Two years ago, when he made the decision to tell the world about his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, KSTP-TV meteorologist Ken Barlow could only guess what kind of reaction he would get.

“I could have lost my job,” he said. “I could have lost my friends. I had no idea what was going to happen, but I felt like I just couldn’t hold it in anymore.”

In 2007, after a lifetime of manic bursts followed by debilitating depressions, Barlow was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder. For five years, fearing that the truth about his mental illness could have a negative impact on nearly every aspect his life, Barlow told only a select few people about his diagnosis. And even those people were sworn to secrecy.

Read the full article here.

Source: Minnepost.com
Artcile by: By Andy Steiner

BipolarBipolar and Alcohol

A recent article in Psychology Today written by Russ Federman shows that when individuals with bipolar disorder drink large amounts of alcohol or abuse drugs, the results are most often negative. The explanation of why alcohol and drugs don’t mix well with bipolar disorder isn’t simple.

To begin with, individuals with bipolar disorder struggle with mental stability.  Obviously, alcohol does not enable stability, so problems arise when the two are mixed.  Following the experience that alcohol provides, individuals who have bipolar may experience increased mood swings or instability.  Also, people with bipolar disorder often struggle with long bouts of depression following alcohol abuse.  These “low” mood cycles can be hard for them to recover from.  Generally, people with the addictive behaviors, which bipolar individuals commonly struggle with, tend to over indulge when drinking alcohol because the anticipation of feeling low is not apparent for the individual at the time that he or she desires the high. However, the feelings of being hung over and depressed are magnified with bipolar disorder.

But, when individuals are pleasure seeking or perhaps just trying to get rid of uncomfortable feelings, the thought processes leading to their choices aren’t necessarily rational or balanced. In fact, for those with bipolar disorder who struggle with mood instability, the use of drugs and alcohol only adds to the ups and downs. It absolutely doesn’t smooth them out.

When the seductive and dangerous element of disinhibition is taken into account, particularly in relation to alcohol and bipolar, the effects can be dangerous. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and that is partly why it feels so good. Individuals who may be insecure or shy get to be more outgoing and confident. Individuals who generally are uptight get to let loose and be stupid. People who are chronically anxious and fearful get to relax. The problem with this is that individuals with bipolar disorder intermittently become hypomanic or manic: it’s what defines the diagnosis. Russ Federman (2010) states that, “in these elevated mood states, bipolar individuals almost always experience some degree of impaired impulse control. During the elevated mood phase they’re usually feeling up, energized, gregarious and cognitively accelerated. The problem is that once their mood extends above the mildly elevated range, they often lose the capacity to modulate or turn down their mood-related intensity. It’s like the wheels of hypomania become lubricated and they keep picking up speed.”

So, in sum, red flags are flying when alcohol-related disinhibition and individuals with bipolar are mixed. Because of the increase in feelings and emotions, bipolar individuals have to master control over their desire for more– which is difficult in most cases.  Most bipolar individuals struggle with even having just a single glass of alcohol because it usually leads to more – and that’s what gets them in trouble. Again, to quote Federman (2010), “If you want to live well with bipolar disorder, then drugs and alcohol don’t factor into the equation.”

bipolar3Treatment for bipolar disorder

There is no cure for bipolar disorder.  However, treatments are available and have proven to be very successful in most cases.  Good treatment helps people gain control of their mood swings and other related symptoms of bipolar.  Because bipolar disorder is recurrent and lifelong, people with bipolar disorder need life long treatment.  Both medication and psychotherapy are needed to reduce symptoms and prevent relapse.

The following mood stabilizing medications are used to treat bipolar disorder:

  • Lithium (sometimes known as Eskalith or Lithobid) was the first mood-stabilizing medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the 1970s for treatment of mania. It is often very effective in controlling symptoms of mania and preventing the recurrence of manic and depressive episodes as in bipolar disorder.
  • Valproic acid or divalproex sodium (Depakote), approved by the FDA in 1995 for treating mania, is a popular alternative to lithium for bipolar disorder. It is generally as effective as lithium for treating bipolar disorder.
  • More recently, the anticonvulsant lamotrigine (Lamictal) received FDA approval for maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder.
  • Other anticonvulsant medications, including gabapentin (Neurontin), topiramate (Topamax), and oxcarbazepine (Trileptal) are sometimes prescribed. No large studies have shown that these medications are more effective than mood stabilizers.

Other medications, called “Atypical antipsychotic medications” are also sometimes used to treat symptoms of bipolar disorder. Often, these medications are taken with other medications. Atypical antipsychotic medications are called “atypical” to set them apart from earlier medications, which are called “conventional” or “first-generation” antipsychotics. (www.nimh.nih.gov).  These include:

  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa), when given with an antidepressant medication, may help relieve symptoms of severe mania or psychosis.
  • Aripiprazole (Abilify), like olanzapine, is approved for treatment of a manic or mixed episode.
  • Quetiapine (Seroquel) relieves the symptoms of severe and sudden manic episodes.
  • Risperidone (Risperdal) and ziprasidone (Geodon) are other atypical antipsychotics that may also be prescribed for controlling manic or mixed episodes.

Further, antidepressant medications are sometimes used to treat symptoms of depression in bipolar disorder. Most people with bipolar disorder struggle significantly with depression.  People with bipolar disorder who take antidepressants often take a mood stabilizer too. Doctors usually require this because taking only an antidepressant can increase a person’s risk of switching to mania or hypomania. Commonly prescribed anti-depressants to treat bipolar disorder include:

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin)

Before taking any medication for bipolar, it is important to discuss the many side effects with your doctor.

An additional treatment for bipolar disorder is psychotherapy.  This “talk” therapy, can be an effective treatment for bipolar disorder. It can provide support, education, and guidance to people with bipolar disorder and their families. Some psychotherapy treatments used to treat bipolar disorder include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people with bipolar disorder learn to change harmful or negative thought patterns and behaviors.
  • Family-focused therapy includes family members. It helps enhance family coping strategies, such as recognizing new episodes early and helping their loved one. This therapy also improves communication and problem-solving.
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy helps people with bipolar disorder improve their relationships with others and manage their daily routines. Regular daily routines and sleep schedules may help protect against manic episodes.
  • Psychoeducation teaches people with bipolar disorder about the illness and its treatment. This treatment helps people recognize signs of relapse so they can seek treatment early, before a full-blown episode occurs. Usually done in a group, psychoeducation may also be helpful for family members and caregivers.

A licensed psychologist, social worker, or counselor typically provides these therapies. This mental health professional often works with the psychiatrist to track progress. The number, frequency, and type of sessions should be based on the treatment needs of each person.

Again, although there is no cure for bipolar disorder, proven treatments have given patients hope and much more consistent, high functioning lives.



BipolarUnderstanding Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder (often called BD) is a type of mood disorder.  In the past, this condition was called manic depression but most psychiatrists refer to it as bipolar disorder now.  This disorder is a psychiatric illness that causes major disruptions in lifestyle and health.

Everyone has occasional highs and lows in their moods. But people with bipolar disorder have extreme mood swings between depression and mania. They can go from feeling very sad, despairing, helpless, worthless, and hopeless (depression) to feeling as if they are on top of the world, hyperactive, creative, and grandiose (mania). This disease is called bipolar disorder because the mood of a person with bipolar disorder can alternate between two completely opposite poles, euphoric happiness, and extreme sadness.

Even more confusing for the individual dealing with the disorder is when symptoms of both mania and depression sometimes occur together in what is called “mixed state.”

Also, the mood extremes usually occur in cycles. Between the mood swings, people with bipolar disorder are able to function normally, hold a job, and have a normal family life. However, the episodes of mood swings tend to become closer together with age. Speaking of age, most people start showing signs of bipolar disorder in their late teens (the average age of onset is 21 years). These signs may be dismissed as “growing pains” or normal teenage behavior. On occasion, some people have their first symptoms during childhood, but the condition can often be misdiagnosed at this age and improperly labeled as a behavioral problem. Bipolar disorder may not be properly diagnosed until the sufferer is 25-40 years of age, at which time the pattern of symptoms may become clearer.

When a person is in the grip of this disease, chaos can occur. Bipolar disorder can cause major disruption of family and finances, loss of job, and marital problems.

For instance, severe depression can be life-threatening. It may be associated with thoughts of suicide, actual acts of suicide, and even acts of homicide in some cases.  On the other hand, extreme mania can lead to aggressive behavior, potentially dangerous risk-taking behaviors, and homicidal acts. Also, people with bipolar disorder may turn to drugs and alcohol to “self-treat” their emotional disorder, resulting in substance abuse and dependence.

Because of the extreme and risky behavior that goes with bipolar disorder, it is very important that the disorder be identified. With proper and early diagnosis, this mental condition can be treated. Bipolar disorder is a long-term illness that will require proper management for the duration of a person’s life.


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