Controlling Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder with Neurofeedback Training
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition referred to by a number of names to include “Manic Depressive Disorder”, “Bipolar Affective Disorder”, and “Manic Depression”. With this, an individual experiences one or more types of episodes, which range in intensity from mild to severe. According to the latest statistics, more than 5.5 million adults in the United States alone have Bipolar Disorder, with indicators of growth.
Typically, Bipolar Disorder symptoms appear around age 25 but this condition can develop during early childhood years or mid-adult life. Unlike many other mental health illnesses, men and women of equal numbers are afflicted with Bipolar. In addition, this condition is not biased to race, ethnicity, or social standing. However, a higher risk of incidence has been discovered among people with a family member who has a diagnosis of the disorder.
Of all known causes of disability in the world, Bipolar Disorder ranks sixth. One of the challenges is that even when symptoms are mild to moderate, this mental health condition often devastates a person’s life. In fact, expected life span is reduced on average by 10 years but even worse, reports show that one in every five people with Bipolar commits suicide.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
As imagined, dealing with the effects of this disorder as an adult is bad enough but for a child, the experience is overwhelming. Before discussing the benefits of neurofeedback training for someone with Bipolar Disorder, we wanted to provide brief insight into the different episodes associated with this condition.
- Manic Episodes – With this, a person experiences mania, which is a period of time feeling irritable or elated. This type of episode generally lasts a minimum of one week during which time energy level increases and ability to sleep decreases. While in a manic episode, an individual is likely to participate in risky behavior, struggle with a limited attention span, become aggressive, feel superior, and have increased libido.
- Hypomanic Episodes – Elevated mood for this type of episode is ranked from mild to moderate. Someone going through a Hypomanic Episode would need fewer hours of sleep, appear overly optimistic, be extremely productive yet have trouble completing tasks due to a limited attention span, show a high level of creativity, and become hyper sexual.
- Depressive Episodes – Typical symptoms experienced by someone in a Depressive Episode of Bipolar include feeling extreme guilt, anger, sadness, and hopelessness. Other problems include compromised sleep, poor appetite, little to no motivation, low concentration, a sense of loneliness and apathy, and even thoughts of suicide. In more severe cases, a person can also become psychotic.
- Mixed Affective Episodes – As the name implies, a person having this type of episode would experience a mix of symptoms associated with Manic and Depressive Episodes. This is a very frustrating state since emotions run high and low simultaneously. Although there are major risks with Depressive Episodes, Mixed Affective Episodes pose the greatest concern specific to suicide.
Conventional and Alternative Treatment Options
The exact treatment for Bipolar Disorder depends on the type of episode but also the way in which an individual responds. Most often, mood stabilizing and/or antidepressant medication is used to treat this condition. However, current response rate for some of the more successful type drugs is only 40% to 50%, down significantly from earlier responses of 85%.
In extreme cases, a combination of anticonvulsant and antipsychotic medications are prescribed, especially for someone with Manic Episodes, as well as benzodiazepines to promote sleep. Although newer drugs are used today to treat symptoms of Bipolar, most cause unwanted side effects and many are highly addictive. Obviously, for someone trying to get and keep this condition in check, additional interferences create serious recovery challenges.
Because of the risks associated with the more conventional treatments for Bipolar Disorder, but also the slow recovery period and often temporary results, medical doctors, mental health professionals, and therapists have turned to alternative methods. One that has been proven safe and effective is called neurofeedback training. Not only does this treatment achieve the desired results much quicker for most people with Bipolar, the effects are long-term.
Of course every person is different but there are reported cases of people being taken completely off medication after going through neurofeedback training. However, because Bipolar Disorder is a complex mental health condition, it must be properly managed at all times. For that reason, it remains commonplace for neurofeedback training to be provided in conjunction with medication and therapy although it is also beneficial as a standalone treatment for certain individuals.
Benefits of Neurofeedback Training
The waxing and waning of mood and emotions that someone with Bipolar Disorder experiences is overwhelming. However, we want to emphasize that while it is common for someone with this condition to struggle at work, school, and even at home, it has been proven that neurofeedback training is of tremendous value in the recovery process.
Unlike prescription medication that travels through the entire body, neurofeedback training focuses solely on the effected part of the brain where symptoms are produced. With each training session, the brain is actually retrained and strengthened, which creates mental stability. Now, someone with Bipolar might be required to go through neurofeedback training for years but over time, self-regulating ability within the brain improves.
Through the training process, someone with Bipolar Disorder gains much better control over emotions and responses. As brain function stabilizes and normalizes, an individual becomes less susceptible to dramatic mood swings, gains focus, feels less angry, and achieves overall better physical and psychological health. The bottom line – neurofeedback training allows horrific symptoms to subside, thereby making it possible for someone with Bipolar to enjoy a healthy and productive life.