Treatment for bipolar

Describes bipolar disorder, including the various types and treatment options. Provides guidance on supporting someone with bipolar disorder and advice for managing it yourself.

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What treatment can help me in a crisis?

If you find yourself in the following situations, it might be necessary to seek out crisis services:

  • Your condition significantly worsens
  • A mood episode persists for an extended period
  • Your usual treatment proves ineffective

Options for crisis intervention can involve:

  • Immediate assistance, like visiting the emergency department
  • Assistance from a Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment (CRHT) team
  • Admission to a hospital

Talking therapies for bipolar disorder

Your doctor may suggest various psychotherapy options to assist with long-term management of bipolar disorder. These may include:

Family-focused therapy-Means getting the family together to talk about how they act, find any problems, and learn how to talk better and solve problems together.

Behavioural couples therapy-Concentrates on identifying and addressing emotional issues among partners.

Group psychoeducation-This is typically participating in a group with individuals who have similar experiences, with the goal of increasing understanding of bipolar disorder and enhancing self-care techniques, under the guidance of a trained professional therapist.

Interpersonal therapy-Pays attention to how you get along with people. It looks at how these relationships change the way you think, feel, and act, and how your behaviour can change these relationships too.

Individual psychoeducationMeans getting quick help to learn how to spot what sets off your stress, see the early warning signs, and figure out ways to deal with it.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)-Shows you how your feelings, thoughts, and actions are connected and teaches you ways to change these patterns.

What treatment could help me in the longer term?

Defined goals for emotional and social improvement. With your doctor, you can aim for these goals, frequently review and adjust them as needed.

A plan for handling crises. This outlines steps to take if you notice early warning signs or triggers, or if you begin to feel extremely upset.

Your daily emotional state. Being mindful of how to regulate your mood and recognising any shifts is beneficial.

A plan for medication management. This covers scheduling reviews of your medication’s dosage, effectiveness, and any potential side effects.

If you’re undergoing talking therapies, you might set some of these goals with your therapist.

It’s important to discuss these goals with your family doctor. You might also consider sharing them with key people in your life, like family, friends, your partner, or caregiver.

What treatment could help me manage a current episode?

The treatment you receive for bipolar disorder typically varies based on the type of episode you are currently going through.

During manic or hypomanic episodes:

Your doctor will probably prescribe medication, which could be either a new prescription or an adjustment to your existing bipolar medication. During a manic or hypomanic episode, it is less common for your doctor to suggest psychotherapy.

During depressive episodes:

Your doctor will probably give you some medicine. This might be a new kind of medicine or a change to the medicine you’re already taking for bipolar disorder. Also, your doctor could suggest a special kind of talking therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is used to treat depression.

Electroconvulsive therapy for bipolar disorder

Doctors should only consider electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as an option for treating bipolar disorder in severe cases.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which provides recommendations for healthcare excellence, suggests that ECT may be considered by doctors if the following two criteria are met:

  • You are dealing with a prolonged and intense phase of depression or a long episode of mania. 
  • Previous treatments have failed to improve your condition, or your situation is critical and poses a danger to your life.

If you find yourself in such a circumstance, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They are required to provide a clear and understandable explanation of ECT before you decide on any course of action.

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