Bi Polar Disorder

Updated on January 18, 2014
P.K. asks from New York, NY
8 answers

Hi, can anyone share some insight on bipolar disorder? Have you had success or have information about treating this without medication? What medications have you found helpful and why? Thank you.

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answers from New York on

Someone close to me has bipolar disorder. No details, for privacy.

The short answer is, bipolar is:

1. A very serious mental illness
2. A very treatable mental illness

In other words, this thing has to be treated. You can't treat bipolar without medication any more than you can treat, say, diabetes, or cancer, without medication. But, the medication works. The side effects are mild.

In terms of which meds, this is really a question for a psychiatrist. The standard regimen is lithium. Many people also take an antidepressant. For people who don't react well to lithium, Depakote is a common alternative.

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answers from Phoenix on

I have bipolar II disorder. Hardly any mania but very severe depression. I've accepted that I will be on psych meds for the rest of my life and will most likely need med adjustments every 6 months. Remembering to refill my meds and take meds twice a day sucks. Trying out different meds and dealing with side effects sucks. But I want to live so I HAVE to be on medication. I know how it feels to be off of them and it is excruciating. Desperately wanting to die, not caring about the husband and child I'd be leaving behind, is not normal and for someone with a chemical imbalance, cannot be dealt with through therapy, diet, exercise, friend/family support or acupuncture alone. It just doesn't work. And that's ok because there's a medication that will work for everyone. It's a horrible illness but it is manageable. Exercise definitely gives me more energy and is a good mood elevator. Acupuncture helps with bad side effects. And I've got an amazing support system. But without medication I wouldn't be able to get out of bed to exercise or go to my acupuncturist. A great example of how medication saved my life is when I was pregnant with my daughter I had to go off of my meds because they weren't safe for baby. I got severely depressed and ended up in psych unit. I was one day away from terminating my pregnancy. My psychiatrist put me on Prozac(safe for preg) and told me it would take a couple of weeks to kick in. At the end of two weeks I'd had enough. I decided I was going to end my life the following day. I wasn't scared or sad, I was desperate for relief. I woke up the next morning and it was as if someone had flipped a switch in my brain. I felt good, almost happy. It was the Prozac and it saved my life (and the life of my daughter) just in time. I will NEVER risk being off my meds again. I WANT to live. Feel free to PM me if you'd like info on the drug cocktail that is currently keeping me stable. Sorry for such a long answer!!!

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answers from Dallas on

I too have someone close to me that is bipolar. It does HAVE to be treated with medication. This is not something that can be cured. But it can be treated. Lithium is the standard but there is blood work done on a regular basis to make sure the levels are all ok. Lots of bipolar people feel better on their meds, stop taking them, have a major depressive episode. They have to understand the meds are lifelong.

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answers from Boston on

My husband has been diagnosed with a mild form of bi-polar depression II, described as cyclothymia. He goes through long periods of relatively normal moods (maybe several months) then has short "manic" bursts lasting up to a week followed by 6-8 weeks or more of depression. He is always functional so for him it's not debilitating other than destroying relationships. During his "manic" phases, he just has a lot of energy, starts projects he can't finish, buys things we can't afford (boats, motorcycles), enrolls in classes, plans career changes, etc. The depressed cycles are much worse - anger, irrational thoughts, irritability, trouble sleeping, excessive computer use, etc.

The best phase in our marriage was when he was on Lithium, which lasted less than a year due to a reaction he had to it. That was followed by Depakote, which I also found to be very helpful. The problem is that he doesn't really believe the diagnosis, doesn't think the medicine helps, doesn't think that his illness is the root cause of many of his failed and stressful relationships, etc. so he took himself off medication and now is on a no therapy kick either. It's just lovely...not.

My husband is trying a lot of supplements to manage his symptoms. He says he feels better but I see no change in behavior or mood to support it.'s a tough thing to deal with, for everyone. I honestly think that mood stabilizers are the most effective treatment for most people and should really be the first course of action. Then when the person is functioning fairly normally on the stabilizers, she or he can look at optimal wellness through exercise, diet, supplements, biofeedback, EFT, talk therapy etc. and see if it's possible to sustain the stability while slowly weaning off medication under the careful guidance of a doctor. But many patients really could benefit from medication for a long time. My husband's psychopharmacologist had some patients who had been on for 30+ years and couldn't have been stable and successful in life without it.

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answers from Hartford on

I work in a field where I come into contact with many people who have Bi-Polar. Many of them are un-medicated. What I see in the people who have chosen not to medicate isn't good. I could describe what I've witnessed and been subject to, but couldn't do them justice.

My best advice is that if you or someone you love is considering medication for Bi-Polar Disorder, be patient. It might take some time to find the right combination but when you do you'll know it. It might take a combination of meds to find the right control. I have a friend that's on three different meds... two specifically for Bi-Polar, one for anxiety and depression. But her combination might not work for someone else and be unique to her situation and type of Bi-Polar.

My cousin is Bi-Polar (and autistic), and he self-medicates with alcohol and sometimes pot. He was on meds for a while, but then lost his insurance and while he said they worked well for him in the next sentence he said they sucked and were an effort for "the man" to control him. He goes through very dark, self-harming, self-destructive periods and for about 6-9 months he was homeless and living in the woods. I had no idea, and it was the winter of last year. It explained why he just dropped out of sight for a while.

I see that happen a lot too, in my line of work. There are so many people with untreated, severe neurological and mental disorders that they lose all social function, including day to day ability to live independently, and they become homeless. Some just disappear like my cousin did. Then one day if you're lucky they might pop back up, just like my cousin did. Except he's still not medicated and he moved out of state last month with no supports except his un-medicated ADHD Bi-Polar autistic fiancee and I fear for them every single day. He has anger control problems, focus problems, which he holds in check very well for me because he loves me and I help him, but it's exhausting for him.

I wish he and his fiancee would get jobs with insurance and find a good doctor and supports and get on medication again. They're about 13 states away. I worry that at some point, I'll stop seeing Facebook updates and they won't ever start up again.

So yeah... please do more than consider meds along with the dietary changes.

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answers from Boston on

Neither medications nor homeopathic or nutraceutical remedies CURE this or any other disorder, but many can lessen the symptoms. I work with a lot of people who have had considerable success in minimizing the symptoms, some using non-medical measures and some using a combination of medical and non-medical. Bipolar disorder, like depression and anxiety and attention/focus issues, are based at least in part on some chemical imbalances that can be improved nutritionally. The body's natural state is to be whole and healthy, so there are a variety of things that can help achieve that. In all cases, I would say that nothing is immediate and each person needs to find something they are willing to be consistent in pursuing. That can be particularly difficult with long-standing issues when the person is already distracted, disappointed by other regimens that didn't work, and frustrated. So that's why good support and advice is needed. I've seen amazing results with myself and my colleagues/friends in many areas of mental illness because of that chemical component, but I would never tell anyone there's a magic overnight perfect solution.

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answers from Beaumont on

My BIL is bi polar and he takes lithium which helps him a lot. For some though, it causes problems with the kidneys and liver so be careful to see how your body deals with it.

A friend had 2 bi polar children that were totally cured with neurofeedback.

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answers from Dallas on

Watch Stephan Fry Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. You can google it.

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