Bipolar disorder is typically characterized by phases of depression followed by episodes of mania, with very few phases where mood is stable. A person living with the condition may experience either phase for weeks or months at a time, which may significantly interfere with their ability to manage daily activities such as working or socializing. During a manic phase, bipolar individuals tend to outperform others at work, but during a depressive phase they may find it difficult to function and perform.
Therapy interventions for bipolar disorder include:
Cognitive behavioural therapy or counselling
These approaches aim to alter negative thought and behaviour patterns that lead to difficulty in coping with the condition.
This approach is aimed at family members and caregivers, providing them with support and guidance in coping with the impacts of bipolar disorder on family relationships. The person suffering from bipolar disorder, their spouse and their family members need to understand the importance of adhering to medications such as mood stabilizers and being able to identify symptoms of an oncoming episode of severe depression or mania.
Counselling individuals as part of a group can improve their ability to cope with the symptoms of their condition. Identifying with other individuals suffering from similar disorders can ease the feelings of isolation or loneliness that living with mental illness can cause. In addition, skills-based programs can help patients learn to cope with medication side-effects, problems in the work place and relationship issues.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
ECT is used in severe cases of bipolar disorder, where medication and/or psychotherapy have failed to help an individual. A muscle relaxant and an anaesthetic are administered to render the procedure painless and free of anxiety. On average, ECT treatments last between 30 and 90 seconds and the patient usually recovers after around around 5 to 15 minutes. The procedure is usually performed in a day care unit. Some side effects of the procedure include confusion, disorientation and loss of memory.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc