How to treat bipolar disorder naturally

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jan 21, 2021.

Bipolar disorder can be treated with a number of medications. Some of these medications can increase your appetite or cause changes in metabolism leading to weight gain.

Whether a certain medication will cause weight gain or other side effects varies from person to person. Also, how well the medication works to treat bipolar disorder symptoms differs among individuals. Because of this, finding the medications that best treat your symptoms may require some trial and error.

Medications for bipolar disorder include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and antidepressants.

  • Mood stabilizers used to treat bipolar disorder include lithium (Lithobid), valproic acid (Depakene), divalproex sodium (Depakote), carbamazepine (Tegretol, Equetro, others) and lamotrigine (Lamictal). All of these medications are known to increase the risk of weight gain except lamotrigine.
  • Antipsychotics prescribed for bipolar disorder include olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), aripiprazole (Abilify), ziprasidone (Geodon), lurasidone (Latuda), cariprazine (Vraylar) and asenapine (Saphris). It appears that aripiprazole, ziprasidone, lurasidone and cariprazine are more weight neutral than the others, but that can vary from person to person.
  • Antidepressants along with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic may be used in treating bipolar disorder, though antidepressants alone could cause mania or rapid cycling in people with bipolar disorder. Some antidepressants may be more likely to cause weight gain than others, but this can vary from person to person. Talk with your psychiatric care professional if you have concerns.
  • Antidepressant-antipsychotic combination medication works as a depression treatment and a mood stabilizer. The medication Symbyax combines the antidepressant fluoxetine and the antipsychotic olanzapine and is associated with weight gain.

Some of these medications may be less likely to cause weight gain when taken alone, but many people need more than one medication to control bipolar symptoms. Some weight gain may be inevitable when taking medications for bipolar disorder.

If weight gain is an issue, ask your psychiatric care professional for advice on strategies to manage it. Healthy eating, keeping physically active and getting psychological counseling (psychotherapy) can all help.

Continue to work with your psychiatric care professional to find the best way to keep your bipolar symptoms and your weight under control.

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Bipolar disorder is a serious mental condition and its treatment should not be taken lightly. Medication prescribed by your doctor should be followed per the correct dosages. Stopping your medication or self-treatment may be life-threatening in some cases. Home remedies for bipolar disorder refer to lifestyle changes. These include:

  • Quitting drugs, alcohol, and smoking
  • Staying away from stressful situations such as unhealthy relationships and negative people
  • Exercising regularly to improve your mood and sleep patterns
  • Get a minimum of eight uninterrupted hours of sleep a day
  • Avoid caffeine and foods high in fat and sugar
  • Natural remedies for bipolar disorder include lithium, omega 3 fatty acids (found in foods such as salmon or in the form of supplements), and L-tyrosine (an amino acid found in dairy products and oats or in the form of supplements)
  • Herbal aids for bipolar disorder include lavender to reduce stress and encourage sleep and pass flora to soothe the nervous system and balance out the neurotransmitters in the brain
  • Acupuncture is another effective treatment for bipolar disorder. Acupuncture helps regulate the heart rate, treat sleep disorders and balance out the central nervous system

Consult with your doctor before starting any new form of treatment of therapy. Natural does not always mean safe so take all the necessary precautions and be honest with your doctors to ensure that there are no long-term health consequences or adverse reactions. п»ї

SUMMARY: Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) is a neurobiological brain disorder that affects approximately 2.3 million Americans today, or almost 1 percent of the population. Individuals diagnosed with this disease have mood swings that alternate from periods of severe highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression). Suicide is the number one cause of premature death among people with bipolar disorder, with 15 percent to 17 percent taking their own lives as a result of negative symptoms that come from untreated illness.

Individuals diagnosed with manic-depressive illness, or bipolar disorder, have mood swings that alternate from periods of severe highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression). These mood swings, which are out of proportion or totally unrelated to events in a person’s life, affect thoughts, feelings, physical health, behavior, and functioning.

Bipolar disorder is a neurobiological brain disorder that affects approximately 2.3 million Americans today, or almost 1 percent of the population.

Although bipolar disorder usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood, it can sometimes start in early childhood or as late as age 40 or 50.

Generally, people with bipolar disorder consult three to four doctors and spend more than eight years seeking treatment before they receive a correct diagnosis.

The average person has four episodes of mania or depression during the first 10 years of the illness. Men are more likely to start with a manic episode, and women are more likely to begin with a depressive episode.
Suicide is the number one cause of premature death among people with bipolar disorder, with 15 percent to 17 percent taking their own lives as a result of negative symptoms that come from untreated illness. The extreme depression and psychoses that can result from lack of treatment are the usual culprits in these sad cases. These suicides rates can be compared to those of the general population, which are somewhere around one percent.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder

Although no single pattern of symptoms fits every individual with bipolar disorder, there are four distinct types of mood episodes that can occur over the course of the illness

Mania often begin with a pleasurable sense of heightened energy, creativity, and social ease – feelings that without proper medical treatment can quickly escalate out of control into a full-blown manic episode. People experiencing mania typically lack self-awareness, deny anything is wrong, and angrily blame anyone who points out a problem. In addition to feeling unusually “high,” euphoric or irritable, the person also may exhibit symptoms such as:

  • needing little sleep yet having great amounts of energy;
  • talking so fast that others can’t follow the person’s thinking;
  • having racing thoughts;
  • being so easily distracted that the individual’s attention shifts between many topics in just a few minutes;
  • having an inflated feeling of power, greatness or importance; and
  • doing reckless things without concern about possible bad consequences, such as wildly spending money, engaging in inappropriate sexual activity, making foolish business investments, or abusing substances.

Hypomania is a milder form of mania with similar yet less severe symptoms and less overall impairment. In hypomania, for example, the individual may have an elevated mood, feel better than usual, and be more productive. These episodes often feel good, and the quest for hypomania may even cause people to stop taking their medication.

Depression takes away the capacity to experience pleasure, often causing profound sadness and irritability, changes in sleep patterns, a decrease in appetite, an inability to concentrate, low self-esteem, and thoughts of suicide. Severe depressions also may include hallucinations or delusions.

Mixed episode is perhaps the most disabling since an individual can experience both mania and depression simultaneously or at different times throughout the day.

Treating bipolar disorder

Although there is no cure for bipolar disorder, it is a highly treatable disease. According to the National Advisory Mental Health Council, the treatment success rate for bipolar disorder is a remarkable 80 percent.

It is important to diagnose and treat bipolar disorder as early as possible to help people avoid or reduce relapses and rehospitalizations. Several promising, large-scale studies suggest early intervention may forestall the worst long-term outcomes of this devastating brain disorder.

Individuals experiencing mania often lack self-awareness and do not recognize that they are ill, a clinical symptom called anosognosia. They may require treatment in the hospital to prevent self-destructive, impulsive, or aggressive behavior. Hospital stays can be as brief as two weeks and as long as six months.

The most important types of medication used to control the symptoms of bipolar disorder are mood stabilizers and antidepressants.

  • Mood stabilizers, the mainstay of long-term preventive treatment for both mania and depression, are used to improve symptoms during acute manic, hypomanic, and mixed episodes; they also may reduce symptoms of depression. The most widely used mood stabilizers include lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid, Lithonate, and other brands), valproate (used as divalproex or Depakote), and carbamazepine (Tegretol). About one in three people will be completely free of symptoms by taking mood-stabilizing medications for life.
  • In conjunction with the mood stabilizers, antianxiety medications such as lorazepam (Ativan) and clonazepam (Klonopin) and antipsychotic drugs such as haloperidol (Haldol) and perphenazine (Trilafon) are used for insomnia, agitation, or other symptoms, during a manic phase.
  • Antidepressants are given together with mood stabilizers to prevent an “overshoot” from occurring in the patient, for if used on their own in the treatment of bipolar disorder, antidepressants can push moods up too high causing hypomania, mania, or rapid cycling. Most experts consider the following two types of antidepressants to be the most effective for bipolar patients: bupropion (Wellbutrin) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as fluoxetine (Prozac); fluvoxamine (Luvox); paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft). There are many other choices if these do not work, or if they cause unpleasant side effects, including: mirtazapine (Remeron), monoamine oxidase inhibitors such as phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate); nefazodone (Serzone); tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline (Elavil), desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofrane), imipramine (Tofranil), nortriptyline (Pamelor); and venlafaxine (Effexor).

How to treat bipolar disorder naturally

Bipolar disorder involves extreme shifts in mood, energy, and levels of activity. Medications can help people manage symptoms, but these can have adverse effects. A number of natural remedies may also help.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimate that around 2.6 percent of people in the United States have bipolar disorder, and nearly 83 percent of cases are severe. On average, it starts when a person is 25 years old.

A person with bipolar disorder experiences times of severe depression and times of mania, or “high” mood. The risks during a low mood include an inability to function at work and in other areas of life.

During mania, the person may be at risk of making reckless decisions. If the mood becomes too high or low, psychosis can develop.

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but treatment enables people to manage it. Some lifestyle adaptations can also help, alongside the medication.

Counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and a range of lifestyle changes can help people with bipolar disorder to manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

Sleep

How to treat bipolar disorder naturally

Share on Pinterest Regular sleep is important for people with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder can disrupt a person’s sleep. During a manic phase, an individual may sleep very little, but during a low phase, they may sleep for a long time.

Missing sleep can trigger a mood change, and getting enough sleep is essential to managing mood.

Good sleep hygiene can encourage people with the condition to have regular sleep.

  • going to bed and getting up at regular hours
  • making sure the room is comfortable
  • avoiding screen time and potentially stressful situations before bed
  • not eating a large meal too soon to sleeping
  • avoiding or limiting alcohol intake

People with bipolar disorder who have difficulty sleeping should speak to their physician.

A healthful diet is an important lifestyle habit for a person with bipolar disorder.

A 2011 study found that up to 68 percent of people seeking treatment for bipolar disorder have excess weight or obesity. People with bipolar disorder also had a higher risk of various other conditions, including diabetes, low bone density, and cardiovascular disease.

A healthful diet can help to reduce the risk of these conditions.

In 2013, another study found that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to engage in binge eating than the general population.

This may be a side effect of medication or due to overeating during episodes of depression.

Being overweight can complicate recovery and increase the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

How to treat bipolar disorder naturally

Share on Pinterest Regular eating habits can help people with bipolar disorder to stay healthy and avoid gaining excess weight.

Doctors do not know what causes bipolar disorder, but it may be due to an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. These chemicals, also called neurotransmitters, are noradrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin.

Serotonin can also affect appetite. It may be that when serotonin levels are low, people experience cravings for carbohydrates and sweet foods.

Tips for maintaining a healthful diet include:

  • keeping to regular eating times
  • ensuring that the diet is varied, well-balanced, and has plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • making a meal plan for the week, preparing a list before going to the grocery store, and sticking to it

Learning and practicing new recipes during times of positive mood may help a person to establish these habits.

Exercise

Moderate and regular exercise can help to balance mood and prevent a number of health problems, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease.

There is a lack of evidence to show that physical activity can specifically help people with bipolar disorder, but some research suggests it may help to improve mood during a low phase.

A 2015 review of studies suggested that exercise “may be a viable and effective strategy to deal with the depressive phase of bipolar disorder.”

Another review, published in 2016, concluded that “generally, exercise was associated with improved health measures, including depressive symptoms, functioning, and quality of life.”

More studies are needed to find out how much exercise an individual should have, how often, and how intense the activity should be, especially as bipolar disorder involves a number of physical and psychological factors.

Practicing moderation

People with bipolar disorder have a higher risk of engaging in addictive behaviors.

One study found that 56 percent of people with the condition had at some time experienced addiction involving either alcohol or drugs.

Certain circuits in the brain play a role in pursuing rewarding experiences. One study has suggested that people with bipolar disorder have stronger activation in these circuits.

This may be what drives the person towards risky behavior.

The positive side of this, say the authors of the study, is that it encourages people to work with energy toward their goals and ambitions.

On the other hand, it may mean that an individual focuses fully on the short-term rewards of a decision while disregarding the possible long-term risks.

Tips for avoiding these problems include:

  • becoming more aware of any tendency to engage in risky — for example, addictive — behaviors
  • seeking help if there is already a problem
  • asking friends and loved ones to support any decisions to avoid destructive or addictive behaviors

Friends who are aware of the risks might, for example, suggest going to see a movie instead of a bar on a night out.

Managing a manic episode

It is not always possible to prevent a manic episode, but as the condition progresses, the individual and their friends and family may start to notice the signs of a mood change.

Here are some tips when this happens:

  • See a doctor, if it is the first time, if you have discontinued treatment, or if treatment is not working.
  • Follow the treatment plan and keep all medical appointments, as medications may need adjusting.
  • Try to keep to a regular sleeping pattern and avoid unnecessary stress when possible.
  • Eat a healthful diet and get enough exercise.
  • Avoid alcohol and other substances.
  • Keep track of your moods and feelings.

If you have people around you, try to share with them what is happening so that they can support you.

How to treat bipolar disorder naturally

Natural remedies for treating bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder involves extreme shifts in mood, energy, and levels of activity. Medications can help people manage symptoms, but these can have adverse effects. A number of natural remedies may also help.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimate that around 2.6 percent of people in the United States have bipolar disorder, and nearly 83 percent of cases are severe. On average, it starts when a person is 25 years old.

A person with bipolar disorder experiences times of severe depression and times of mania, or “high” mood. The risks during a low mood include an inability to function at work and in other areas of life.

During mania, the person may be at risk of making reckless decisions. If the mood becomes too high or low, psychosis can develop.

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but treatment enables people to manage it. Some lifestyle adaptations can also help, alongside the medication.

Lifestyle changes

Counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and a range of lifestyle changes can help people with bipolar disorder to manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

Sleep

Bipolar disorder can disrupt a person’s sleep. During a manic phase, an individual may sleep very little, but during a low phase, they may sleep for a long time.

Missing sleep can trigger a mood change, and getting enough sleep is essential to managing mood.

Good sleep hygiene can encourage people with the condition to have regular sleep.

  • going to bed and getting up at regular hours
  • making sure the room is comfortable
  • avoiding screen time and potentially stressful situations before bed
  • not eating a large meal too soon to sleeping
  • avoiding or limiting alcohol intake

People with bipolar disorder who have difficulty sleeping should speak to their physician.

A healthful diet is an important lifestyle habit for a person with bipolar disorder.

A 2011 study found that up to 68 percentTrusted Source of people seeking treatment for bipolar disorder have excess weight or obesity. People with bipolar disorder also had a higher risk of various other conditions, including diabetes, low bone density, and cardiovascular disease.

A healthful diet can help to reduce the risk of these conditions.

In 2013, another study found that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to engage in binge eating than the general population.

This may be a side effect of medication or due to overeating during episodes of depression.

Being overweight can complicate recovery and increase the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

Doctors do not know what causes bipolar disorder, but it may be due to an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. These chemicals, also called neurotransmitters, are noradrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin.

Serotonin can also affect appetite. It may be that when serotonin levels are low, people experience cravings for carbohydrates and sweet foods.

Tips for maintaining a healthful diet include:

  • keeping to regular eating times
  • ensuring that the diet is varied, well-balanced, and has plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • making a meal plan for the week, preparing a list before going to the grocery store, and sticking to it

Learning and practicing new recipes during times of positive mood may help a person to establish these habits.

Exercise

Moderate and regular exercise can help to balance mood and prevent a number of health problems, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease.

There is a lack of evidence to show that physical activity can specifically help people with bipolar disorder, but some research suggests it may help to improve mood during a low phase.

A 2015 reviewTrusted Source of studies suggested that exercise “may be a viable and effective strategy to deal with the depressive phase of bipolar disorder.”

Another review, published in 2016, concluded that “generally, exercise was associated with improved health measures, including depressive symptoms, functioning, and quality of life.”

More studies are needed to find out how much exercise an individual should have, how often, and how intense the activity should be, especially as bipolar disorder involves a number of physical and psychological factors.

Practicing moderation

People with bipolar disorder have a higher risk of engaging in addictive behaviors.

One study found that 56 percent of people with the condition had at some time experienced addiction involving either alcohol or drugs.

Certain circuits in the brain play a role in pursuing rewarding experiences. One study has suggested that people with bipolar disorder have stronger activation in these circuits.

This may be what drives the person towards risky behavior.

The positive side of this, say the authors of the study, is that it encourages people to work with energy toward their goals and ambitions.

On the other hand, it may mean that an individual focuses fully on the short-term rewards of a decision while disregarding the possible long-term risks.

Tips for avoiding these problems include:

  • becoming more aware of any tendency to engage in risky — for example, addictive — behaviors
  • seeking help if there is already a problem
  • asking friends and loved ones to support any decisions to avoid destructive or addictive behaviors

Friends who are aware of the risks might, for example, suggest going to see a movie instead of a bar on a night out.

Managing a manic episode

It is not always possible to prevent a manic episode, but as the condition progresses, the individual and their friends and family may start to notice the signs of a mood change.

Here are some tips when this happens:

  • See a doctor, if it is the first time, if you have discontinued treatment, or if treatment is not working.
  • Follow the treatment plan and keep all medical appointments, as medications may need adjusting.
  • Try to keep to a regular sleeping pattern and avoid unnecessary stress when possible.
  • Eat a healthful diet and get enough exercise.
  • Avoid alcohol and other substances.
  • Keep track of your moods and feelings.

If you have people around you, try to share with them what is happening so that they can support you.

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How to treat bipolar disorder naturally

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness characterized by episodes of extremely elevated and depressed emotion. Bipolar disorder is a brain illness commonly treated with psychotropic medication, like mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications (Can You Manage Bipolar Disorder Without Medication?).

Many people with bipolar disorder will always require medication management of their illness. However, there are natural bipolar treatments that make use of techniques outside of pharmacological drugs. These natural bipolar treatments can be used with or without bipolar medication, but no changes should be made to any treatment plan without first consulting a doctor.

How to Treat Bipolar Without Medication: Therapy

For many, therapy is important in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Bipolar therapy may be short-term or ongoing, but either way it allows for the treatment of bipolar disorder without medication. Key to any therapy is finding a qualified therapist experienced in the desired type of therapy.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular short-term option. CBT teaches skills to deal with and challenge everyday thoughts and assumptions. CBT attempts to change thought patterns as a treatment of bipolar without medication.

Interpersonal psychotherapy is also medication-free. Psychotherapy may be time-consuming but can be very helpful for those with longstanding personal issues that are contributing to unstable mental health. Psychotherapy delves deeply into personal issues and is usually done individually with a qualified psychotherapist.

Light is a Natural Mood Stabilizer / Antidepressant

Many people have heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD produces mood swings based on the amount of available sunlight, typically depression in the winter, when light is low. SAD is often treated with artificial sunlight (light therapy).

Research now suggests light therapy is also useful in bipolar disorder depression, even without a seasonal component. This natural bipolar treatment uses a dawn simulator and a light box to manipulate the amount of light received by the patient. Use of a light box requires a strict schedule so light is always administered at the right time and in the right amount.

Light therapy is a low-risk treatment of bipolar disorder without medication, but it is not no-risk. Light therapy can induce mixed or manic episodes. 1 Always consult a doctor before starting light therapy.

Exercise and Daily Routines: Natural Bipolar Treatments That May Act as Natural Mood Stabilizers

Exercise is a natural treatment for depression and in some cases, acts as effectively as an antidepressant. Exercise is also beneficial for sleep, overall health and some researchers believe it acts as a mood stabilizer as well. 2

Daily routine can also be an excellent way to treat bipolar without medication (or alongside existing medication). It has been shown that a strict bipolar routine involving good sleep hygiene, eating, sleeping and socializing times can be a natural mood stabilizer. Social rhythm therapy tries to create these strict routines for people and has been shown to reduce the overall likelihood of relapse. 3

Signs of mania and depression.

Celebrities With Bipolar Disorder

Famous people who have this condition.

Dealing With the Ups and Downs of Bipolar?

Assess your symptoms.

5 Types of Bipolar Disorder

How is each one different?

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The bipolar disorder is a condition that sometimes cannot be recognized, as it has very few symptoms. However, if a person has extreme and diverse emotional mood swings, it means that he / she suffers from bipolar disorder. So, a person can be extremely happy or very sad and angry the moment after. This disorder affects both women and men and it can be caused by sudden shock, stress, genetics or depression. In order to treat the bipolar disorder, you need to call on a specialist. Still, there are some home remedies that can offer you relief from those symptoms.

How to treat bipolar disorder naturally

Valerian Root

Numerous health conditions, including cancer and migraine, can be treated with valerian root. This herb promotes the sleep and can treat various types of depression, including bipolar disorders. It has no side effects and it immediately eases the nerves and induces sleep. Use the root oil and add a drop of it to your favorite tea. The herb has a strong flavor, so you should add some mint leaves to it to neutralize its taste.

Ginseng

The bipolar disorder patients often panic even if they have no real reason. Other symptoms associated with the bipolar disorder are the hopelessness and the extreme lethargy. The ginseng is extremely efficient in reducing the lack of energy, the laziness and the lethargy in these patients.

Passion Flower

This herb is beneficial in balancing the neurotransmitters found in the brain. At the same time, it has sedative and tranquilizing properties and can offer relief for the breathlessness and the excitability. Those with a delicate stomach should drink plenty of water so as to avoid the negative effects on the digestive system.

Ginkgo

This is a natural health advocate and its best known benefit is that it enhances the mood and comes with no side effects. The ginkgo combats the hopelessness feeling and improves the mood, so you should use it either as tablets or as tea.

Flax Seed Oil

The flax seed oil can treat the depression caused by the bipolar disorder. You should consume it on an empty stomach, each morning, so as to see the benefits. The flax seed grains are often used when preparing Indian bread due to their rich flavor and their property of relaxing the nerves.

Liquorice Powder

Prepare a solution with boiling water and this powder. The mixture is often used by the homeopaths and it is recommended for stomach disorders and indigestion. However, the health benefits of the herb extend beyond these used and nowadays, it is also useful in treating chronic bipolar syndrome. Consume one cup of the solution daily and the liquorice powder is going to stimulate the production of active and essential hormones found in the brain. At the same time, it has the ability to calm the nervous system.

Healthy Diet

If you have a healthy and balanced diet, you can ease the bipolar disorder symptoms. So, stay away from the artificial sweeteners because they can stimulate the mood swings. Also, try to exercise on a daily basis or find a hobby so as to keep your mind occupied. Finally, sleep well to have both your body and your mind relaxed.