Bipolar Disorder Treatment
Bipolar disorder is much more complex than a series of mood swings. Therefore, treating the mental illness requires addressing immediate concerns as well as helping an individual gain the skills and tools to cope with the diagnoses throughout their entire life. For children and teens with the diagnosis, it’s never too early to start thinking about what this treatment plan might entail.
Bipolar treatment for young people typically involves a combination of medication and talk therapy. Because depressive and manic symptoms might be more severe, sometimes residential treatment for bipolar disorder may be the smart option for stabilizing their mood, addressing substance use issues, and reducing the risk of suicide or long-term impairment. Let’s take a look at the most commonly used treatments for bipolar disorder.
Medication is frequently used to treat bipolar disorders. Medication can vary, however, depending on a person’s age, their symptoms, and whether or not they experience side effects. They can include:
- Mood stabilizers – These medications, which can include lithium, valproic acide, and divalproex (among others), are used to treat the symptoms of mania or hypomania.
- Antidepressants – These medications are sometimes prescribed to help curb symptoms of depression. However, because antidepressants can sometimes trigger a manic episode, people with a bipolar disorder commonly take antidepressants in conjunction with other medication.
- Antipsychotics – Sometimes these medications are used to treat depressive or manic symptoms if other medications are not effective.
- Anti-anxiety medications – Doctors may prescribe benzodiazepines for anxiety symptoms and to help with sleep.
Typically children and adults with the diagnoses are prescribed the same or similar types of medication given to adults. However, it’s important to remember that the first medication a doctor prescribes may not be the best for treating bipolar disorders. Even for medications that do work, there may be a period of adjustment for the body. Often it is a process of trial and error, and as young people grow and develop, they may have different needs. Medication works best when you report side effects as they occur. Also make sure that your son or daughter doesn’t stop a medication abruptly without consulting with a doctor, as this can lead to worse symptoms.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is an essential component in treating bipolar disorder. Here are some common types of psychotherapy used to treat symptoms and promote health living. These types of therapy are also frequently employed at bipolar disorder treatment centers.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – CBT is the most commonly used form of psychotherapy used to treat bipolar disorder. CBT helps people learn to acknowledge the irrational beliefs that lead to negative behaviors and to help correct these thoughts with positive thinking and healthy living. CBT can also help an individual learn to recognize the situations and circumstances that might trigger a depressive or manic episode, so that they can practice coping in a positive way.
Interpersonal Social Rhythm Therapy – IPSRT is another common type of psychotherapy that helps people learn to manage their moods and the symptoms of manic and depressive episodes. The therapy encourages a person to create consistent and reliable rhythms in their sleeping, eating, and exercises habits.
Family Therapy – When a young person has bipolar disorder, family therapy can often help the entire family learn to recognize how interpersonal relationships can impact everyone’s mental health. Family therapy can help individuals learn how to be less reactive during stressful times within the family and how to communicate effectively with one another. Many residential treatment programs for bipolar disorder offer family services as well.
Psychoeducation – Working healthy and living productively with bipolar disorder requires an understanding of the nature of the diagnoses and its symptoms. Therapists use psychoeducation to help people learn to identify symptoms, recognize when a crisis is occurring, and to practice positive coping skills and seek additional help when needed.
Treatment Programs for Bipolar Disorder
For young people with bipolar disorder, sometimes more intensive treatment is necessarily to achieve stability and educate them about living with the disorder. Here are common forms of treatment programs recommended by mental health professionals.
Day treatment – For people who can live independently but need extra support for their mental health (in addition to medication and/or therapy), day treatment programs can be an excellent intervention. In day treatment, individuals typically attend groups that educate them about managing the symptoms of their mental illness and learning healthy coping skills for living a full life. People in day treatment also work with counselors and other mental health professionals who help them create a treatment plan that outlines their short-term and long-term goals.
Residential treatment – Because manic and depressive symptoms can often be quite serious for people with bipolar disorder, some may benefit from a more intense, 24-hour supervised treatment center for bipolar disorder. Residential treatment programs help an individual learn to manage their medication, they provide intensive psychotherapy, and they frequently work with families to educate them about how to support an individual with a severe mental illness. They also have medical staff on hand to monitor an individual’s health and protect them should they be at risk of injuring themselves.
Dual Diagnosis treatment – Because many people with bipolar disorder may self-medicate their symptoms with drugs or alcohol, residential treatment centers for bipolar disorder may also offer dual diagnosis treatment. This helps an individual maintain sobriety from drugs and alcohol but also manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Even if your son or daughter hasn’t used drugs or alcohol to cope, they may be at risk in the future for substance use. So when you’re searching for bipolar residential treatment, ask providers if they address substance use in their program.
Hospitalization - For individual who are a threat to themselves and others, hospitalization may be the first step in plugging someone into treatment for their mental illness. People who experience manic symptoms may engage in risky or dangerous behaviors, and people with depressive or manic symptoms may be at risk for suicide. Hospitalization can help deescalate the crisis, stabilize a person’s mood, and connect them to the right resources and bipolar treatment centers.
For a young person with bipolar disorder, it’s important to remember that recovery looks different for everyone. Though a person may experience symptoms of the diagnoses their entire lives, they don’t have to be held hostage by them. Your child can grow up to live an independent and full life, with a healthy mind and body. What steps today can you take today to help your child learn to live above and beyond a bipolar diagnosis?