While many assume bipolar disorder is only treated with psychiatric medications, we believe bipolar disorder therapy is effective in helping manage symptoms and critical in helping people build their lives. In other words, bipolar disorder therapy is therapy.
Bipolar disorder (sometimes still referred to as manic-depressive disorder) is a mood disorder characterized by dramatic variations in mood ranging from depressed to manic. These variations can vary in frequency and intensity, just as the intensity of the moods themselves can vary.
For those who haven’t experienced intense, prolonged, or uncontrollable mania, it can be tricky to understand. Often the early part of bipolar disorder therapy involves helping to flesh out an understanding of just what’s going on. Critically, though, that understanding should be more than a generic description–in bipolar disorder therapy, everyone needs the space to discover how their bodies are functioning. Those who experience bipolar mania describe it as an uncomfortable (though sometimes simultaneously enjoyable) euphoria that is both more intense and more prolonged than a typical “good mood.” Mania occasionally presents as extreme irritability. Sometimes mania is a period of hyper-productivity or increased socializing. It may start out as fun and a welcome change from the mundane or a prior depressed mood, but because of difficulties in moderating mood and the sheer intensity of it, it can tend to get out of control, including, for example:
- Impulsivity in decision making (spending far beyond what one can afford, suddenly deciding to travel to an exotic or novel location without plans or resources and support upon arrival)
- Risky sexual choices
- An absence of sleep for many days at a time
In extreme (though sadly not rare) cases, intense mania can trigger psychosis, or a break from reality that may include hallucinations, highly confused thinking, and paranoia. In these cases, psychiatric hospitalization and intensive medication are nearly always required for a short period of time. A key objective of bipolar disorder therapy is to help prevent those hospitalizations whenever possible.
There are two primary subtypes of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I, where mania is the more dominant characteristic, and bipolar II, where depression or dysthymia dominates, but manic and hypo-manic episodes do occur. Neither type makes someone ineligible for bipolar disorder therapy.
How bipolar disorder therapy can help.
While there are a number of psychiatric medications that treat symptoms of bipolar disorder, there is no cure, and living with bipolar disorder is a serious responsibility.
Taking care of yourself
Minimizing dangerous shifts in mood necessitates taking very good care of yourself, and in particular attending to schedules and patterns. Going to bed and waking up at a regular time, getting plenty of sleep, eating and consistent hours, getting regular exercise, socializing regularly, getting plenty of sunlight, and keeping alcohol use to a minimum are critical for individuals with bipolar disorder. We can help you develop these healthy habits. Our bipolar disorder therapy can be as practical as it needs to be.
Watching out for warning signs
Sometimes shifts in mood can seem arbitrary, but with effective bipolar disorder therapy, we can identify some common triggers and respond thoughtfully to help moderate a mood shift and prevent these shifts from leading to trouble, including minimizing psychiatric hospitalizations. Occasionally charting mood changes along with changes in medication, seasonal changes, and various life events can help identify these patterns.
Growing emotionally: Bipolar disorder therapy should simply be therapy
When we talk in the language of mental illness, we tend to focus on things like medication and mood shifts (all of which are important), but we leave out the more ordinary, day-to-day work of creating our lives.
You are more than your bipolar disorder, so shouldn’t great therapy for bipolar disorder keep that in mind?
Therapy isn’t just about disorders. That must be true even when a serious concern like bipolar disorder is part of what brings one to therapy. In fact, bipolar disorder therapy doesn’t even have to be about problems at all. People come to therapy for help with all kinds of things. If you’re struggling with bipolar disorder, there’s likely a lot of therapy to do related to that disorder, but that doesn’t mean that your therapy for bipolar disorder has to limit the conversation.