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All about: Bipolar disorder

Mood disorders are syndromes whose predominant feature is a disturbance in mood. The disturbance can take the form of a mood that is abnormally low—depression—or abnormally high—mania.

A person is said to suffer from bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic-depressive disorder) when both episodic depressed mood and episodic mania are present. There is a dramatic shift in mood, energy, and ability to function. Bipolar disorder is a category that includes three different diagnoses: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder.

In simple words, Bipolar I disorder consists of both mania and depression that are alternately present and are sometimes interrupted by periods of normal mood. In a depressed period, a person may feel Intense sadness or despair, loss of interest in activities the person once enjoyed Feelings of worthlessness or guilt and fatigue. Mania is a high mood that is clearly excessive and is often accompanied by inappropriate and potentially dangerous behavior, irritability, pressured or rapid speech, and a false sense of well-being. In a manic period, the same person may be so full of energy as there is a Decreased need for sleep, Increased or faster speech, Uncontrollable racing thoughts or quickly changing ideas or topics when speaking.

In bipolar II disorder, hypomania or mild mania alternates with episodes of major depression. Hypomania is a mood elevation that is clearly abnormal but not severe enough to impair functioning or to require hospitalization.

Cyclothymic disorder, in contrast to bipolar I and II disorders, involves less severe, but more constant, mood swings that continue over a period of two years or more. It is characterized by fluctuations that alternate between hypomanic and depressive symptoms.

Treatment for bipolar disorder aims to reduce the severity and number of episodes of depression and mania to allow as normal a life as possible. The primary treatments for bipolar disorder include medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy) to control symptoms, and also may include education and support groups.


Psychotherapy is a vital part of bipolar disorder treatment and can be provided in individual, family or group settings. Several types of therapy may be helpful. These include:

  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT). IPSRT focuses on the stabilization of daily rhythms, such as sleeping, waking and mealtimes. The therapy aims to reduce interferences to your daily routines and rhythms since these changes can lead to disrupted sleep and an unstable mood in some people. People with bipolar disorder may benefit from establishing a daily routine for sleep, diet and exercise.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The aim of this therapy is to identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones. CBT is useful in reducing the overall distress and lessens manic or depressive episodes. It can also create awareness of one’s mood, emotions, physical sensations, and common indicators of a manic episode. CBT can help identify what triggers your bipolar episodes. One of the ways in which CBT can be beneficial is learning effective coping techniques to help control emotions and stress.

  • Psychoeducation. The principal goal of psychoeducation for bipolar disorder is to provide accurate and authentic information. Additionally, the objectives also include teaching patients self-management skills and giving them reliable information so that they can decide and make informed decisions about their own management within the context of a collaborative working relationship with their clinical team. Knowing what's going on can help you get the best support, identify issues, make a plan to prevent relapse and stick with treatment.

  • Family-focused therapy. This form of therapy is a combination of psychoeducation and family therapy. The difficulties and conflicts that contribute to patients and families’ stress are identified with the help of FFT therapists. Family focused therapists educate all family members about the nature of bipolar disorder, treatment, and ways that family members can support their affected members.

Francesc Colom, Dominic Lam (2005) conducted research on psychoeducation: improving outcomes in bipolar disorder. They reviewed the efficacy of several adjunctive psychotherapies in the maintenance treatment of bipolar patients. The results showed that the psychological treatments that were planned to prevent relapses of bipolar disorder were useful tools in conjunction with mood stabilizers. In conclusion, questions shouldn’t be raised against the usefulness of psychotherapy for improving treatment and clinical outcome of bipolar patients.


Beidel, B., Cynthia, M., & Stanley, M. A. (2017). Abnormal Psychology. Pearson Education.

Francesc Colom, Dominic Lam, Psychoeducation: improving outcomes in bipolar disorder,

European Psychiatry, Volume 20, Issues 5–6, 2005, Pages 359-364, ISSN 0924-9338.

Hansell, J. H., & Damour, L. K. (2007). Abnormal psychology. Wiley Global Education.

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