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Bipolar disorder, previously called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings.  You experience periods of depression and periods of abnormally elevated mood called mania or hypomania. 


When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless, and lose interest or pleasure in most activities.  When you experience mania, you may become hyperactive and feel unrealistically confident or powerful.  You may act without thinking and do risky things you would not normally do.  Hypomania is similar to mania but less severe.

Therapy for Bipolar Disorder

You may experience it as a period of high energy and increased productivity. 


Different forms of bipolar disorder are distinguished by different patterns of fluctuating mood and energy levels.  Bipolar I Disorder (BPI) is characterized by extreme mood swings that range from extreme emotional highs (mania) to extreme emotional lows (depression).  Episodes of mania and depression can last for several days or longer.  In Bipolar II Disorder (BPII), emotional highs (hypomania) are not as high as those in BPI, but emotional lows are equally low and often last longer than those in BPI.  BPII is also characterized by frequent mixed episodes, in which symptoms of both depression and hypomania are experienced at the same time.  Cyclothymia is the mildest form of bipolar disorder, in which mood swings range between hypomania and periods of low mood that do not last long enough and are not severe enough to be diagnosed as clinical depression. 


The most effective approach to managing bipolar disorder involves a combination of medications and psychotherapy.  Medications can help you stabilize your mood and alleviate your symptoms of depression.  While medication is often an essential part of managing BPI, there is evidence that in some cases BPII can be managed with psychotherapy alone.  Cyclothymia can also be managed without medication.  Please note that psychotherapists do not prescribe medication, nor are we authorized to assign diagnoses.  If you suspect that you may be suffering from bipolar disorder, please ask your family doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist, who can provide a diagnostic evaluation and prescribe medication(s).  


If you have been diagnosed with any form of bipolar disorder, psychotherapy can help you understand your condition, recognize and manage your mood symptoms, reduce recurrence and time spent in mood episodes, address your triggers and traumas, and enhance your functioning.  If you decide to start therapy for bipolar disorder at Better Self – Psychotherapy & Counselling, my therapeutic approach will depend on a variety of factors, including your form of bipolar disorder.

The following manuscript, which I submitted to Canadian Psychology (a peer-reviewed academic journal) for publication in 2015, reviews several well-documented psychosocial interventions, along with their evidence base for treating BPII: 

Although similar interventions can be used in all forms of bipolar disorder, there may be some variations.  During your episodes of depression, we can utilize the therapeutic strategies typically used in therapy for depression.  If during your mood episodes you are also struggling with symptoms of anxiety, we can address these symptoms with the relevant strategies used in therapy for anxiety.  Regardless of which mood episode you are experiencing, I will try to meet you where you are and provide a psychological environment of consistency and safety.

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