Medications have been developed to aid in correcting the biochemical imbalances thought to be part of bipolar disorder. Lithium carbonate is usually effective for approximately 70 percent of those who take it. Many brilliant and successful people have reportedly suffered from bipolar disorder and have been able to function successfully with competent and responsible treatment. Some people who have taken lithium for bipolar disorder, however, have complained that it robs them of their energy and creativity and said that they actually miss the energy associated with manic phases of the illness. This perceived loss, some of it realistic, can be a factor in relapse associated with lithium noncompliance.
Other medications have been developed to help those individuals who are considered lithium nonresponders or who find the side effects of lithium intolerable. Anticonvulsant medications, such as Depakote (valproic acid), Tegretol (carbamazepine), and Lamictal (lamotrigine), which have been found to have mood-stabilizing effects, are often prescribed to individuals with bipolar disorder. During the depressive phase of the disorder, electroconvulsive (shock) therapy (ECT) has also been administered to help restore the individual's mood to a normal level. Phototherapy is particularly useful for individuals who have SAD. Psychotherapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy or interpersonal social rhythm therapy, is viewed by most practitioners as a necessary adjunct to medication. Indeed, psychotherapy has been found to assist individuals with bipolar disorder in maintaining medication compliance.
Local mental health associations are able to recommend psychiatric treatment by board-certified psychiatrists and licensed psychologists who specialize in the treatment of mood disorders. Often, temporary hospitaliza-tion is necessary for complete diagnostic assessment, initial mood stabilization, and intensive treatment, medication adjustment, or monitoring of an individual who feels suicidal. As many as 15 percent of those with bipolar disorder commit suicide. This frightening reality makes early intervention, relapse prevention, and treatment of the disorder necessary to prevent such a tragic outcome.
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