Bipolar disorder describes a more serious condition where mood becomes unstable and affects the individual’s ability to function. About 1% of our community has this condition, and it affects equal numbers of men and women. Bipolar disorder and depression tend to run in families. In my experience as a psychologist treating bipolar disorder I find that there are many myths around bipolar disorder and it’s treatment. Treatment for bipolar has been rather medication focused in the past, and only now are we realising the impact of the social environment and how counselling may be effective. Till this date, most individuals with bipolar will be offered only a medication option for treatment. In a perfect world it is a combination of both effective therapy and medication options that provide the most effective treatment for bipolar disorder.
I have taught in the Queensland Psychiatry program and presented in a bipolar conference several year ago with my colleague Dr Paul Pun how the treatment of bipolar disorder requires a client focused and therapy/medication approach in order to achieve the best outcomes for clients. Dr Pun and colleagues conducted workshops for 7 years in the Queensland psychiatry program.
When clients feel in control of their treatment program then we have the best outcomes. In my practice as a psychologist I usually work with GPs and/or psychiatrists when managing more complex bipolar treatment programs. In the case of Bipolar 2, treatment can often be quite similar and not invasive. I’m particularly keen to assist women with Bipolar Disorder to have a family and overcome the hurdles of pregnancy and the associated risks.
How Bipolar Differs From Depression?
Bipolar disorder has some additional symptoms apart from depression.
A person with bipolar will have days or weeks of depression (low mood) and at other times will have days or weeks of high energy. This high energy is often a positive experience for the person but may lead to difficulties in relationships. The high energy state often leads to sleeping less than 5 hours a night for a period longer than a week. Sometimes those with bipolar may only sleep 1-3 hours and feel rested.
In Australia it takes an average of 10 years after the first episode for an individual to be diagnosed with this condition. In part this is because of lack of awareness in the community about the disorder. Often those with bipolar have had very successful lives with times of depression versus periods of creativity.
Treating Bipolar Disorder
Treatment usually involves counselling to improve social supports and medication to help with mood. Social support is very important and structuring a healthy routine can decrease the impact of episodes and improve functioning in the long term. One of the most effective treatments for bipolar is Interpersonal Social Rhythms Therapy (IPSRT) or therapies that focus on family functioning and psycho-education.
I welcome new clients who are keen on self-management and want to take their treatment to the next level. Please book a single session and we can discuss the options.
Author: Vivian Jarrett, B Psych (hons), AMAPS, MAICD.
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