In an exciting development regarding bipolar patients and their ability to control their manic attacks, Australian researchers claim that they have developed a new procedure that can cut the number of manic episodes in their patients by 50%.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings from periods of excitability to periods of depression and back again. Bipolar 1 disorder affects over two million U.S. citizens every year. In many people, the mood swings can be so great that it prevents them from being able to live a normal life. This roller coaster of emotions not only affects them, but it affects their friends and family as well.
The new procedure basically involves adding therapy to the bipolar treatments that the patients normally receive. In reality, therapy is not new as many physicians already believe that the most effective treatment for bipolar disease is to use medication in combination with prescriptions medication. But belief does not equal proof.
Researchers from the Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria (MHRI) located in Melbourne, Australia, and is Australia's largest independent psychiatric research center, have gone on record as believing that this study is the first one that proves bipolar patients can control their mania. The exciting impact of the Australian study is that it gives credence to the value of psychotherapy in treating bipolar illness.
The Melbourne study consisted of 84 bipolar patients. Half of the patients were given medication only. The other half were give the same medication but in addition attended weekly therapy sessions. The therapy sessions focused on teaching the participants to recognize the common symptoms that might trigger a depressive or manic episode. Symptoms such as
insomnia, a significant change in appetite, trouble concentrating, listlessness or tiredness, and other symptoms that are commonly recognized as indicating a bipolar event might be taking place.
The working theory behind the study is that if a bipolar sufferer is aware of an impending episode, he has the chance to do something about it. And the theory, in this case, proved to be correct. At the end of the study, the 42 patients taking the therapy, had only 50% of the manic or depressive episodes of the 42 patients that were treated with medication alone.
The study effectively demonstrates that therapy which emphasizes and teaches the patient how to plan his life, as much as possible, around regular daily activities and stable relationships, can help them to suffer less manic/depressive attacks and to recover faster from the ones that they do experience.
Unfortunately, long-term therapy is not cheap and many insurance companies will either not cover it or cover only a portion of it. Hopefully, studies like this will help to push the insurance companies into recognizing that therapy is a valid and useful treatment for bipolar disease and may even help to decrease their long term costs.
This study is also important and encouraging for many sufferers who don't want to be entirely dependent on prescription medication. It gives them a sense of hope that they can exert a portion of control over their lives that up until now has been lacking.