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Bipolar Disorder (BPD) is treatable with counseling and medication. It can be tricky, though, because the very nature of the disorder can lead those afflicted to abandon successful treatments. This can lead them to self-medicating, which can become substance abuse, and then you have co-occurring disorders to deal with.
You’ve probably heard of this mood disorder, and know that the basic symptoms are mild to severe swings from an anxious manic state into depression and then back again. These swings occur at random timings and aren’t usually triggered by external events. They are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Left untreated, individuals have a very difficult time managing their lives with relationships, work, school, and finances.
Treating BPD with Medication
There are several medications used to treat BPD. They are prescribed based on the severity of the disorder in a particular individual. Some are meant to stabilize moods so that the anxiety and depression are milder, and swings between them are less frequent and smoother. More severe cases may require more than one medication where each one treats symptoms as they come.
It requires effort on the part of the patient to continue taking the medications. The payoff is being able to manage moods without having to battle the “demons” within. So, milder bouts with depression allow people to enjoy time with family and friends, even if they may never be the life-of the-party type of person. It’s good to just feel normal again. But joyous feelings can be addicting, so you never know what miracles may happen.
The same goes for medications that calm the manic stages associated with BPD. The brain is given a break from the high energy and fast-paced firing of synapses. The individual is able to think more clearly, and engage in normal conversations. Distractions are minimized so more long-term focus can be placed on work and other tasks. Again, this allows the patient to get back to a better lifestyle.
Alas, a big problem with BPD is that many of those who suffer actually like the high energy and fast-paced part of the disorder. It’s commonly described to be like a drug that “amps you up”. They don’t like the depression, but can ignore it while they’re in their high. Treatment is often abandoned so as not to disrupt the experience. As you might imagine, loved ones wind up being victims of the out-of-control behavior that follows, but pleas to the individual to go back on medication falls on deaf ears.
There are also those who stop taking medications because they feel normal and just don’t want to deal with the routine anymore. The excuses are many and all tend to say that treatment is no longer needed. They may not like the feeling they get from the drugs, or it may be a particular side effect. In any case, it isn’t a good idea. It won’t take long for the symptoms of BPD to return.
This can be very dangerous when depression hits for two reasons; one is that the mood swiftly drops to feelings of sadness and indifference, and two is that they suddenly remember all of the negative behaviors they exhibited before the swing. Adding legitimate remorse to depression only enhances the “what’s the use” feeling, making suicide seem like a viable solution.
Self-Medicating to Treat BPD
Some individuals flat-out refuse to see a mental health professional and choose instead to self-medicate. Methamphetamine is a popular illegal drug used to self-medicate BPD. It actually works well, to some extent, if you don’t consider the brain-eating, tooth-decaying, skin-destroying and often fatal effects of the drug. They feel normal and don’t need to see a doctor, as far as they can see. They think they are taking care of the problem, but it’s actually getting worse.
Co-occurring mental health and substance abuse issues are much harder to treat. That is, if the BPD meth addict makes it that far. It’s a deadly combination for more reasons than we can go into here.
Live Better with BPD
When Bipolar Disorder is diagnosed, it’s important to stick with treatment. Yes, your lifestyle will need to change a bit, and it’s to your advantage. A positive effort and proper treatment with legally prescribed drugs will guide even the most severe BPD sufferers to a better life. Choose wisely.