Overcoming Bipolar Depression: Is It Even Possible?
Is it possible to overcome bipolar depression? Many of us understand bipolar disorder to be a chronic lifelong condition for which there is no cure. This belief can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness in people with bipolar disorder, particularly during a severe depressive episode; and it's easy to think that you'll never feel well again. However, with careful management, could it be possible to live free from the symptoms of bipolar depression? Is controlling or overcoming bipolar depression even possible?
Overcoming Bipolar Depression: What We Know, and Don’t Know
Overcoming bipolar depression is impossible – or so we’re led to believe. But could the reality be more nuanced than this? Perhaps there is a way to control the symptoms of bipolar depression and minimize the impact they have on our lives.
Clearly, there are different types of bipolar disorder, and the method of treatment and the possibility for recovery varies between individuals. Although it is accepted in the medical community that bipolar disorder cannot be cured, it is commonly understood that the long-term effects can be minimized through proper treatment, especially when they’re caught early on.
A lot remains unknown about treating and overcoming bipolar depression. However, according to Dr. Anthony Levitt, Chief of the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute, there is hope for people with bipolar disorder. Not only do we understand more about the illness now and the importance of medicating and monitoring, but we have also delved into more advanced research. Direct-to-brain treatments, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, are currently being studied as a potential treatment for bipolar disorder.
5 Tips for Controlling Bipolar Depression
Understanding and controlling bipolar disorder can take years of treatment and therapy for some people. For others, it is just a question of taking the right combination of bipolar medications (such as mood stabilizers and/or antipsychotics). Let’s look at some of the most effective ways to manage the symptoms of bipolar depression and minimize its impact on your life.
- Get plenty of exercise
The concept of exercise as a medicine in the treatment of bipolar disorder is gaining increasing traction in the medical community. According to Dr. Benjamin Goldstein, Director of the Centre for Youth Bipolar Disorder: “A lot of our psychiatric diseases have, it’s believed at their core, a problem with energy metabolism in the brain. So, if we could potentially increase people’s aerobic fitness, the question arises; can we increase how well their brain is working?”
- Give up alcohol and stimulants
Alcohol is a depressant, meaning the after-effects can increase symptoms of bipolar depression, while stimulants like recreational drugs can trigger mania and a subsequent depression crash. Many people with bipolar disorder avoid alcohol and other stimulants for this reason. You should always check with your doctor before drinking alcohol if you are taking medications.
- Treat other health and hormonal problems
Research suggests that hormonal imbalances could be a cause of bipolar disorder. What's more, physical health disorders like thyroid disease can worsen bipolar depression, so it's important to rule out any underlying medical issues that could be contributing to your symptoms. Request a full blood count from your doctor. If you are female, you should also note whether your symptoms worsen at certain times of the month, such as pre or post menstruation.
- Avoid bipolar depression triggers and stressors.
Bipolar episodes can come on with no trigger or warning, but other times they may be caused or exacerbated by external factors. Keep a journal of your moods and look for patterns in your symptoms or behavior. Over time, you can learn to avoid certain stressors (such as family conflict, changes to your routine and over-stimulation from bright lights or screens).
- Get to know the illness
Rather than seeing bipolar disorder as the enemy, learn to work with your illness to give you the best life possible. Find out everything you can about the condition, talk to other people with bipolar disorder and maintain close contact with your doctor and therapist. It's difficult to be your own advocate when you have a mental illness, especially as the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be so exhausting and unpredictable. However, the little things you can do will go a long way.
Overcoming bipolar depression may not be as easy as it sounds, but there are ways to minimize its effects on your life. Research into this area is ongoing, and perhaps one day there will be a cure. For now, controlling bipolar depression is the key to living as well as possible with this condition.
Smith, E. (2019, April 29). Overcoming Bipolar Depression: Is It Even Possible?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, January 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-depression/overcoming-bipolar-depression-is-it-even-possible