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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON BIPOLAR DISORDER

Do Other Illnesses Co-occur with Bipolar Disorder?

Alcohol and drug abuse are very common among people with bipolar disorder. Research findings suggest that many factors may contribute to these substance abuse problems, including self-medication of symptoms, mood symptoms either brought on or perpetuated by substance abuse, and risk factors that may influence the occurrence of both bipolar disorder and substance use disorders. Treatment for co-occurring substance abuse, when present, is an important part of the overall treatment plan.

Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, also may be common in people with bipolar disorder. Co-occurring anxiety disorders may respond to the treatments used for bipolar disorder, or they may require separate treatment. For more information on anxiety disorders, contact NIMH.

How Can Individuals and Families Get Help fo Bipolar Disorder?

Anyone with bipolar disorder should be under the care of a psychiatrist skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of this disease. Other mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatric social workers, and psychiatric nurses, can assist in providing the person and family with additional approaches to treatment.

Help can be found at:

  • University--or medical school--affiliated programs
  • Hospital departments of psychiatry
  • Private psychiatric offices and clinics
  • Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)
  • Offices of family physicians, internists, and pediatricians
  • Public community mental health centers

People with bipolar disorder may need help to get help.

  • Often people with bipolar disorder do not realize how impaired they are, or they blame their problems on some cause other than mental illness.
  • A person with bipolar disorder may need strong encouragement from family and friends to seek treatment. Family physicians can play an important role in providing referral to a mental health professional.
  • Sometimes a family member or friend may need to take the person with bipolar disorder for proper mental health evaluation and treatment.
  • A person who is in the midst of a severe episode may need to be hospitalized for his or her own protection and for much needed treatment. There may be times when the person needs to be hospitalized against his or her wishes.
  • Ongoing encouragement and support are needed after a person obtains treatment, because it may take a while to find the best treatment plan for each individual.
  • In some cases, individuals with bipolar disorder may agree, when the disorder is under good control, to a preferred course of action in the event of a future manic or depressive relapse.
  • Like other serious illnesses, bipolar disorder is also hard on spouses, family members, friends, and employers.
  • Family members of someone with bipolar disorder often have to cope with the person's serious behavioral problems, such as wild spending sprees during mania or extreme withdrawl from other during depression, and the lasting consequences of these behaviors.
  • Many people with bipolar disorder benefit from joining support groups such as those sponsored by the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (NDMDA), the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), and the National Mental Health Association (NMHA). Families and friends can also benefit fro support groups offered by these organizations. For contact information, see the More Help section of this website in the menu at the top of the page.

What About Clinical Studies for Bipolar Disorder?

Some people with bipolar disorder recieve medication and/or psychosocial therapy by volunteering to participate in clinical studies (clinical trials). Clinical studies involve the scientific investigation of illness and treatment of illness in humans. Clinical studies in mental health can yield information about the efficacy of a medication or a combination of treatments, the usefulness of a behavioral intervention or type of psychotherapy, the reliability of a diagnostic procedure, or the success of a prevention method. Clinical studies also guide scientists in learning how illness develops, progresses, lessens, and affects both mind and body. Millions of Americans diagnosed with mental illness lead healthy, productive lives because of information discovered through clinical studies. These studies are not always right for everyone, however. It is important for each individual to consider carefully the possible risks and benefits of a clinical study before making a decision to participate.

In recent years, NIMH has introduced a new generation of "real-world" clinical studies. They are called "real-world" studies for several reasons. Unlike traditional clinical trials, the offer multiple different treatments and treatment combinations. In addition, they aim to include large numbers of people with mental disorders living in communities throughout the U.S. and recieving treatment across a wide variety of settings. Individuals with more than one mental disorder, as well as those with co-occurring physical illnesses, are encouraged to consider participating in these new studies. The main goal of the real-world studies is to improve treatment strategies and outcomes for all people with these disorders. In addition to measuring improvement in illness symptoms, the studies will evaluate how treatments influence other important, real-world issues such as quality of life, ability to work, and social functioning. They also will assess the cost-effectiveness of different treatments and factors that affect how well people stay on their treatment plans.

The Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD) is seeking participants for the largest-ever, "real-world" study of treatments for bipolar disorder. To learn more about STEP-BD or other clinical studies, see the Clinical Trials page on the NIMH Web site http://www.nimh.nih.gov, visit the National Library of Medicine's clinical trials database http://www.clinicaltrials.gov, or contact NIMH.

 

 

 

 

 

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All information in the white boxes on this and any following pages are courtesy of:

National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar Disorder. Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services; 2001 [cited 2006 March 11]. (NIH Publication Number: 02-3679). 28 pages. Available from: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/Publicat/bipolar.cfm

 

This page © Copyright 2006, Eric S. Waechter