Alternative Methods of treating Bipolar Disorder

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2017

19 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Content


Common Methods of Dealing with Bipolar Disorder

Medications and their Effects

Alternative Methods of Treating Bipolar Disorder


Amino Acids for Bipolar Disorder

Minerals for Bipolar Disorder

Vitamins for Bipolar Disorder

Alcohol and Caffeine

Effects of drug Abuse and Bipolar Disorder

Exercise and Bipolar Disorder

Yoga for Bipolar Disorder

Sleep and Bipolar Disorder

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy



Alternative Methods of Treating Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar disorder has seemingly become one of the most challenging psychiatric illnesses in the U.S and the world at large. Statistics of this disorder were considered relatively insignificant in the past, but recent studies reveal that its prevalence has increased to an alarming level. It is estimated that more than 10 million people in the U.S are suffering from bipolar disorder (Goldberg, 2013a). This implies that its burden is relatively high and yet the U.S public healthcare system is facing enormous challenges from non-communicable diseases such as cancer, obesity and its related health conditions. Glick (2004) reports “the socioeconomic and personal burdens of this illness are significant, and the lifetime risk of suicide attempts by patients with bipolar II disorder is high” (p. 27). Therefore, bipolar disorder causes immense personal and socioeconomic burden. World Health Organization ranks bipolar disorder among the top 10 disorders responsible for disability and premature mortality in developing countries. This is probably so because this illness is associated to suicide. Recent studies indicate that 25% to 50% of the population suffering from bipolar disorder has suicide experiences in which women are most affected (Glick, 2004). However, it is worth noting that the prevalence of bipolar disorder is the same among men and women. In addition, it equally in all ethnic groups, socioeconomic classes and races (Goldberg, 2013a).

Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric illness in which an individual experiences mania and depression episodes leading to social withdrawal, irritability and extreme sadness. In addition, bipolar mania is characterized with aggressiveness, sexual inappropriateness and exaggerated self-confidence (Goldberg, 2013a). As such, its diagnosis and treatment encompasses immense complexity. Glick (2004) states “pharmacotherapeutic management of bipolar disorder is extremely complex, fraught with frequent non-response and resistance to treatment and side effects (p. 31).

However, there are numerous alternatives of treating bipolar disorder, which are more efficient than medication. Therefore, this research paper will discuss alternative methods of dealing with bipolar disorder such as lifestyle changes, nutrition and herbal remedies. It will also provide an overview on medication, and its related side effects to create an understanding of the significance of using alternative treatment approaches.

Common Methods of Dealing with Bipolar Disorder

It is believed that bipolar disorder does not have any cure yet although there are different treatment options. Ordinarily, treatment of bipolar disorder aims at relieving the patient of the signs and symptoms to restore normal mental state. It is believed that maintaining the patients’ mental state improves the quality of life. In reality, conventional methods of bipolar disorder treatment are faced with enormous challenges owing to the complexity of the illness. It is reported that mood changes occur even with proper treatment using conventional methods (NIMH, n.d.).

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness; thus, it requires long-term continuous treatment for the management of the associated symptoms in which relapse cases are quite common even when medication is successful although this aspect is believed to be enhanced by other mental disorders (NIMH, n.d.). However, alternative remedies have been found to be highly reliable in addressing the challenges caused by medication. Ideally, the most common treatment approaches involve medications with mood stabilizers and antidepressants.

Medications and their Effects

From a clinical perspective, medications serve as the only treatment option for managing the symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis renders medication unreliable. In most cases, symptoms of bipolar disorder are overlooked by clinicians leading to immense consequences in bipolar disorder patients. Epidemiological studies indicate that, bipolar disorder is one of the most misdiagnosed depressive disorders with a survey conducted in 2000 showing that 69 percent of bipolar disorder cases were misdiagnosed (Glick, 2004).

Some of the commonly used medications include mood stabilizers, antidepressants and atypical antipsychotics. In practice, mood stabilizers are used as the first choice of treating bipolar disorder, and they are used for a long term to manage mood changes in patients. Historically, mood stabilizers were adopted for clinical use in treating bipolar disorder in 1970 when Lithium was approved by the U.S Food and Drug Agency (FDA). Currently, there is an array of mood stabilizers including Valproic acid, Lamotrigine, Gabapentin and Oxcarbazepine (NIMH, n.d.). However, it is worth noting that, Lithium is used as the most reliable medication for bipolar disorder while the other mood stabilizers including anticonvulsants are used to supplement the latter.

The essence of incorporating alternative treatment options can be explained by the side effects associated with mood stabilizers. For instance, Lithium causes biological changes in the patient’s body in which the kidneys and thyroid gland are affected. In most cases, Lithium causes low thyroid function, which is responsible for the rapid cycling observed among people with bipolar disorder, especially women. It is also associated to birth defects; thus, caution is necessary when using Lithium for treating bipolar disorder in pregnant and lactating women (Goldberg, 2013b). In addition, Lithium causes restlessness, acne, muscle pain and unusual discomfort to cold weather. Other side effects include drying of the mouth, indigestion and brittleness of hair or nails (NIMH, n.d.).

Moreover, anticonvulsants are believed to cause unusual mood changes which increase the risk of suicidal behaviors. Therefore, management of bipolar disorder with anticonvulsants requires extensive monitoring of the severity of the principal symptoms to prevent adverse mood changes. As such, treatment of bipolar disorder with anticonvulsants is relatively unreliable because they increase health risks. In general, the most common side effects caused by other mood stabilizers, apart from Lithium, include drowsiness, cold-like symptoms, dizziness, indigestion and headache. These side effects are also experienced by people with bipolar disorder who are under antipsychotic treatment. However, some antipsychotics are associated with blurred vision, skin rashes, sensitivity to sunlight and menstrual problems in women (NIMH, n.d.). On the other hand, antidepressants including Bupropion, Fluoxetine and Sertraline cause nausea, sexual problems and agitation.

Alternative Methods of Treating Bipolar Disorder

It has been found that medications used to treat bipolar disorder causes enormous health consequences in patients. This is so because medication takes a long term leading to residual accumulation of the drug metabolites in the body. These residuals cause biological imbalances in various body organs. For instance, mood stabilizers have been found to cause kidney problems in patients with bipolar disorder. Ordinarily, kidneys serve as sites for excretion of drug metabolites. In the case of Lithium, the functions of kidneys are interrupted by the physiological changes of biological fluids passing through the kidney glomeruli. It is believed that Lithium enhances crystallization of salts in the kidney tubules. As a result, the filtering ability of kidneys is impaired, and this is believed to cause the hardening of the nephrons which are the functional units of the kidneys.

On the other hand, some medications such as anticonvulsants influence an individual’s social nature. In most cases, they cause changes in the social behavior which, in turn, triggers suicidal thoughts among people with bipolar disorder. Despite the benefits associated with medications, this treatment approach encompasses fatal consequences. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt other alternatives in treating bipolar disorder. This is seemingly the only way to address the issue of drug toxicity and other psychological consequences caused by medication for bipolar disorder.

Fortunately, there are several remedies for treating the illness which are more efficient than medication although these alternatives have not yet been considered useful by most physicians. It has been found out that lifestyle changes including nutrition, exercise and psychotherapy play a pivotal role in managing the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Social changes such as personal daily routine and social support have also been found to be reliable in dealing with bipolar disorder in most people, even those who are experiencing severe symptoms.


One of the most reliable alternatives of dealing with bipolar disorder is the adoption of a healthy dietary regime. Research studies indicate that diet plays a principal role in determining an individual’s health status. In most cases, unhealthy diets such as fad foods are associated with health problems. This is the reason why most non-communicable diseases including obesity and diabetes are believed to be linked to dietary regimes. In the case of bipolar disorder, unhealthy diet leads to the advancement of the symptoms even when proper medication routine is followed.


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Alternative Methods of treating Bipolar Disorder
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Patrick Kimuyu (Author), 2017, Alternative Methods of treating Bipolar Disorder, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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