Can psychotherapy help bipolar disorder?

Can psychotherapy help bipolar disorder?

Can Psychotherapy help Bipolar Disorder?

We live in a society today where mental illness is more prevalent than ever before. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that in 2018, 18 .5% of the U.S. population experienced some type of mental illness. That’s 43.8 million adults. Of those numbers, 2.6% were affected by bipolar disorder.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, causes rapid changes in an individual’s mood and energy levels. This can severely impact a person’s ability to function in day-to-day life. The condition usually begins in late adolescence/early adulthood, but it has also shown up during childhood and advanced adulthood. It is not uncommon for people to live their entire lives without ever having the condition diagnosed. This is because it is often dismissed as nothing more than “mood swings”.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterized by two types of behaviors: mania and depression. In the mania phase, the individual will display symptoms/behaviors such as:
1. Extremely good, often euphoric moods
2. An exaggerated attitude of self-importance
3. Insomnia
4. An increase in sexual activity
5. Aggressive behavior extreme irritability
During the depressive phase, the following symptoms/behaviours can occur: 
1. Feelings of anxiety and sadness
2. Fatigue, decrease in energy
3. Feelings of worthlessness
5. Difficulty in decision-making; poor memory In between these phases, the individual exhibits normal moves and behaviours.
Detection and diagnosis of bipolar disorder are based solely on symptoms, family history, and the development of the illness. There are currently no physiological tests such as MRI, CAT scan, or blood tests that can detect it. Once the pattern of the symptoms has been mapped out, a course of treatment can be decided upon. Doctors use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, to identify the illness and categorize it.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder falls into one of four categories: 
1. Bipolar I Disorder – Manic or combined episodes lasting for at least seven days, or manic episodes severe enough to require hospitalization. Depressive symptoms may also manifest and last at least 14 days. The symptoms in either instance will display a significant deviation from the individual’s normal behaviours.
2. Bipolar II Disorder – Depressive episodes switch with hypomanic episodes, however, there are no manic or combined episodes.
3. Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS) – The individual displays symptoms that do not fall under requirements for either a bipolar I or II diagnosis. The symptoms do, however, deviate from the individual’s normal behaviour range.
4. Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia) – This is a mild form of bipolar disorder. The behaviours are present which indicate the illness. Hypomania and mild depression will occur back and forth for a minimum of two years. The symptoms, however, do not fall under the requirements for any of the other categories of bipolar disorder.
There is also a condition known as Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder. This occurs when the individual experiences at least four episodes of mania, hypomania, major depression, or a combination of symptoms within a 12-month period.
There is no known cure for bipolar disorder at the present time. However, there are treatments which make it manageable so that the individual is able to live a relatively normal and productive life. It is mostly most effectively controlled when the treatment is regular and continuous. One of the most effective treatments for bipolar disorder has been proven to be psychotherapy.

Can Psychotherapy Help Bipolar Disorder?

Psychotherapy is most basically defined as the psychological treatment of a mental disorder in lieu of medications or medical treatment. This treatment is often referred to as “talk therapy” since that is essentially what it consists of. Psychotherapy involves treatment by a fully trained mental health professional. It is structured, scheduled regularly, and customized to help each patient’s needs while applying common treatment principles and methods. Most psychotherapy treatment sessions last for about 50 minutes and occur weekly or bi-weekly. The term “talk therapy” is a wide generalization as it implies that simply talking will bring results. While open and honest communication is very important for treatment to be effective, there is much more to psychotherapy then just chatting. A professional therapist is trained to apply specific techniques and principles to help their client.
While talking about issues with close friends or trusted family members can be beneficial, this is not treated in itself, for a few reasons. The main reason for this is simple. Regardless of how well-meaning they are, family and friends lack professional training. Talking with them can sometimes help, but it isn’t enough to deal with bipolar disorder.
Another concern involves privacy. Speaking with a mental health professional allows you to completely open up and share everything. No matter how much you love and trust your friends and family members, there is simply no way to ensure privacy. Your therapist is bound by the laws of doctor-patient confidentiality, so you can always speak freely. This is the most important aspect of treatment.
Suppose, for example, you have an issue with a particular family member that may be directly affecting your mental health. How could you be completely open and share this with another family member? Having to repress it would only make your condition worse. A professional counsellor will always listen without judgment and be completely impartial. Your counsellor wants to help you, while someone else may have ulterior motives for getting you to open up and talk.

The Benefits of a Psychotherapist

A psychotherapist is trained to hear much more than just what you say. A professional will hear the real meaning behind your words. They can ascertain a great deal of information not just from your words but from body language, facial expressions, a tone of voice, etc. They can make important determinations based on many factors. This Is how they are able to effectively diagnose and treat bipolar disorder.
Your therapist will be focused on you. They want to hear what you have to say. Friends and family members will be more conversational, interjecting their own opinions, ideas, and discussing their own problems. That will not be helpful to you. In fact, in some instances, it can cause more problems with your mental health.
Psychotherapy provides you with a private outlet to comfortably express yourself and openly share all the things that need to be shared. You will have at your disposal a trained professional. Your therapist’s main focus is to teach you coping mechanisms to help you in your everyday life. Different therapists are trained in different aspects of psychotherapy treatment. Once the level of your bipolar disorder is determined, you will be paired with a therapist with the specific skills to help you.
The stigma that was associated with mental health issues for so long has lost its negative influence. There are a great deal more openness and understanding regarding mental illnesses and their causes. Those who suffer from them are no longer hidden away or considered outcasts from society. Bipolar disorder no longer has the power to control lives. Psychotherapy has become a real game-changer in helping people to overcome this issue and live full, happy lives.

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