Bipolar Disorder

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Prognosis and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be severe. They can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. Without treatment the natural course of bipolar disorder tends to worsen. Over time a person may suffer more frequent (more rapid-cycling) and more severe manic and depressive episodes than those experienced when the illness first appeared.  But in most cases, proper treatment can help reduce the frequency and severity of episodes and can help people with bipolar disorder maintain good quality of life.

Because bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness, long-term preventive treatment is strongly recommended and almost always indicated. A strategy that combines medication or neurofeedback, as well as psychotherapy, is optimal for managing the disorder over time.

In most cases, bipolar disorder is much better controlled if treatment is continuous than if it is on and off. However, even when there are no breaks in treatment, mood changes can occur and should be reported immediately to the treatment provider. If needed, adjustments in the treatment plan can be made in order to prevent a full-blown episode.

Even though episodes of mania and depression naturally come and go, it is important to understand that bipolar disorder is a long-term illness that currently has no cure. Staying on treatment, even during well times, can help keep the disease under control and reduce the chance of having recurrent, worsening episodes.

Psychotherapy for the treatment of Bipolar

As an addition to medication, psychotherapy is helpful in providing support, education, and guidance to people with bipolar disorder and their families. Studies have shown that psychosocial interventions can lead to increased mood stability, fewer hospitalizations, and improved functioning in several areas. The number, frequency, and type of sessions should be based on the treatment needs of each person.

Psychotherapy treatments may include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
    • Helps people with bipolar disorder learn to change inappropriate or negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with the illness.
  • Psychoeducation
    • involves teaching people with bipolar disorder about the illness and its treatment, and how to recognize signs of relapse so that early intervention can be sought before a full-blown illness episode occurs. Psychoeducation also may be helpful for family members.
  • Family therapy
    • uses strategies to reduce the level of distress within the family that may either contribute to or result from the ill person's symptoms.
  • Neurofeedback
    • uses a non-invasive feedback system to facilitate changes in brain wave patterns and provide improved brain functioning
As with medication, it is important to follow the treatment plan for any psychosocial intervention to achieve the greatest benefit

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