If you have bipolar disorder, or know someone who has it, you have no doubt been affected by the severe mood swings that characterize the lives of those it affects. And while there are a number of medications on the market to help control and stabilize the side effects that can lead to seemingly crazy behavior, it can still be extremely difficult to find a combination of drugs that will help a patient achieve a happy medium. The real problem in locating a “cure” or “solution” for manic-depression is that it is still not entirely known what causes it. Like most mental illnesses, it is believed that a number of factors are involved in the formation of the disorder (both biological and environmental), which may make it very difficult to treat. As a result, those who suffer from bipolar disorder or have loved ones who do must often take steps (apart from medication) to seek a balance that will allow them to live a normal life.
- Individual therapy. Medication will only address one aspect of the disorder, that of altered brain function (chemically speaking). In addition, those who experience manic-depression may want to get to the root of environmental factors that come into play. In this capacity, a therapist of some kind (specialists are preferred) may be able to help an individual learn which places, people, and situations are contributing to an ongoing imbalance.
- Family therapy. Bipolar disorder not only affects the individual afflicted, but also their family. It behooves all involved to understand the disorder and try to help in any way they can, even if it is simply by allowing the other people involved to have space to calm down when they need it. This can make life easier for everyone and reduce the pressure on the affected party to act a certain way.
- Diet and exercise. Maintaining a healthy diet and weight can make a real difference in patients with manic-depression, since there are indications that the disorder may carry a greater risk for obesity. A Mediterranean style of eating (high in veggies, fruits, whole grains, and fish) is also good for general overall health, especially when combined with regular exercise. Both make your body feel good, which can only help.
- Stress reduction. One environmental factor that is heavily attributed with causing mood swings is stress. And you will probably notice that certain stressors have a greater affect than others (family gatherings, deadlines at work, an aggressive boss, pressure to perform in some capacity, etc.). If these cannot be avoided, an effort must be made to neutralize them. In addition, yoga, meditation, massage, and other forms of stress reduction may yield positive results.
- Maintenance. All reports to date seem to indicate that bipolar disorder is not something that can be effectively “cured”, which means that ongoing treatment is necessary to deal with the disorder and continue to live a normal life. This entails almost certain adherence to medications (although they may be tempered when patients go into remission), as well as an onus on the patient to recognize warning signs and take steps to prevent or manage extreme mood swings or disturbances whenever possible.