Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental illness that causes extreme changes in the mood of the person suffering from it. This disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world, affecting about 60 million people.
Those who suffer from it do not always receive an accurate diagnosis. It is common to be confused with other disorders, preventing them from receiving proper treatment. In many cases, it is not diagnosed well or early enough and has a huge impact on the life of the patient.
Mr. Jones is one of the films that best portrays the difficulty of treating bipolar disorder. Either due to lack of diagnosis or because the agitated episode arouses the interest and satisfaction of a life full of adrenaline causing a misleading rationalization of the type “I feel very well, therefore I do not need treatment.”
Here we list the 4 most frequent challenges in the treatment of the bipolar disorder, offering prevention and symptom control strategies that can be easily transmitted to patients and families.
1. Challenge: Mood swings
According to the author of the book Skills Workbook for Bipolar Disorder, Sheri Van Dijk: “Mood swings can appear suddenly, without incitement and can diminish the normal functioning of the subject and ruin their interpersonal relationships”.
Although bipolar disorder appears to be random, there are repeatedly different triggers and patterns that can be monitored. And although many times we will not be able to prevent symptoms, we can decrease and easily cope with them.
One of the best ways to monitor mood swings is through a log table. Which will be recorded from the mood, the hours of sleep, the level of anxiety, the medication schedules, and even the menstrual cycle. Such tools will allow anticipating a potential depressing episode if it is observed that the mood is declining progressively in recent days.
Performing healthy habits is also an efficient way to reduce heavy emotional burdens. It is important that the patient adhere to the habit of a good rest and going to sleep and getting up; create a quiet routine to go to sleep, avoid consuming any substances for example alcohol (which affects sleep) and also avoid exercising in the afternoon.
Exercise can help reduce symptoms of depression. Eliminating caffeine consumption can reduce anxiety and irritability, as well as improve the quality of sleep. Also, certain foods can exacerbate mood swings in some people.
To control the effects of eating, you can start by eliminating some particular foods from the diet and observing what results in its causes. A type of strategy can also be used to avoid the destructive consequences of symptoms.
2. Challenge: Medication:
Earlier in the treatment for bipolar disorder, patients were given medications and sedatives with several side effects. However, today, thanks to medical science, the mood stabilizing drug is one of the mainstay treatments, and these drugs do not have carry as many side effects as the earlier treatments.
3. Challenge: Relationships:
Bipolar disorder represents a strong challenge for interpersonal relationships. Symptoms such as mood swings and risky behavior many times leave the family exhausted and confused.
In addition, loved ones also have the difficulty of not being able to differentiate between the disease and the one who is suffering from bipolar disorder. They may override the subject’s feelings or blame the illness for everything, or they may also believe that the person makes conscious decisions when it comes to their illness.
It is therefore extremely important that loved ones receive comprehensive education about the disorder. Family discussion/therapy and individual therapy will be helpful.
A good strategy is to suggest that loved ones read articles or books on self-help or biographies of other people with this disease. Getting in control of your emotions can also improve relationships.
4. Challenge: Anxiety:
About 2/3 of people with this disease also have an anxiety disorder.
Johnson emphasizes the importance of using relaxation techniques and not using avoidance behaviours. Van Dijk offers us a good explanation for patients: “Because of the anxiety, if you will avoid something, it will increase more, because your brain will never learn that there is nothing to worry about”.
Psychotherapy is tremendously helpful in dealing with bipolar disorder and in overcoming difficulties. If you are taking any medicines, do not stop them suddenly, this can increase the risk of a relapse. It is also important to consult with your psychiatrist regularly.