Generally, people with severe bipolar disorder symptoms will not seek medical
care on their own. A family member or close friend is usually the one seeking
help for the person. The person needs to be seen by a medical professional in
When changes in personality, including extreme moodiness, start to affect a
person's life, ruin relationships with others, or threaten basic health, the
person should be seen by a medical professional. Medical conditions such as diabetes
and thyroid disorders can cause mood swings. These are relatively easy to
detect and treat. They are the starting point of an evaluation of mood swings.
When changes in sleep and appetite begin to affect health, the person needs to
be evaluated. Some people may not want any help. If they fear the stigma of
having a mental illness, they need to know that many other things could be
responsible for the changes in their behavior. This is especially true for
anyone older than 40 years who develops signs of bipolar disorder.
When the mood swings have become so severe that a person cannot function at home
When a person has thoughts of suicide, especially with a specific plan as to how
to take his or her own life
If the person might be a danger to self or others, he or she should be seen in a
hospital emergency department.
Suicidal patients are hospitalized until their mood can be stabilized.
If the person refuses to go to the hospital, you may need assistance in getting
him or her there. Call 911 if the situation is dangerous.
Above all, be sure of your own safety first. A person with bipolar disorder is
probably not thinking clearly when in severe mania or
. He or she may feel that the person calling for help is a traitor.
With a suicide attempt, call 911 so that the person can be treated in the
emergency department. Don't try to take a person who has attempted suicide to
the hospital by yourself.
Homicidal thoughts, threats, or behaviors require immediate intervention. Assure
your own safety and then call 911 for help.
For most people with bipolar disorder,
medications do not relieve symptoms completely. Psychological counseling
(psychotherapy) complements drug therapy.
Counseling usually begins in the hospital or when medical treatment begins.
Different types of therapy are used. Therapy may be individual or in a
group—both can be effective if approached with a positive attitude.
The goal is to help the person accept and cope with the
It is often very important for the spouse or other family members to be involved
during visits to the therapist.
It is important to treat the whole family, not just the person with bipolar
disorder, not because they are all "sick," but because this disorder affects
Family members can learn valuable ways to deal with their loved one's mood
medication as directed. You will very likely be tempted to stop your
medication. Many people with bipolar disorder do so. Don't do so. Instead,
talk it over with your health-care provider. Stopping your medication will
probably cause your symptoms to come back. It may also cause uncomfortable or
alarming withdrawal symptoms.
Depending on which
medication is used, you may need regular blood tests to monitor levels and
to check for side effects of the drug.
You should have regular appointments with your health-care provider to see how
well the treatment is working and detect any instability of your mood.
Regular sessions with a psychotherapist or counselor are also important.
Ongoing education for you and your family is crucial to help everyone deal with
You and your family should be taught to watch for early warning signs of crisis
and ways to deal with stress to prevent recurrences.
Nothing is known to prevent bipolar disorder. It is best to avoid drugs that may
disease (such as cocaine or methamphetamine). Adopting a healthy lifestyle
with regular sleep and exercise may help.
Relapses can be prevented or made less severe by following the treatment
recommendations of your health-care providers. This includes taking
medication as directed and attending counseling sessions.
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