According to a recent survey, approximately 5.7 million Americans are living with bipolar disorder, a serious illness that can manifest itself with intense mood swings and bizarre thoughts. A person who has been clinically diagnosed as having this disorder will spend most of their lives vacillating between extreme emotions, from ecstatic highs to devastating lows, which is why this condition is frequently referred to as manic-depressive disorder. Bipolar sufferers spend very little time in the relatively comfortable range of emotions in which most of us live.
Between these episodes of extreme energy and euphoria (mania), which are followed by periods of severe depression, most patients display somewhat normal behavior, but these symptoms tend to occur at random and can present themselves without warning. There are four distinct types of bipolar disorder ranging from cyclothymia, in which the cycles occur over a two year period and are relatively mild, to Bipolar I disorder, where the patient experiences a continuous succession of both depression and mania.
If left untreated, this illness can make living an ordinary life nearly impossible. People with bipolar disorder can find it difficult to keep a job or maintain a relationship. Unable to cope with their disorder, some will commit suicide.
Treating Bipolar Disorder with Neurofeedback Therapy
In recent years, a certain level of success has been achieved using neurofeedback to help stabilize the rapid cycling between moods that plagues bipolar sufferers. Neurofeedback therapy may help bipolar patients to mitigate the two extremes, allowing them to enjoy longer periods functioning within a more comfortable range of emotions.
Neurofeedback therapy is being used successfully in the treatment of other illnesses such as depression and ADD/ADHD in both adults and children. It has even been proven to help dramatically in cases of traumatic brain injury. And some preliminary studies regarding the use of neurofeedback in treating bipolar disorder have had promising results.
Also known as brain biofeedback, this method of treatment makes use of electrodes used in conjunction with an EEG or electroencephalogram machine to monitor your brainwaves. Through several neurofeedback sessions, you may gradually train your brain to function differently. To accomplish this change, you will use your brain waves to control a visual on the monitor.
When your brain is operating with the desired waves, it receives what it considers a reward, such as making a "spaceship" on the screen fly, or playing a DVD. Your brain will seek to stay within these frequencies, and the changes will eventually become longer lasting. These changes will not happen overnight, however, and may very well require more sessions than other disorders require. Keep in mind, though; the possible outcome is full abatement of rapid cycling bipolar disorder.
Currently, neurofeedback is being used in conjunction with the appropriate medications and other more traditional treatments for bipolar disorder. At this time, you should not abandon any treatments that you are using, but rather work with both your neurofeedback therapist and your physician to create a working treatment that incorporates both methods.
Many patients who have had neurofeedback therapy say that they would never choose to go back to the way they felt before the therapy.