Addressing mental illness in a full, comprehensive manner is one of the keystones of our operations at the Integrative Center for Wellness. This approach to treatment helps our patients avoid serious pitfalls related to their conditions; and this is especially true when it comes to illnesses such as bipolar disorder.
A complicated, misunderstood illness, bipolar disorder does not immediately bring up images or thoughts of poor physical health. Yet without proper care and management, it’s an illness that can ultimately bring down mental and physical health alike – something our team is dedicated to avoiding.
Examining The Effects Of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is currently best known as a mood disorder that leads to phases of both depression and mania. It’s believed that a mix of genetics, biochemistry within the brain, and environmental factors can trigger cases of the disease, although the exact cause of the illness is unknown.
What is known, however, is that these various episodes can cause many negative changes to the body and psyche. Regular bouts of depression and depressive states, for example, can impact one’s ability to focus, and even increase the risk of developing suicidal thoughts. But while much of the discussion about bipolar disorder focuses on how it affects a patient’s mind, the condition is also linked to an increased risk of developing certain physical health issues. In our experience, many patients are not aware of this risk, and without that knowledge, it can become even more challenging to navigate through bipolar disorder to a healthier, more stable state.
For example, in addition to monitoring for specific cases of depression, bipolar disorder is likely to negatively impact a patient’s ability to sleep soundly. The disorder is likely to drive down energy levels, because many bipolar patients feel lethargic when they are in a more “depressed” mood. Moreover, these depressed states typically have an impact on a patient’s appetite, increasing the risk of gaining or losing unhealthy amounts of weight. These are all health issues that present for treatment of bipolar disorder, and patients who are armed with relevant knowledge are more likely to share their symptoms and behaviors with their psychologist or psychiatrist rather than overlooking the need for treatment or forgoing help entirely.
There are also long-term health matters to consider when managing bipolar disorder. In one 2014 study, published by the British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers compared the rates of medical illness in bipolar patients versus people who did not have the condition. According to the study, “The most common co-occurring medical illnesses were migraine, asthma, and elevated blood lipids (which are associated with high cholesterol). Each of these conditions was reported in one fifth of bipolar patients. Other illnesses found at increased rates in bipolar patients included hypertension, thyroid disease and osteoarthritis.”
It’s also currently documented that bipolar patients are at a higher risk of developing heart disease, chronic pain, diabetes, and obesity.
Addressing The Effects Of Bipolar Disorder
The conditions mentioned so far are not necessarily conditions we would associate with bipolar disorder – but they are definitely conditions that should be considered when prescribing a treatment for bipolar. Psychopharmaceutical treatments in particular need to take these risks into account. For example, weight gain among bipolar patients is a particular concern among healthcare professionals, due to the obesity crisis in America to date. So, if a medication causes weight gain, without proper action being taken to balance out this change, a patient could potentially develop other physical co-morbidities like diabetes or heart trouble in conjunction with bipolar disorder.
There is good news in all of this. Optimal treatment of bipolar disorder is possible. In addition, exercise and good nutrition have been shown to help improve some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Finding a professional who understands the disorder and potential co-occurring illnesses is critical. Experts can educate and treat the disorder in an integrative way, addressing underlying causes and their effects on overall wellness. A strong bipolar care team can consider and prescribe an individualized exercise and diet as well as wellness techniques to address specific risks associated with the disorder.
The benefits of a comprehensive care plan cannot be understated when treating bipolar disorder. At the Integrative Center for Wellness, we advocate for an optimal approach to the whole individual who presents with bipolar disorder symptoms. We emphasize monitoring closely and consistently addressing the many risks associated with bipolar disorder, through a combination treatment of medication, therapy and nutrition. To learn more about bipolar disorder, visit this section of our website. To schedule an appointment to evaluate your emotional or physical health, contact us today.