Having bipolar means you have moods that swing back and forth between depression and mania, but in this blog article, we’ll focus on mania.
What is Mania?
Many people think that having mania means you’re always happy and full of energy, but this is inaccurate. Instead, having mania means that whatever you’re feeling, you’re feeling it big. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it big. Instead of being content, you’re ecstatic. Instead of being miffed, you’re raging. Even when you only need one pair of shoes, you buy ten. And sleep? You don’t. Or much anyway. You’re up all night calling your friends to talk about your new get-rich-quick-scheme. And sex? You begin engaging in sexual activity that involves taking risks you would have never taken before. Many people with mania will tell you that they don’t mind the mania at all. It’s living with the consequences of their mania that is so tough.
A Word of Caution
Mania can show up without apparent triggers just as depression can, but mania can also be triggered by antidepressants and here’s why: It isn’t uncommon for individuals to first see their doctor for depression rather than mania. So, the doctor prescribes an antidepressant and indeed, your mood does improve and is lifted to normal. But the antidepressant doesn’t stop there. It continues to lift your mood until you are in mania. This is why it is so important for you to tell your doctor about all your symptoms and any family history of bipolar during your first visit. Be diligent in keeping your doctor informed as he begins treatment with an antidepressant. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to take an antidepressant for bipolar. It just means you also need to take a mood stabilizer to keep your good mood from becoming mania.
I still remember a few years ago when a couple came to my office. She had recently been diagnosed with bipolar and given two prescriptions. One was an antidepressant and the other was Depakote. She knew what the antidepressant was supposed to do and began to take that one right away. She was unfamiliar with Depakote and she and her husband decided together that she would just try the antidepressant first hoping that she wouldn’t need the second medication. Her mania symptoms were already apparent in session. I explained to her that Depakote is a mood stabilizer, and I encouraged her to begin that one right away which she agreed to do. And the next time I saw her, her mania was under control.
Regaining Control from Bipolar
Individual therapy in conjunction with medication is the gold standard for bipolar. Your therapist might use behavioral therapy so that you can learn different ways to cope with having bipolar. Cognitive behavioral therapy will help you learn to replace irrational thinking with rational thinking which will help improve your mood. Did having bipolar interfere with your relationships? If so, you might benefit from interpersonal therapy. And in social rhythm therapy, you learn the importance of predictable sleep patterns and daily routines.
Joining a support group can also be beneficial. Feeling connected to others with the same diagnosis can help alleviate isolation. Check out NAMI for groups in the greater St. Louis area and for psycho-educational material.
Treatment for bipolar is not what it used to be. Mental health professionals understand the disease so much more than even 20 years ago and medications have improved. If you have this disease and you haven’t sought help yet, you should. Your quality of life will improve dramatically.
If you would like to schedule an appointment with me, call me at 636-288-1997.