolar disorder, it’s usually bipolar I and bipolar II that come to mind. We talked with Chief Operating Officer Dr. Chris Ivany and Dr. Luc Amdahl, a psychiatrist at our Family Care Center Round Rock, TX clinic, to understand the difference between bipolar I and bipolar II.  

Bipolar I disorder 

Bipolar I disorder includes a manic episode that lasts at least a week, where a person feels extremely energized or excited for most of the days. They also experience separate periods of depression, where they feel very sad or hopeless. The depressive episodes usually last at least two weeks. 

For a bipolar I diagnosis, these behaviors should be different from the person’s usual actions and noticeable to their friends and family. Symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with their ability to handle work, family, or social duties. Or they should be so severe that the person needs to go to the hospital. 

Bipolar II disorder 

People with bipolar II experience depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes. But they never experience a full manic episode, as that is a characteristic of bipolar I disorder. 

A hypomanic episode is characterized by less severe manic symptoms that last only four days in a row rather than a week. While hypomania is less impairing than mania, bipolar II disorder is often more debilitating than bipolar I disorder due to chronic depression being more common in bipolar II. 

If you’re experiencing suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide), it’s essential to seek immediate care. Call 911 or the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. Someone will be available to talk with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Managing bipolar disorder symptoms  

Living with bipolar disorder can be challenging, but with the right treatment and coping strategies, individuals can effectively manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.  

Let’s look into specific ways to manage bipolar disorder with resilience and strength. 

Leveraging bipolar disorder therapy 

Therapy plays a pivotal role in managing bipolar disorder by providing individuals with valuable coping skills and emotional support. From cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), this section explores the various therapeutic approaches tailored to address the unique needs of individuals with bipolar disorder. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) 

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT for short, is a type of therapy that helps people change the way they think and act. It’s like training your brain to see things differently and react better. 

According to Dr. Amdahl, “Your doctor may suggest cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves learning to identify and change cognitive distortions and other maladaptive thoughts before they worsen depressive and manic episodes.” 

Amdahl noted, “You may have to try several different therapy strategies to find the right fit, but it’s worth the effort.” He also added that “the combination of medications and therapy is more effective in treating bipolar disorder than only one of those.” 

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) 

Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is a type of therapy that helps people learn how to handle intense emotions and build better relationships. It’s all about finding a balance between accepting yourself and working to change for the better. 

DBT often combines techniques like mindfulness (which helps you stay present in the moment) and problem-solving skills to help you handle all kinds of situations. 

Exploring medication treatment options for bipolar disorder 

Certain medications can help control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Some people may need to try several different medications before finding what works best. 

Particularly with bipolar I and II, medication has been shown to be essential for treatment, according to Luc Amdahl, M.D., psychiatrist at our Family Care Center Round Rock, TX clinic. “The primary medications for treating bipolar disorder can be roughly divided into three categories: mood stabilizers, antidepressants and antipsychotics,” he says. “All three work best when taken every day.” These are often used in combination to prevent both depression and manic episodes, and they’re considered part of bipolar disorder maintenance, Dr. Amdahl explains. 

If you see changes while on a specific medication, talk with your health provider immediately. “Finding the right medication for bipolar disorder can sometimes take several attempts,” added Dr. Chris Ivany. “Usually, after you find an effective medication, it tends to work for many years or longer, but can require time and effort to find what works best for you.” 

Living with bipolar: Integrating coping strategies into daily life 

Managing bipolar disorder is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort and dedication. 

It can be challenging to live with bipolar disorder, but there are ways to help yourself, as well as your friends and loved ones. 

  • Keep medical and therapy appointments and discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider. 
  • Take medication as directed. 
  • Structure activities. Keep a routine for eating, sleeping and exercising. 
  • Focus on mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises to reduce stress and foster emotional regulation. 

Bipolar disorder treatment at Family Care Center 

At Family Care Center, our approach is grounded in evidence-based practices. This means we implement therapies that have demonstrated positive outcomes through extensive research, ensuring that you receive the highest standard of care available. 

Our clinics offer comprehensive treatments, from CBT to DBT and more. Each treatment option is carefully chosen based on its relevance to your specific concerns. 

This information was reviewed and approved by Dr. Luc Amdahl, Medical Supervisor – Psychiatrist (3/14/24) and Dr. Charles ‘Chuck’ Weber, D.O. FASAM LTC(R) US Army, Board Certified Psychiatrist / Addiction Medicine Board Certified, Chief Medical Officer of Family Care Center (3/27/24).

Photo by Transly Translation Agency on Unsplash.

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