If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, finding a psychiatrist specializing in bipolar disorder can be the first step toward an easier, happier life. There are many treatment options available, and while it can take time to find the best options for you, help is available, and treatment can be successful. Let’s take a look at this illness and share some tips that can help you manage this condition.
Bipolar Disorder Is Stigmatize
Bipolar disorder tends to be one of the most misunderstood psychiatric disorders, often portrayed unrealistically in TV shows and movies. One of the biggest misconceptions is that people with this illness are dangerous and violent, although this is rarely the case.
Typically, when a person with bipolar disorder exhibits violent or aggressive behavior, there are many factors in play, such as childhood trauma, that feed into that behavior and it's not simply caused entirely by bipolar disorder. Additionally, these issues tend to manifest far more in patients with untreated bipolar disorder. When treated, people with bipolar disorder are no more violent than anyone else in the general population.
It's also important to understand that people with bipolar disorder are not always experiencing either mania or depression. When well-controlled, a person may not experience any severe symptoms at all. That’s perhaps the most important fact about bipolar disorder to understand – treatment can be successful and people with bipolar disorder can enjoy a successful, fulfilling life. But, there’s no one size fits all treatment, so it can take time to create a plan that truly helps reduce your symptoms and allows you to live a better life.
What Is Bipolar Disorder
There are several types of bipolar disorder, which is classified as a mood disorder. Symptoms of bipolar disorder vary based on the type of bipolar disorder you have, but people often will experience these symptoms differently.
In general, mood and energy levels are affected to some extent with any type of this disease, often severely. Mood stabilizers and other medications often are prescribed to reduce these symptoms; however, bipolar disorder treatment also should include additional types of therapy.
Bipolar I Disorder
With a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder, the patient will experience both severe episodes of mania and depression. The manic episodes will last at least a week, while the depressive episodes will last at least two weeks. A diagnosis of Bipolar I also can be made if these episodes were shorter in length but required hospitalization.
There also may be episodes of hypomania, which is a milder type of mania. In some cases, a patient with Bipolar I also will experience symptoms of psychosis, such as confusion, delusions and even hallucinations.
Bipolar II Disorder
With this type of bipolar disorder, a patient will experience the same long periods of depression, but without the manic episodes, although they do typically experience some hypomanic episodes. In general, most people with Bipolar II will not experience psychosis or extreme mania as this is generally milder than Bipolar I.
This is the mildest form of this mood disorder, but it still can cause brief episodes of hypomania and mild depression that can be quite upsetting. If you experience mood swings that seem more severe than others, cyclothymic disorder is a possible diagnosis, especially if these mood swings continue for at least two years. Typically, people with this disorder will only have brief periods where they experience normal moods.
5 Tips For People With Bipolar Disorder
1. Find A Specialist
Ok, easier said than done, right? Most of my patients with bipolar disorder have seen a myriad of psychiatrists specializing in bipolar disorder, not to mention psychologists, therapists and other health professionals. It can be tough to find a psychiatrist with whom you feel comfortable and to find a doctor that truly meets your needs.
However, these days, with telepsychiatry, you do have more options than ever before. In the past, we were often limited to finding that elusive “psychiatrist near me,” but an online psychiatrist can provide you with comprehensive treatment and the best part is that you can meet with your doctor anywhere you have an internet connection.
With bipolar disorder, you do need to find a psychiatrist and not just a psychologist or therapist. Psychiatrists are medical doctors, and they can assess all of your health issues and determine if any physical health conditions are impacting your mental health. They are also the only mental health professionals that can prescribe medication, which can be a highly successful treatment option for people with bipolar disorder.
That said, I highly recommend that you also find a psychologist or therapist that specializes in bipolar disorder. Talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and other therapies can greatly reduce symptoms and help you better manage your life. A combination of medication and therapy tends to yield the best long-term results for any mental health condition.
2. Be Honest With Your Provider
Trust me, your bipolar disorder psychiatrist has heard it all so there is no reason not to share all of the symptoms you are experiencing. It’s also crucial that you share everything with your doctor so that they can provide you with the most accurate diagnosis. After all, many people with bipolar disorder have co-occurring disorders and we need to treat everything, not just bipolar disorder.
For instance, if you have an anxiety disorder or ADHD and bipolar disorder, both of which are quite common, we need to be careful about any medications that are used. There are ways to treat all of these disorders concurrently, but we need to diagnose them properly to find the best treatment.
I am often asked how often does ADHD co-occur with bipolar disorder? Some studies suggest that as many as 1 in 6 people diagnosed with bipolar disorder also have ADHD. ADHD symptoms can be similar to some bipolar symptoms, so we need to be very careful during the diagnostic phase to ensure that we know precisely which disorders a patient is experiencing.
When it comes to anxiety disorders, some studies suggest more than 40% of people with bipolar disorder also suffer from an anxiety disorder. I also find that many people with bipolar disorder suffer from addiction disorders, often as a result of trying to sort of self-medicate and reduce their symptoms. All of this needs to be addressed during treatment.
3. Stay Active & Eat Healthy
Regular physical activity and a balanced diet can help manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Exercise has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety and improve mood. Similarly, a healthy diet can support overall well-being and energy levels. Avoiding alcohol and drugs also are crucial as these can interact dangerously with your medications or trigger and exacerbate mood episodes.
While a consistent daily routine will not cure bipolar disorder, it can be helpful to create a workable, easy daily schedule. Don’t try to pile too much on your plate, so to speak and create a restful nighttime routine that allows you the best chance of enjoying a good night’s sleep. It’s also smart to keep a daily mood journal. Track your sleep patterns, as well, as sleep disruptions can lead to a manic or depressive episode.
4. Join A Support Group
You are not alone! Many people have bipolar disorder, and it can be great to talk to others with this disorder. Not only will you feel less isolated, you will likely find it beneficial to share your experiences and will probably find some good strategies to help you cope with bipolar disorder.
If you are the loved one of someone with bipolar disorder, I recommend educating yourself about this disorder and also perhaps seeking support as a caregiver. Both people with this disease and those that love and care for them need support!
5. Take Your Medications & As Prescribed
Medications can greatly reduce or even eliminate symptoms of bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, once those symptoms abate, many patients decide now that they feel better, they don’t need to take their medication.
Bipolar disorder is a chronic disease, and that means it’s always there, it’s simply being controlled by medication. Let’s compare it to asthma for a minute. This is also a chronic disease but when controlled by medication, the symptoms often go away. However, this doesn’t mean a person should stop treatment. Once you quit using your daily asthma meds, the symptoms will simply reappear.
It's just the same with bipolar disorder except that while it can be relatively easy to get your asthma back under control, it’s not nearly as easy to get bipolar disorder back under control. Additionally, with some bipolar medications, you cannot simply just stop using them, you must gradually taper off these medications.
Taking your daily medications and taking them exactly as prescribed is always the best option. If you do have concerns about your medications, contact your psychiatrist and discuss these concerns with them. They may be able to adjust the dosage or try a different medication, but it is never a good idea to simply stop taking your meds or alter the amount of your meds without professional medical advice.
Call Dr. Jesalva Today
If you need a psychiatrist specializing in bipolar disorder, I am always here to help and I offer telepsychiatry services. I also work as an anxiety psychiatrist, depression psychiatrist, addiction psychiatrist and can treat PTSD and other co-occurring disorders you may be facing. Don’t suffer another day with bipolar disorder, help is out there, and treatment can be successful. We will work together to come up with a treatment plan that truly transforms and improves your life.
Living with bipolar disorder can be challenging to say the least and many people mistakenly believe that there isn’t a quality treatment for this condition. However, a good bipolar disorder psychiatrist can help, and successful treatment is possible. However, before you contact a bipolar disorder psychiatrist, read the following facts.
1. Bipolar Disorder Is Treatable
Most of my patients have tried various treatments for bipolar disorder with limited success, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a treatment that can work for you. Too often, doctors use a one-size-fits-all approach to treating bipolar disorder, but what works with one person might not work with another.
A good bipolar disorder psychiatrist dives deep to understand the whole person. For instance, our patient might have additional mental health disorders or physical issues that also need to be addressed. A psychiatrist is both a mental health professional and a medical doctor and we have a unique ability to study each patient from both a mental and physical perspective. In order for bipolar disorder treatment to be successful, we also need to address any other co-occurring disorders or medical issues.
2. Take Some Notes
Before you contact a bipolar disorder psychiatrist, it can be helpful to take some notes about how you feel each day. These notes should include your moods, what you ate or drank, what medications you took and your sleep patterns. It’s often difficult during that initial consultation to remember all of the details about your life, so writing it all down can help your bipolar psychiatrist come up with the best diagnosis and the best treatment options.
It also is smart to continue this notetaking after we begin treatment. Write down your moods, any side effects from medication, how you slept, comments about your appetite, etc. This can help us gauge how the medication is working and if we need to adjust the dose or perhaps try a different type of medication.
3. Patients Need To Have Patience
So often, I find that a patient will try out a new medication or perhaps cognitive behavioral therapy for a week or two, and then when they don’t see instant results, they become frustrated and stop the treatments.
Medication can be an excellent tool to help patients control symptoms of bipolar disorder, but these medications do not work overnight. It takes several weeks, sometimes even a few months, to discover the ideal medication and the ideal dosage of that medication. I know that you are frustrated living with bipolar disorder, but if we are to find a truly effective treatment plan, it’s important to be as patient as possible while we work with medication and other types of treatment.
It's important to understand that it takes time for the medication to work, and these medications do sometimes have unpleasant side effects. Usually, the side effects will dissipate after a few weeks, but it’s important to understand that some side effects are normal (albeit unpleasant), and others are more serious. We will discuss all of this in-depth when we talk about your treatment options.
4. Research Is Important
There are many bipolar disorder psychiatrists out there, but, as you probably have discovered yourself, they aren’t all a perfect match for you. Before you contact a psychiatrist and make an appointment, learn a bit about them to decide if they are a good fit for your needs and personality.
Most of us have websites that discuss our philosophy and how we treat patients. From my perspective, the initial consultation is crucial and if a psychiatrist only spends 30 minutes with you and just writes you a prescription, this is a red flag.
Typically, my consultations involve several sessions where we dive deep to explore all of your symptoms as well as talking about your physical health. In some cases, we might want to consult with your personal physician and complete bloodwork and other tests to ensure that we find treatment plans that address all of your issues.
Multiple consultation sessions also are necessary to ensure that we reach the correct diagnosis. There are a few different types of bipolar disorder, and these require different treatment plans. Additionally, you may have a disorder other than bipolar disorder, or you might have co-occurring disorders.
It can be tricky to find the best psychiatrist to fit your needs, but I recommend that if you feel uncomfortable with a doctor and you don’t feel as though your doctor is truly listening to you and doing all they can to address your issues, find another psychiatrist.
5. You Don’t Need To Find A “Psychiatrist Near Me”
Many people will do an internet search for a “psychiatrist near me,” when they begin looking for a doctor, however with telepsychiatry, you can find a great psychiatrist without ever even leaving your home. Telepsychiatry makes it easier than ever to find a bipolar disorder psychiatrist that fits your needs. A virtual psychiatrist visit can be just as impactful as an in-person appointment.
Obviously, telepsychiatry became necessary during the pandemic, but many patients prefer this option to a face-to-face meeting. It is often more comfortable and comforting to stay in your home for our sessions and it saves you the time and hassle and stress of driving to a doctor’s office. Additionally, if you need to be out of town, we can still meet from just about anywhere on the planet with internet access.
For telepsychiatry sessions, an online psychiatrist uses a HIPAA-compliant secure video conferencing platform to protect your privacy and we can handle many general psychiatric services via telepsychiatry. This includes assessment, diagnosis and medication management.
I love telepsychiatry because it provides flexibility for my clients in the Los Angeles area (driving in LA traffic can be stressful, to say the least), but it also allows me to expand my services to just about anywhere in the country. Whether you need a psychiatrist in San Diego or a psychiatrist in Charlotte, NC, with telemedicine, I can help. Telepsychiatry also is a huge help for patients that live in rural or remote areas as driving to a doctor could take several hours.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the past and just never found the treatments to be successful or you suspect that you have bipolar disorder and need help, I highly recommend that you contact a bipolar disorder psychiatrist as soon as possible. With proper treatment, the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be reduced and managed.
I understand how frightening, exhausting and frustrating it can be to deal with bipolar disorder, but with patience and perseverance, this disease can be managed. As a bipolar disorder psychiatrist, I can provide you with a solid diagnosis and treatment plan that can help you live a better, happier and more fulfilling life. Give me a call today and we can set up an appointment in person or online.
Dr Jesalva is a psychiatrist. He is in private practice in Thousand Oaks, CA since 1989. He successfully treats very challenging patients with varying co-occurring disorders with medications.