Treating Bipolar Disorder
Effectively treating bipolar disorder has not been easy to do since it is so hard to diagnose, and for a long time it had been misdiagnosed. The American Medical Association claims that bipolar disorder is difficult to detect because it is often accompanied by illnesses such as alcohol and drug abuse, often fooling doctors into believing that they are seeing the symptoms of alcoholism or drug addiction. However, when accurately diagnosed, lithium has been long accepted as an effective medical treatment. Dr. John J.F. Cade, an Australian psychiatrist, was the first to attempt treating bipolar syndrome with lithium. Cade prescribed lithium to a man who had been hospitalized for 5 years. Within three weeks of taking the drug, the man was well enough to live in a convalescent ward, and within four months was able to return home to his family and the job that he held prior to being hospitalized. This success foreshadowed the tactics the psychiatric community would use to combat bipolar syndrome in future decades.
Today, drugs are the most common treatment for patients with mood disorders such as bipolar syndrome. Lithium is still the most popular drug with which to treat bipolar syndrome. Electroconvulsive therapy has also been proven to be effective, albeit controversial, and is regaining popularity. In electroconvulsive therapy, shocks of approximately 70 to 130 volts are applied directly to the portions of the brain that are thought to affect mood. According to Lichman, proponents of this kind of treatment claim that electroconvulsive therapy, when combined with muscle relaxants, will produce immediate improvement without complication. However, there are some potentially serious side effects to this kind of treatment that have prevented it from becoming more widespread.
Since it is generally accepted that the roots of bipolar disorder are both biological and psychological, psychotherapy is usually combined with drug (or shock) treatment. The greatest successes in the treatment of bipolar disorders are when this eclectic approach is used since it addresses both the biological and psychological aspects of the illness.