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How To Manage Bipolar Disorder

Medically reviewed by Dr. Perpetua Neo, DClinPsy, UCL; MPhil
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How To Manage Bipolar Disorder October 3, 2018

Bipolar disorder affects around 5.7 million adults in the U.S. every year. As the name suggests, this condition may cause the affected individual to feel extremely depressed on certain days and abnormally high and excited on the others. If you are wondering how to cure this condition, let me tell you that there is no absolute treatment for it. However, a few tips can help you manage bipolar disorder and its symptoms. Scroll down to find out about this mental condition and the different options to manage it.

Table Of Contents

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health difficulty. It is marked by extreme mood shifts in the affected individuals. It may result in an extremely elevated mood or episodes of depression. This condition is also referred to as bipolar disease or manic depression.

There are three major types of bipolar disorder.

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Types Of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is classified into three types depending on the symptoms exhibited by the affected individuals. They are:

  • Bipolar l

It is defined by the onset of at least one manic episode. The affected person may experience hypomanic or even major depressive episodes before or after the first manic one. This type affects both men and women equally.

  • Bipolar II

Individuals with type II bipolar disorder often experience a major depressive episode that may last for up to two weeks. They may even develop a hypomanic episode that may last for about 4 days. This type is more common among women.

  • Cyclothymia

Cyclothymia is the third type of bipolar disorder. Those suffering from this type of bipolar disorder may exhibit episodes of both hypomania and depression. However, these symptoms are often shorter and less severe than those caused by the other two types.

The signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder differ among adults and children. They may also be different for men and women. Here are some of the symptoms exhibited by each of them.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder

Individuals with bipolar disorder often exhibit symptoms of mania, hypomania, or depression.

During manic episodes, an individual may engage in behaviors like:

  • Extravagant spending
  • Indulging in unprotected sex
  • Use of drugs

Those experiencing hypomania exhibit fewer and less severe symptoms as compared to manic ones. They may often experience mood swings.

Those with symptoms of depression associated with bipolar disorder may show symptoms like:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of energy
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of interest
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Too much or too little sleep

The main symptoms associated with bipolar disorder usually vary with gender and age.

Women

The common symptoms of bipolar disorder in women may include:

  • Mild episodes of mania
  • Experiencing more depressive episodes than manic ones
  • Four or more episodes of depression and mania annually, which is referred to as rapid cycling
  • Suffering from other medical conditions like obesity, thyroid disorders, migraines, and anxiety disorders at the same time
  • Getting diagnosed later in life, say in the 20s or 30s

Men

The symptoms in men differ from women in the following aspects. Men may:

  • Experience more severe episodes, especially those of mania
  • Have substance (drug or alcohol) abuse issues
  • Act out during any of the manic episodes
  • Be diagnosed earlier in life

Children

The manic symptoms in children include:

  • Acting silly
  • Feeling too happy
  • Talking fast while rapidly changing subjects
  • Trouble in focusing or concentrating
  • Indulging in risky behavior
  • Short temper
  • Trouble sleeping

Children may also suffer from depressive episodes and exhibit symptoms like:

  • Moping around
  • Acting very sad
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Showing no energy and interest in normal activities
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Thinking about death or suicide

Teenagers

Teenagers usually exhibit symptoms of manic episodes like:

  • Exhibiting risky behavior
  • Abusing substances
  • Thinking about sex more than one usually would
  • Becoming overly active sexually
  • Trouble in sleeping without signs of tiredness
  • Short temper
  • Trouble in focusing
  • Distracted easily

The depressive symptoms that teenagers (or adolescents) exhibit include:

  • Sleeping a lot or not at all
  • Eating too much or too less
  • Feeling of sadness
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, and activities
  • Constantly thinking about death and suicide

Even though bipolar disorder is common, doctors have not yet been able to pinpoint its exact cause. Researchers are not yet clear as to why it surfaces in some individuals and not others.

A few possible causes and risk factors for the development of bipolar disorder are provided below.

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Causes Of And Risk Factors For Bipolar Disorder

The main causes of the onset of different types of bipolar disorder are:

  • Genetics – A family history of bipolar disorder
  • Structural or functional abnormalities in the brain

Other factors that can put you at a higher risk of developing bipolar disorder include:

  • Stress
  • Traumatic life experiences
  • Physical illness
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Gender – Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally, but women are three times more likely to develop rapid cycling of mood episodes.

Given that the mood swings associated with bipolar disorder keep varying, this mental illness can be difficult to diagnose. Your doctor may use several tests and exams to diagnose a bipolar disorder.

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Diagnosis

The tests and exams that your doctor may opt for diagnosing bipolar disorder are:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood and/or urine tests to rule out other causes
  • Evaluation of your mental health
  • A record or journal that tracks your mood changes as well as eating and sleeping patterns
  • Following the diagnostic criteria, i.e., The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to get an outline for the symptoms of bipolar disorder

A combination of these diagnoses can help the doctor understand if you have bipolar disorder. Once it is confirmed, do not waste another second in beginning treatment to prevent this illness from becoming life-threatening. Let us look at some natural alternatives for treating this mental disorder.

How To Manage Bipolar Disorder Naturally

  1. Fish Oil
  2. Rhodiola Rosea
  3. Essential Oils
  4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  5. Vitamins
  6. Flaxseeds
  7. Valerian Root
  8. Licorice Powder
  9. Snakeroot
  10. Ginkgo Biloba
  11. Passionflower

Home Remedies To Manage Bipolar Disorder

1. Fish Oil

1. Fish Oil Pinit

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You Will Need

500 mg fish oil supplements

What You Have To Do
  1. Consume 500 mg of fish oil supplements.
  2. You can also consume 3.5 ounces of cooked fish like salmon, mackerel, or tuna.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this daily.

Why This Supports Your Mental Well-Being

Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids play a significant role in the functioning of the central nervous system and also help with the symptoms of bipolar disorder (1).

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2. Rhodiola Rosea

2. Rhodiola Rosea Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 5 g of rhodiola root
  • 1 cup of hot water
What You Have To Do
  1. Take 5 g of rhodiola root in a cup and add a cup of hot water to it.
  2. Steep for 4 hours.
  3. Strain and drink about one-fifth of the tea.
  4. Continue doing so until you have consumed the entire cup of the tea.
How Often You Should Do This

You must drink this tea daily.

Why This Supports Your Mental Well-Being

Rhodiola rosea acts as an adaptogen, helping you adapt to stress that is associated with bipolar disorder. It is also known for its anti-depressant effect in individuals suffering from mild to moderate depression (2).

Caution

Do not overdose on this herb as it may then worsen the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

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3. Essential Oils

a. Lavender Oil

a. Lavender Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 2-3 drops of lavender oil
  • Water
  • A diffuser
What You Have To Do
  1. Add two to three drops of lavender oil to a diffuser filled with water.
  2. Inhale the diffused aroma.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Supports Your Mental Well-Being

Lavender oil is great for relieving stress, anxiety, and depression, thereby making it an ideal choice for managing bipolar disorder (3).

b. Chamomile Oil

b. Chamomile Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 2-3 drops of chamomile oil
  • Diffuser
  • Water
What You Have To Do
  1. Fill a diffuser with water.
  2. Add two to three drops of chamomile oil to it.
  3. Inhale the pleasant aroma.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this twice daily, preferably every morning and night.

Why This Supports Your Mental Well-Being

Chamomile oil helps alleviate symptoms of stress and depression. It exhibits anti-depressant activities that help manage the symptoms of anxiety and depression associated with bipolar disorder (4).

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4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Pinit

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You Will Need

500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids

What You Have To Do
  1. Consume fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like sardines, salmon, mackerel, and tuna (about 3.5 ounces).
  2. You can also take additional supplements for omega-3s after consulting your doctor.
How Often You Should Do This

Consume omega-3s daily.

Why This Supports Your Mental Well-Being

Omega-3 fatty acids help in managing symptoms of bipolar disorder by managing the changing moods of the affected individuals. These fatty acids also help regulate behavioral aspects related to mood disorders like stress and depression (5), (6).

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5. Vitamins

5. Vitamins Pinit

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Vitamins B3 and D are believed to help in the management of bipolar disorder.

Vitamin B3 can be used in combination with other treatments and eventually help replace psychopharmacological drugs used for treating bipolar disorder (7).

Also, patients with this condition have higher chances of being deficient in vitamin D and hence must consume more of it to see its effect on their condition (8).

You can get more of these vitamins by consuming foods like tuna, mushrooms, peanuts, avocados, green peas, cheese, and egg yolks. You can also take additional supplements for these vitamins after consulting your doctor.

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6. Flaxseeds

6. Flaxseeds Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of powdered flaxseeds
  • 1 glass of milk or water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a tablespoon of powdered flaxseeds to a glass of hot milk.
  2. Stir well and consume.
  3. You can also add flaxseeds to your favorite juice or smoothie.
How Often You Should Do This

You must drink this mixture at least twice daily.

Why This Supports Your Mental Well-Being

Flaxseeds contain ALA, which is converted into omega-3 fatty acids inside your body. As you already know, omega-3 fatty acids can help in managing symptoms of depression and anxiety associated with type I bipolar disorder (9).

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7. Valerian Root

7. Valerian Root Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of valerian root
  • 1 cup of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of valerian root to a cup of hot water.
  2. Steep for 10 minutes and strain.
  3. Drink the tea.
How Often You Should Do This

You may drink this tea 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Supports Your Mental Well-Being

Valerian root is associated with reduced rates of anxiety and stress (10). These are some of the major symptoms of bipolar disorder, and managing them can help manage your condition better.

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8. Licorice Powder

8. Licorice Powder Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of licorice powder
  • 1 glass of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of licorice powder to a glass of water.
  2. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan.
  3. Simmer for 15 minutes and allow it to cool.
  4. Drink the mixture.
How Often You Should Do This

You must drink this at least once daily.

Why This Supports Your Mental Well-Being

Licorice powder is derived from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra. It exhibits anti-depressant activities that can easily help in managing symptoms of bipolar disorder, such as changing moods, stress, and anxiety (11).

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9. Indian Snakeroot

9. Indian Snakeroot Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 pinch of Indian snakeroot powder
  • 1 glass of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a pinch of Indian snakeroot powder to a glass of water.
  2. Mix well and consume daily.
How Often You Should Do This

You must consume this 1 to 2 times daily for a few weeks to start seeing results.

Why This Supports Your Mental Well-Being

Snakeroot powder helps in managing symptoms of anxiety and insomnia, both of which are quite evident in bipolar individuals (12).

Caution

Do not consume high doses of this herb as it may lead to adverse effects like depression and dizziness.

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10. Ginkgo Biloba

10. Ginkgo Biloba Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 2 teaspoons of ginkgo biloba
  • 1 cup of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add two teaspoons of ginkgo biloba to a cup of hot water.
  2. Steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Strain and consume.
  4. You can also add honey to your tea to enhance its flavor.
How Often You Should Do This

You must drink this 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Supports Your Mental Well-Being

Ginkgo biloba is also known as the maidenhair tree. It promotes blood flow to the brain, thereby helping with cognitive impairment and balancing your mood (13), (14). This has a beneficial effect on bipolar disorder.

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11. Passionflower

11. Passionflower Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of dried passionflower
  • 1 cup of hot water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of dried passionflower to a cup of hot water.
  2. Steep for 5 to 10 minutes and strain.
  3. Drink the mixture.
How Often You Should Do This

You must drink this concoction 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Supports Your Mental Well-Being

Passionflower possesses tranquilizing and sedating properties that help relieve stress and anxiety and improve sleep (15), (16), (17).

According to Dr.Perpetua Neo (DClinPsy), “These can help you to manage the symptoms and redesign your lifestyle towards being more mindful of your health in a holistic fashion. Even then, you should always seek professional medical advice, preferably with a team such as your general physician, psychiatrist and psychologist.”

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Treatment For Bipolar Disorder

Medical treatments include:

  • Medications like mood stabilizers (Lithium)
  • Antipsychotics like Olanzapine
  • Antidepressant-antipsychotics, such as Fluoxetine-Olanzapine
  • Anti-anxiety medications like Alprazolam (Xanax) for a short period
  • Sleeping pills
  • Mental health treatments like Psychotherapy and Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
  • Alternative treatments like acupuncture

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Tips To Manage Bipolar Disorder

  • Follow definite sleeping and eating patterns.
  • Learn to recognize your mood swings and try and manage them accordingly.
  • Ask your family or friends to support the treatment plan you have been following.
  • Manage your stress by exercising regularly or practicing meditation and yoga.
  • Seek therapy or coaching, or both.
  • Talk to your doctor about your symptoms to get the required treatment.

Dr. Perpetua Neo (DClinPsy) says, “Bipolar disorder can feel difficult to navigate as it affects our functioning. The sudden changes in one’s mood state can feel as though one has lost control. There is also the time and effort needed to transition towards living life, being mindful of its symptoms and managing it, which may in itself require psychotherapy. Overall, interventions are recommended so that one feels more in-control and can function as optimally as possible.”

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Did this post answer your doubts and queries about bipolar disorder? Share your views with us in the comments box given below.

Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions

What age does bipolar disorder show up?

Although bipolar disorder can show up at almost any age, it is most often observed in individuals in their mid-20s.

Is bipolar disorder a hereditary (genetic) condition?

Genetic factors account for 60 to 80% for the development of bipolar disorder. This indicates that genes are not the only factor responsible for the onset of this condition.

How does bipolar disorder affect relationships?

Bipolar individuals often tend to experience mood swings ranging from being sad for no apparent reason to being insecure and apprehensive. This can affect the individual’s relationship with their better half or even their family. Being honest about your condition and sticking to your treatment plan can prevent damage to your relationships.

References

  1. Effects of Omega-3 Supplement in the Treatment of Patients with Bipolar I Disorder” International Journal of Preventive Medicine, US National Library of Medicine
  2. Rhodiola rosea versus sertraline for major depressive disorder: A randomized placebo-controlled trial” Phytomedicine, US National Library of Medicine
  3. Effect of lavender scent inhalation on prevention of stress, anxiety and depression in the postpartum period” Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, US National Library of Medicine
  4. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) May Have Antidepressant Activity in Anxious Depressed Humans – An Exploratory Study” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, US National Library of Medicine
  5. Therapeutic use of omega-3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder” Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, US National Library of Medicine
  6. Omega-3 fatty acids for bipolar disorder” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, US National Library of Medicine
  7. Nicotinic Acid Long-Term Effectiveness in a Patient with Bipolar Type II Disorder: A Case of Vitamin Dependency” Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine
  8. Prevalence of Vitamin D Deficiency in Adult Outpatients With Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia” Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, US National Library of Medicine
  9. The effects of Valeriana officinalis L. hydro-alcoholic extract on depression like behavior in ovalbumin sensitized rats” The Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences, US National Library of Medicine
  10. Antidepressant-like activity of Glycyrrhiza glabra L. in mouse models of immobility tests” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, US National Library of Medicine
  11. Use of Reserpine and Rauwolfia in Psychoneuroses” The BMJ, US National Library of Medicine
  12. Efficacy and safety of ginkgo preparations for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a systematic review protocol” BMJ Open, US National Library of Medicine
  13. Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba Effects on Cognition as Modulated by Cardiovascular Reactivity: A Randomised Trial” PLOS One, US National Library of Medicine
  14. Effects of Passion Flower Extract, as an Add-On Treatment to Sertraline, on Reaction Time in Patients ‎with Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study” Iranian Journal of Psychiatry, US National Library of Medicine
  15. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam” The Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, US National Library of Medicine
  16. A double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of the effects of Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) herbal tea on subjective sleep quality” Phytotherapy Research, US National Library of Medicine
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