When dealing with the complexities of the brain, mental health issues rarely fit into tidy boxes that are easy to identify and treat. This is especially true of bipolar disorder, which affects nearly 3% of adults in the United States. This extremely complicated, and often misdiagnosed mental health issue, can manifest itself quite differently from one person to the next.
While there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for bipolar disorder, that does not mean that we are without effective options. The goal is to work with an experienced psychiatrist, such as board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Matthew Goldenberg, who knows how to customize treatment plans to the needs of his patients.
Here’s a look at the most common treatment options for bipolar disorder and how Dr. Goldenberg puts them together to acheive the best results.
Bipolar disorder in brief
Our goal here is to discuss treatment options for bipolar disorder, so we will not spend a lot of time reviewing the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria which are needed to diagnose bipolar disorder. Besides, if you’re reading this, odds are good you understand a fair bit about the condition.
What we’d like to underscore is that there are different types of bipolar disorder, including:
- Bipolar 1, which includes manic episodes
- Bipolar 2, which falls short of mania, but hypomania may be present
- Cyclothymic disorder, which describes ongoing, but milder, mood stabilization issues
There are a couple of commonalities between the different types of bipolar disorder — they all usually include depressive episodes, and each involves issues with mood stabilization.
Treating bipolar disorder
Since mood stabilization is the biggest challenge with bipolar disorder, that is where we typically start when we treat this condition. Our goal is to help level out your highs and lows, and how we do that depends on how high and low your mood can go.
For example, if you have bipolar 1, the manic episodes can be severe enough to require hospitalization. To prevent this, we often turn to mood stabilizers, such as lithium, depakote or newer mood stabilizers, which can prevent episodes of mania or hypomania.
Treatment may also include atypical antipsychotic medications that help to regulate dopamine levels in the brain.
While mood stabilizers and atypical antipsychotic medications work well for bipolar disorder, some people may respond better to anticonvulsants or the addition of an antidepressant.
Ultimately, figuring out which medications work best is tricky and varies from patient to patient. We work very closely with you to figure out which medications, as well as the proper dosing and combinations, provide the best results.
The first step is getting a proper diagnosis and then next an individualized treatment plan.
During this time (and in the future), psychotherapy is a very important aspect of ongoing care. Therapy helps to set you up to better understand your diagnosis and also can provide you with valuable tools for stabilizing and regulating your moods and behaviors.
If you want to figure out which treatment approach is best for your bipolar disorder, you can begin with a free, 10-minute phone call with Dr. Goldenberg, who treats patients in both California and Alaska. Simply click here to get started.