Bipolar Disorder

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive disorder or manic depression, is a brain disorder that results in fluctuations in an individual’s mood, energy, and function. Bipolar disorder is characterized by experiences of intense emotional states known as ‘mood episodes’, such as periods of prolonged depression alternating with periods of mania/hypomania.

Symptoms of mania in bipolar disorder include:

  • excessively elevated mood
  • decreased need for sleep
  • reckless behavior
  • thought disturbances

Symptoms of major depression in bipolar disorder include:

  • intense sadness or despair
  • frequent thoughts of suicide/death
  • restlessness
  • increased or decreased appetite
  • increased or decreased sleep

Bipolar disorder is categorized according to its severity into 3 diagnoses:

  • Bipolar I
  • Bipolar II
  • Cyclothymic disorder.

Bipolar disorder I is the most severe form, in which episodes of mania and depression severely impairs functioning. A manic episode lasts at least one week. Patients with bipolar disorder I who have cycles of ‘mood episodes’ 4 or more times per year are considered to have rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder II is characterized by less severe symptoms and does not typically lead to significant impairment of functioning. A diagnosis of bipolar disorder II requires at least one major depressive episode, and one ‘hypomanic’ episode. A hypomanic episode involves less severe manic episodes, and lasts less than a week.

Cyclothymia is a milder form of bipolar disorder II, with less severe symptoms, but involves many ‘mood swings’ consisting of dysthymia (a mild but prolonged form of depression) and hypomania.

Medical standard of care

The standard medical approach typically does not consider or address dietary, nutrient, and environmental contributors to depression.

Conventional treatment for bipolar disorder includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Medications commonly taken for bipolar disorder include:

  • Lithium
  • Valproic acid
  • Carbamazepine
  • Antipsychotic agents

These medications work by acting as mood stabilizers for depression and/or mania, which help correct imbalanced brain signalling.

Why consider an orthomolecular approach?

Bipolar disorder has numerous biological causes and contributors that have been identified through nutritional research and clinical practice. Each individual may experience bipolar disorder symptoms for different reasons.

An orthomolecular approach:

  • identifies the drivers and causes of bipolar disorder and focuses on understanding them
  • works WITH the body to restore balance and normal function, and considers the person with the condition vs. just the condition
  • addresses nutrient depletions that promote bipolar disorder whereas medications do not
  • can be done SAFELY in conjunction with most medical interventions

American Psychiatric Association Webpage

Gaby, A. R. (2011). Nutritional Medicine (VitalBook file).