Bipolar Disorder Treatment - Hospitalization And Electroconvulsive Therapy

Medications are the primary means of treatment for bipolar disorder, but they are by no means the only useful bipolar disorder treatments that exist. A range of other medical and non-medical treatments complement bipolar medications. Figuring most prominently into this set of complementary treatments are hospitalization, electroconvulsive therapy, and various forms of psychotherapy.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment - Hospitalization

Although most bipolar patients do not require extended inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations, short-term hospitalizations can be necessary during real or potential illness crises (e.g., severe mood episodes, suicidal attempts, untreated bipolar symptoms, bipolar medication adjustments, etc.). More severe cases of bipolar disorder (e.g., Bipolar I Disorder) are more likely to require more frequent intermittent hospitalizations, due to their more severe symptom profiles.

Hospitalization is among the more expensive bipolar treatment options available, and it is correspondingly offered sparingly and generally only when no other treatment options will prove sufficient to insure patient safety. During their time in the hospital, patients are diagnosed (if their diagnosis is not already clear), and started on bipolar medication. Alternative psychiatric treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy may also be administered if they are indicated, and patients agree to receive them. Patients are typically integrated into the hospital ward's' therapeutic milieu which may consist of regular patient groups, scheduled eating, sleeping and recreational periods, and occasional interviews with physicians and nurses. As soon as is practical (meaning, as soon as symptoms start to turn around, and there is no imminent risk of suicide), patients are discharged back to their homes and regularly scheduled supportive care. To the extent that outside supports are not adequate (e.g., there is no treating psychiatrist, or no psychotherapist, or housing is not adequate, etc.) the hospital may aid with coordination of care (so that a psychiatrist or psychotherapist will be found to take the case, or a shelter may be found).

Bipolar Disorder Treatment - Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

One of the more successful non-medical therapies available to bipolar patients is ECT. Electroconvulsive therapy involves the passage of an electric current through the brain to artificially create a seizure. It is primarily reserved for treatment-resistant forms of acute mania and depression which have proven themselves impervious to alternative bipolar medication treatment.

The mention of ECT conjures up a veritable torture session in most people's minds (certainly so for those who have seen psychiatry-themed movies such as "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"), but such images are not at all realistic depictions of modern ECT. Though an electrical current is indeed passed through the brain and body, the waveform of this current is carefully modulated for safety and maximal therapeutic benefit. There is no shaking or biting of tongues associated with the procedure because patients are given muscle relaxants prior to ECT sessions to prevent such damage. Most importantly, results from ECT treatment are often fairly remarkable, in that previously unremitting mood episodes are quickly "reset" and more normal mood emerges.

The procedure has one rather large and glaring negative side effect in that it causes temporary short-term memory loss. Memories of actually experiencing the treatment itself and of the time period shortly before treatments occur are blurred or erased. Since ECT treatment is typically reserved for patients who simply do not respond to other available bipolar disorder treatments, and since untreated depressive and manic states are themselves dangerous (considering the risk of suicide or other impulsive self-damaging behavior), this memory loss is often considered a reasonable price to pay.

Despite its bad reputation, ECT can be literally lifesaving in cases of suicidal bipolar depression. It is reasonably safe and generally has a fast and pronounced positive bipolar treatment effect. In addition, when used to treat unremitting depressive episodes, it does not increase cycling periods or precipitate a manic episode as antidepressants might. Furthermore, because it has no systemic effects (as do all bipolar medications), ECT may, in fact, be the safest treatment for pregnant women or nursing mothers suffering from bipolar disorder.

  • Rosemary

    I think that you guys should add more information, add more information about the new medications coming out to treat Bipolar Disorder......Well I still think it has good information..

  • Jan

    I went to a local hospital because I was at my wits end. Was prescibed a couple of meds, told to make appointments, sent home. No family,or friends,to turn to.At least, now,I have enough meds to end this misery, if God lets me go on, this time.

  • Anonymous-1

    bipolar is a challenge to try and handle. mood swings, anger, hate, love, friends, no one like me, i could go on..

    i have been there, am there, never seem to leave there, but some days when i am my true self, it is a total joy to

    be alive and appreciate all the superb things we have. on an average i was getting a day and a half once a month of being myself. then things would happen, my friends didn't know when i would (go off - like a bomb) so most of them stayed away a distance. i don't have many friends now, but that's ok because i know when i wrangle this monster and it will almost go away, then i will have many friends. they love us, they are just afraid of us and what we may do to ourselves or to them in a fit of anger. so we have to take control, no one else is going to do it. the doctor can only do so much, and they have seen much worse. but our family who may not want us around in these episodes...would surely miss us if we were not around. you have to endure and keep going to the end. think about a gift you may have and can share with others (when you're thinking right). it will work.

  • eros`

    im 18 and i was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 16 after several mental breakdowns and about a hundred cries for help... i have managed to push any and every good thing away from me including my family and close friends i stopped taking my meds and stopped going to therapy for some reason i dont quite understand at the moment but i know once i get back to myself and out of this place im in mentally i will understand it.

    i think having the disorder and getting the whole idea of whats going on in your brain makes us experts. so being an expert on how the bipolar mind works i think this might help anyone who might need this as much as i did.

    these feelings, these worthless no one cares or understands feelings, feelings of rebelion and repression are part of the disorder and its really hard to navagate them but the biggest one is stop running its the worst thing you can do during a manic episode take it from me i know i have been running for so long my feet are tired perverbially that is. but running when you have no specific direction and no set destination is so self destructive its ridiculous and if you just try to slow down and navigate your thoughts you realize there are people out there that care wether you want them too or not and there are definately other people who feel the same way you do and when you find someone who does feel that way and just slow it down and have a conversation maybe get into there head and maybe say things you wouldnt normally say to people just inner thoughts they might give you the feedback you search for day in and even those restless nights and there are more people out there that have been where your at then you think an its in your best interest to seek help and if you have the courage to do it yourself and get out of this mental hell your in. more power to you and whentimes get hard my friend think about the times where your are yourself and just try so hard to work your way through and when that anger takes ahold of you just breathe and find a place in your mind to pick through what triggered your anger and usually how in theory its nothing to lose your cool over most of the time,(not always)then come right back to reality a deal with the situation at hand it takes a minute to get the hang of it but it helps so much

    and one more thing here is a quoute that has gotten me through my darkest hours. "We find comfort in those who agree with us--growth among those who don't."


  • Misty

    for me the article that was written above about "Running", really hit home for me. I have been running all of my life. Acting on impulses if you will! My daughter was in 5 different elementary schools in one year from florida to indiana to Tennessee. I just thought I was trying to find my way. I would move in brand new houses, apartments, love it and as soon as i got back on my feet again, I would do it again. I had no idea why. I never had company because I didn't want anyone to know where I lived. I had friends but wouldn't let them et too close. I guess I was affraid that eventually they would start seeing a difference in me and figure out that I wasn't exactly normal. I would think that I wanted to move to Florida and would pack right then and be on my way. Stay for a while, decide this isn't where I want to be and go back to Indiana. I hsve left, got to Florida, woke up the next morning and went back home. On my credit report I have 42 different addresses! Get my point? I don't like people close to me, behind me, I hate it when people look at me. I barely sleep due to mind racing. I have taken all different types of meds, all with awful side effects. I am now on 600mg of Seroquel, Benzotropine, Valium. I am going to ask my Dr. about electroconvulsive therapy. The side effects from that are pretty much memory loss. With my past, I would mind to be honest. As far as my treatment nbow, I think my Dr. is just to the point where there is nothing more for her to do. I am going to suggest the ECT and see what she says. If she denies me the treatment I am going to find a DR. who will do it!!!!!! I am desperate at this point!

  • Anonymous-2

    why have i not heard of anyone on zonegran for bipolar? i am. its supposed to be the new lithium replacement. i lose weight instead of gain it.