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Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar Disorder Information

Bipolar disorder, once referred to as manic depression, is a mental illness that affects an estimated 2.6% of the adult population in the United States. However, these metrics can be misleading, as many who suffer from bipolar are never diagnosed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes bipolar disorder as the 6th leading cause of disability in the world. As a mental health issue, it doesn’t differentiate between men and women, and it does not show a prevalence in youth as opposed to adults, although the median age for diagnosis is 25.

Sadly, children of parents who are affected by bipolar are more likely to develop the disease in their lifetime. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance report these statistics:

  • 15-30% more likely to develop bipolar is they have one bipolar parent
  • 50-75% more likely if both parents have a bipolar diagnosis

Additionally, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder reduces the expected lifespan by 9.2 years. 20% of patients with bipolar will go on to complete suicide.

Early onset of bipolar disorder appears in childhood, presenting initially as depression. Children and young adults with bipolar may be more likely to exhibit destructive and angry behavior than elation or euphoria. Some symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Isolation
  • Irritability
  • Inability to perform in school
  • Extreme sensitivity to failure or rejection

Mental Health services in Colorado

Like many states in our nation, Colorado spends more money treating patients in care facilities or for acute situations than they do for ongoing mental health needs. This means that many patients will have to get to the point of a major crisis before help is available to them.

Since the health care system in Colorado is slanted towards prioritizing physical health over mental health, patients may need to be hospitalized, incarcerated, in the emergency room, or in the care of the child welfare system before they receive the care they so urgently need.

Families may find it so difficult to navigate the mental health system in Colorado that they find it impossible to obtain treatment for a loved one who is too sick to know that they need treatment.

In reality, the state of Colorado is largely failing those who need it most, ranking near the bottom for available psychiatric beds in per capita mental health spending. The unfortunate result of this is reflected in our alarming suicide rate: Colorado ranks as the 6th highest in the nation for suicide. This has got to stop.

Co-occurring disorders: mental health and drug addiction

The unfortunate offshoot of bipolar and the nature of the behavior and feelings it evokes in those affected make them more susceptible to drug addiction as a co-occurring disorder.

Further to the alarming statistics stated above, more than 26% of individuals who suffer from mental illness will abuse drugs. Of those, 55% will never receive treatment for either; despite the high likelihood, only 7.4% will receive treatment for both.

Many who suffer from bipolar disorder will seek out illicit drugs to alleviate symptoms, or simply to help them feel “normal”. This can and does lead to addiction in many. Fortunately, there are treatment centers like Peaks Recovery that understand the nuances of both diseases.

At our beautiful Colorado Springs facility, we provide much-needed support and therapy to young adults affected by bipolar disorder, addictions, and co-occurring disorders.

Medication therapy for bipolar disorder

There are several drug therapies that are very effective in treating bipolar disorder, and can help those living with it to work, go to school, and otherwise lead full, productive, normal lives while managing their disease.

In the initial stages of treatment, medication may need to be adjusted until you and your doctor find the right dosage and the right drugs. It often involves a “cocktail” of different drugs which can be dangerous if taken improperly, but with careful monitoring of side effects and symptoms, you will eventually find a program that works for you.

Current trends in bipolar medication favor mood stabilizers. This class of drugs works for many in reducing or eliminating mood cycling, and for some, this means not having any more depressive episodes.

It is important to note that traditional antidepressants are not effective in treating bipolar disorder. In many cases, they can actually exacerbate symptoms and make depressive episodes far worse than they normally would be. Taking all medications as prescribed is essential for success.

Some of these medications include:

Lithium for mood stabilization

Lithium is usually the first course of active treatment, as it controls mania. However, those who are affected by rapid mood cycling or mixed episodes may not find it as effective. Lithium also comes with its fair share of side effects, including:

  • Weight gain
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Thyroid issues
  • Inability to focus
  • Nausea
  • Vertigo
  • Diarrhea

Anticonvulsants for bipolar disorder

Generally prescribed for seizure disorders, anticonvulsants have been found to be effective in controlling rapid cycling and mixed episodes. These medications include:

  • Depakote (valproic acid)
  • Tegretol (carbamazepine)
  • Lamictal (lamotrigine)
  • Topamax (topiramate)

Mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder

Additional mood stabilizers may optimize the course of medication for bipolar disorder. These can include:

  • Lamictal (lamotrigine)
  • Seroquel (quetiapine)
  • Symbyax (olanzapine and fluoxetine)
  • Zyprexa (olanzapine)

Antipsychotics for bipolar disorder

If a patient tends to lose touch with reality during their manic or depressive episodes, an antipsychotic may be explored. They may also be indicated if mood stabilizers have proven ineffective or may be combined with mood stabilizing drugs.

Antipsychotic medications commonly used to treat bipolar disorder include:

  • Abilify (aripiprazole)
  • Clozaril (clozapine)
  • Geodon (ziprasidone)
  • Haldol (haloperidol)
  • Risperidone (risperdal)
  • Seroquel (quetiapine)
  • Zyprexa (olanzapine)

Other drugs used to treat bipolar disorder include:

  • Benzodiazepines: not meant for long-term use, but can be helpful in the initial stages of treatment until the mood stabilizers reach their full saturation.
  • Calcium channel blockers: traditionally used to treat hypertension, these drugs can also help to stabilize mood. They are milder than traditional mood stabilizers but also have fewer side effects.
  • Thyroid medications: rapid cycling can cause wild fluctuations in hormonal levels. Thyroid medications may help to stabilize these numbers.

Finding success in treating bipolar disorder

While medication can help to stabilize mood and prevent relapse, it is often an uphill battle to keep patients in compliance with their drug therapy. Once they start to feel better and get back to a normal state of being, there is a danger that they may discontinue their medication. If this happens, symptoms will quickly reappear, putting the patient at a much higher risk for harm to come to them.

Side effects can also be a barrier to compliance and must be monitored closely in order to maintain acceptable levels and to keep the patient feeling good.

Medication alone is not enough, however. A drug program must be combined with therapy, counseling, self-help strategies, healthy lifestyle choices, and peer support in order to realize long-term success in managing bipolar episodes.

Age-specific, gender-specific bipolar treatment in Colorado

Living with bipolar disorder is not easy. However, with caring support and the proper medications and coping skills, it is possible.

Peaks Recovery is located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in beautiful Colorado Springs, CO. We are a facility dedicated to treating young adults in an age-specific and gender-specific environment, providing them with the tools and strategies they need to live a happy and fulfilling life.

We favor an age-specific and gender-specific environment in treatment because it allows our patients to be themselves, without the stress and behavioral triggers of associating with those outside of their peer group and gender.

There is much research to support the effectiveness of an age-specific therapy model. Those of a similar age have experienced many of the same milestones and life experiences, and have a common cultural view of the world around them.

Gender-specific therapy takes a similar view, as those who are dealing with mental illness, addiction, or co-occurring disorders may be distracted by members of the opposite sex. In some individuals, this could lead to inappropriate relationships that will ultimately contribute to or exacerbate the issue they are being treated for.

We want to give the young adults in our care the best possible chance of success in the program. For this reason, we are fully committed to protecting their interests with the ultimate goal of seeing them lead a happy and fulfilled life once they leave our program.

Our patients participate in one-on-one as well as group therapy. They will also take part in physical activities as well as life and skill-enhancing learning that will help them go on to lead productive lives. These activities will support them into the future, developing their coping skills, building resilience, and giving them the tools they need to face life’s challenges in the real world.

Peaks Recovery: bipolar and co-occurring disorder treatment in Colorado

If you or a loved one is struggling with bipolar disorder and you don’t know where to turn, call Peaks Recovery today. We are dedicated to treating young adults in a safe and caring environment at our beautiful Colorado Springs location, and we can help.