Charlie Sheen Talks to a Psychiatrist About Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Treatment and the Doctor-Patient Relationship
Getting an accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder is only the first milestone in a lifetime journey of learning to manage bipolar symptoms with various forms of bipolar treatment — and your doctor will be there every step of the way, playing an integral part in helping you gain and maintain control over your illness.
The Patient-Doctor Relationship
Bipolar treatment often involves many aspects, including taking medication, attending therapy, and making lifestyle changes. Because treating and managing your condition will extend over the course of many years, finding a doctor you can trust is key. "The first step with a patient with any chronic illness is building a trusting, professional relationship. In order to have a functional physician-patient relationship, physicians need to engage the patient and make them partners in treatment decisions,” says Stephen Pariser, MD, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at the Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus.
Being able to freely discuss bipolar symptoms, treatments, and related issues of the disease is critical, says Dr. Pariser. Suicide is a real risk for people with bipolar disorder, so you need to feel comfortable openly voicing your fears, thoughts, and concerns with your doctor.
When choosing a doctor, consider the type of approach the practitioner uses to treat bipolar disorder and decide if it fits your needs. Evaluate the proposed bipolar treatment plan and how comfortable and willing the physician is to discuss your concerns about it, including the side effects of bipolar medication. "All those things are not unreasonable for people to seek in a provider," says Pariser. You can — and should — shop around to make sure you find a doctor whose philosophy aligns with your own.
Look for a doctor who allows you the freedom to speak openly and comfortably about sensitive topics as well as the freedom to seek treatment from another provider if that is your preference, recommends the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. You should also feel respected and confident that your doctor maintains privacy regarding your health.
Developing Your Treatment Plan
Together, you and your doctor will determine the best approach to treating your bipolar symptoms, whether it's with bipolar medication or other methods. Bipolar treatment options include:
- Antipsychotic, mood-stabilizing, and other bipolar medication
- Various forms of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, psychoeducation to teach people about the illness, and interpersonal therapy to improve relationships
- Electroconvulsive therapy, which uses electrical currents to help manage depressive episodes
The most effective bipolar treatment plan will be different for everyone, and you may need to try several combinations to find the best approach for your illness. Some people are able to manage their symptoms solely with medication, while others require therapy to learn more about the disease and how to cope with it. "There are patients who, other than the educative part, don't need a great deal of psychotherapy," says Pariser. In fact, some people may not need any psychotherapy.
Because bipolar treatment is so individualized, you want a doctor who will accommodate your needs and whom you feel confident about working with. Your treatment plan shouldn't be about accepting doctor's orders. Instead, it should be the result of a collaborative relationship.
Beyond the Doctor’s Office
Your doctor’s influence should extend outside the medical office. Lifestyle changes may be necessary to help improve your bipolar symptoms, and your doctor will guide you in this integral part of your bipolar treatment plan. It includes:
Your doctor is also a great resource for recommendations for bipolar disorder support groups in your area. "Support groups can be helpful," says Pariser. "Some people find them a source of comfort." Of course, what works for some may not work for others. "You have to respect the individuality of every person," adds Pariser. If you're open to the idea, give it a try, he says, but whether it's right for you should be your own decision.
Bipolar treatment involves more than taking medication and attending a yearly checkup — it becomes a lifestyle, of which your doctor is an important part.
Video: The Brain & Bipolar Disorder
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