Bipolar Disorder: Natural Options for Balance
Once rarely diagnosed, bipolar disorder has exploded in the last 15 years. Over 5 million Americans are currently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and childhood cases have skyrocketed, increasing over 40 fold!
What’s going on here? Were there just as many cases before that were undiagnosed, or is something causing this rapid increase bipolar occurrence? Furthermore, is treating bipolar without strong anti-psychotic drugs really a possibility?
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive disorder, is a mental illness that involves both periods of depression and mania, hence it’s name. In the mania state there is little sleep, risky behavior and an inability to concentrate. One may feel invincible and have delusions or hallucinations.
In the depressive state there are mood swings, irritability and an increased need for sleep. One may sleep for weeks and never want to get out of bed. Suicidal thoughts are also common in the depressive state.
Degrees of bipolar vary from severe to mild. The mania or depression state can last weeks or even years before flip flopping to the other state of mind.
It is very important that one gets a proper diagnosis for bipolar disorder before they begin any kind of treatment. Many times a hormonal imbalance, thyroid issues or menopause can manifest similar symptoms of bipolar disorder. ADD and ADHD can also look like bipolar disorder, especially in children.
Anti-Depressants and Bipolar
I am actually shocked when one of my new clients is not taking some sort of anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication. Drugs like Paxil and Prozac get handed out like candy to both children and adults.
Like most pharmaceutical drugs, anti-depressants don’t fix the root of the problem, but rather mask the symptoms of bipolar disorder, have terrible side effects and create long-term effects that are even worse.
Have you ever heard the commercials for anti-depressants? Towards the end they list all the possible side-effects. Nearly every commercial says, “Call your doctor if you have increased thoughts of suicide.” You would think an anti-depressant would help with those types of thoughts! Yet, these commonly prescribed medications can not only cause someone to become more depressed than they already are, but can also cause one to go into a state of mania.
Anti-depressants are some of the most overly prescribed drugs on the market. This over medication of society is causing more harm than good.
- 25-50% of children who are on anti-depressants for 5 years end up being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.
- 25% of adults are diagnosed as bipolar after being on anti-depressants for 5 years.
It is my belief that the large increase in bi-polar disorder is actually caused by unneeded prescription drugs. Anytime time you start taking a cocktail of drugs that effect brain function, there are potentially harmful and threatening risks and side effects.
SSRI anti-depressants, in particular, have the possible side effect of putting people in a bipolar mania state. They can also cause rapid cycling in someone who already suffers from mild bipolar disorder and may not know it. I don’t believe this is the cause in every bipolar diagnosis, but I do believe it is a contributing factor. With around 20 million people on anti-depressants and their possible side effects, I can’t help but to think it plays a part.
If you’re dealing with depression or interested in preventing your chances of becoming bipolar, there are natural alternatives you can consider:
- St. John’s Wort has shown to be just as effective as Prozac.
- Exercise also has amazing benefits for depression and in studies showed better results than drugs.
- L-Theanine and 5-HTP can also increase your serotonin levels.
Serotonin is known as our “feel good” neurotransmitter and if found in low levels, it has been linked to depression. It plays an extremely important part in regulating our mood and sense of well-being.
I’m Bipolar. Now What?
I want to stress again that the importance of ruling out hormonal and other imbalances before you receive a bipolar diagnosis. Once you’ve received a proper diagnosis of bipolar disorder, your psychiatrist will want to start treatment. It is extremely important that you discuss any and all changes you are considering with your doctor. It is not always safe to mix pharmaceuticals with natural supplements.
If you’re lucky, your doctor may be very encouraging about you seeking natural alternatives. If not, you can always call around and see if there are any other psychiatrists in town who are. Some chiropractors and naturopathic doctors also specialize in mental health issues, so find out who is in your area.
Diet is #1
As with any health issues, diet is key #1. No matter how many natural pills you pop, without proper nutrition, you won’t feel the full effects. It is very important that those with bipolar disorder eat