The bio-psycho-social-spiritual model is a comprehensive approach to alleviate the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Although the concept of bipolar disorder originated in the 19th century, the first effective treatments for the illness did not appear until the latter half of the 20th century.
Biological: Medication for Bipolar Disorder
Today the choice of medication in bipolar disorder is largely determined by the symptoms that are presented.
In a manic episode, the most common line of medications are antipsychotics, and in a depressive episode, the most common are antidepressants, sometimes along with an antipsychotic to prevent overtreatment into mania.
Once symptoms of either mania or depression have reduced, the antipsychotic or antidepressant is normally discontinued and replaced with a mood stabiliser such as lithium or the anticonvulsant valproate to prevent further recurrence into either mania or depressive cycles.
Despite possible physical side effects, Lithium, when used stably, is known to decrease the rate of relapse by about a third, and is more effective against mania than depression.
Psychological: Therapy for Bipolar Disorder
While pharmacological interventions are a key aspect of managing bipolar disorder, therapy specific for bipolar disorder is increasingly recommended as an integral component of illness management.
Psychotherapy for those with bipolar disorder has been shown to quicken the recovery from depressive episodes and prevents new mood episodes. It has also been shown to help improve overall functioning and quality of life in bipolar sufferers.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a commonly used therapeutic technique that involves changing the patient’s thought patterns. CBT operates under the principle that our thoughts, emotions and behaviours are all interconnected with each other and heavily influence each other. Changing thoughts by becoming aware of cognitive distortions therefore can have a profound effect on emotions and behaviours.
Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy is another highly useful therapy for bipolar sufferers, which offers strategies to improve medication adherence, manage stressful life events, and reduce disruptions in social relationships.
Lastly, Family-Focused Therapy is an important psychoeducational therapy for bipolar disorder. It can be highly beneficial for those with bipolar disorder and their loved ones. Family members learn to recognise the warning signs of manic or depressive episodes and are taught skilful communication to help the patient stay in a stable, functional relationship with their family during relapse.
Social: Relationship and Community in Bipolar Disorder
When you have a serious mental illness like bipolar disorder, navigating relationships can be difficult and unpredictable.
However, social support is strongly associated with individual well-being and relationship satisfaction, particularly if the support comes from an intimate partner. Social and community support is also helpful in reducing mood relapses and recovering from recent manic or depressive episodes. In a recent study of 312 bipolar sufferers, those who reported seeing family and more than one friend after a mood episode reported higher recovery scores compared to those who did not.
Hobbies, particularly involving social and community engagement, are also helpful in that they keep the mind busy and attentive to something other than one’s own internal states. They can bolster connections to other people with similar interests, and improve self-esteem as one tracks progress with the new skill. Creative hobbies are particularly useful outlets for those with bipolar. These include hobbies such as:
- Painting, Drawing, and Photography
- Dancing, Singing, and Music Production
- Writing, Blogging, and Poetry
- Cooking and Baking
Spiritual: Mindfulness Meditation As a Promising Management For Bipolar Disorder
Mindfulness meditation is a promising treatment and management option for bipolar sufferers. Sustained and focused attention on the sensations of breathing in the present moment has been shown to heighten self-awareness, reduce ruminative and habitual patterns of thought and behaviour, reduce emotional reactivity, and enhance subjective well-being through relaxation and tension reduction.
In bipolar sufferers, incorporating a consistent schedule of mindful breathing is associated with better prevention of depressive relapse.