Can Bipolar Disorder Be Cured?
Bipolar disorder has no cure, but ongoing research and the development of treatment strategies is making it easier for individuals to effectively manage this condition. Adherence to treatment is most important, and that generally means finding the right combination of medications and sticking with long-term therapy. Also important in managing moods and symptoms is making healthy lifestyle changes and developing positive habits, such as turning to others for support and avoiding self-medicating.
The short and maybe disappointing answer is no; bipolar disorder cannot currently be cured. But this is true of most mental illnesses, because the causes and contributing factors are so complicated and not fully understood. The good news is that there are effective treatments for this condition, and for those living with it a good, ongoing treatment plan offered by mental health professionals can help significantly. You or someone you care about can benefit greatly from treatment and enjoy a much higher quality of life with fewer symptoms and mood swings.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a type of mental illness known as a mood disorder because it significantly impacts mood and emotions. It is characterized by extreme and often severe mood swings, between depression and mania. Depressive episodes are just like major depression, causing a low mood, feelings of worthlessness, fatigue, loss of interest in activities, and impairment for two weeks or longer.
Manic episodes are periods of high energy and euphoria and elevated mood. These moods can also trigger irritation, racing thoughts, impulsiveness, and a decreased need for sleep. Some types of bipolar disorder cause hypomania rather than mania, a similar mood that is less intense. Exact symptoms and severity of bipolar disorder varies by individual.
Engage in Treatment to Manage Bipolar Disorder
Although there is no cure for bipolar disorder, treatment can be effective, especially if you engage in it and commit to it for the long-term. This is one of the best ways to live with and manage bipolar disorder, as long as the treatment plan is individualized to meet your specific needs and includes evidence-based therapeutic strategies. There are two main components of treatment for bipolar disorder:
- Medications. There are several options for medications to treat bipolar disorder, but it is important to know that these alone will not best manage symptoms and moods. It also may take some time to find the best one, or more than one drug, to manage your symptoms with minimal side effects. Options include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, anti-anxiety drugs, and antidepressant-antipsychotic combination drugs.
- Therapy. Drugs alone cannot provide the best solution for managing bipolar disorder. Patients with this condition have the best outcomes when also engaging in therapy. This may include cognitive behavioral therapy to take concrete steps to change negative thoughts and behaviors and to develop better relationships. It may also include rhythm therapies, which use routines to help stabilize the rhythm of daily life for better management and stabilization of moods.
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Also important for managing bipolar disorder is making lifestyle changes, some big and some small. For a condition that revolves so much around shifting moods, being more aware of those changes in mood and what might trigger them is crucial. This is something a good therapy program will teach you, but it is up to individual patients to carry out those strategies in daily life. This may mean keeping a mood journal or recording the red flags that indicate a mood change is coming. Greater awareness allows you to take steps to minimize a coming episode and to engage with your therapist and others for support.
Other important lifestyle changes include developing a strong social support network of friends, family, and other people struggling with the same issues, focusing on maintaining a daily routine, avoiding drugs and alcohol, eating well, and getting enough sleep. In other words, staying healthy and developing daily, healthy habits is important for managing moods.
While there is currently no cure for this sometimes debilitating mental illness, there is hope. If you are struggling with manic and depressive episodes, the first thing you need to do is reach out for help and get an accurate diagnosis. Time at a residential mental health care facility can help establish a proper diagnosis, provide you with intensive one-on-one therapy, support, and a treatment plan, as well as monitor any fluctuations that may be problematic. With that in hand you can work with mental health professionals and caring loved ones to start up an effective treatment plan. With a commitment to treatment and lifestyle changes you can stabilize moods and minimize the impact this condition has on your life.