Treatments for Bipolar Disorder: A Non-Med Angle

by | Oct 11, 2012

“When it comes to treatments for bipolar disorder all I hear about is meds. But there has to be more than just that – right? Please?”

A year ago June – considering treatments for bipolar disorder – I posted this article: Bipolar? Predicting and managing mood swings. After reading it last week, “Matthew” commented, in essence, “Well that’s just swell, Bill, but I need information regarding the ‘How to’s’ of managing mood swings without medication.”

I promised him an article in kind. So what say we get after it…

Oh, before we move forward I want to clarify my position on the bipolar/meds issue. Easy for me to say because I don’t take mood stabilizing meds – but as a clinician, when it comes to treatments for bipolar disorder I believe meds are indicated for most presentations. Just want to make sure my writing about a non-med intervention isn’t misinterpreted as a “ditch-the-meds” statement.

The article that caught Matthew’s attention reviewed the work of a team of psychologists from the Universities of Manchester and Lancaster (UK). The team was – and still is – working on a new spin on cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of bipolar disorder. They call it TEAMS (Think Effectively About Mood Swings). Here’s a link to their website.

Now, TEAMS hasn’t been “released” for clinical practice; however, that doesn’t mean one can’t put its strategies and techniques to work for them  – now – with or without the assistance of a therapist.

As a matter of fact, the team states they’re willing to share the details of their therapy with clinicians. So if you’re working with a therapist, why not suggest they make contact and help you bring TEAMS to your treatment regimen?

So what’s TEAMS all about? The scads of research involved in its creation revealed that those enduring bipolar disorder have “extreme and conflicting (both positive and negative) beliefs” pertaining to their moods and levels of energy. And these beliefs are grounded in one’s disorder experience, as well as the information with which they’ve been provided by any number of sources.

How ’bout an example? Let’s consider the individual who’s come to believe “The only way to resolve my depression is to remain incredibly active.” Believing that, the individual elects to participate in an excessive quantity of activities.

But what happens if the individual goes way over-the-top with activities to the point where, say, sleep falls by the wayside? Well, she/he will likely find themselves in the midst of an even more prolific and troubling mood disorder.

TEAMS is about challenging the validity of extreme, outdated, and inaccurate beliefs pertaining to one’s bipolar disorder experience. In doing so it asks the individual to perceive their mood presentation as a “normal” reaction – given their genetic, environmental, biological, and/or learned realities. It’s then that – with practice – the mood goings-on can be accepted, tolerated, and managed. This, as opposed to investing tons of energy in trying to force the depression and mania out of their lives.

And then it’s on to gaining insight into longer-term life goals and finding a balanced role for moods to play in their achievement.

With TEAMS, one is investing in the present and down-the-road goals, versus purely relapse prevention. Within the realm of non-med treatments for bipolar disorder, that makes TEAMS unique – and hopeful.

TEAMS techniques? But a few…

  • Learning about manic and depressive symptoms and how they differ from “normal” mood fluctuations.
  • Reviewing the pluses and minuses of one’s mood states.
  • Gaining an understanding of what generates one’s mood states.
  • Learning how to pursue life goals in the absence of manic or depressive states – and with consistent behavioral routines.
  • Working on improving relationships within the context of one’s mood states.
  • Developing a customized therapy “blueprint” so one can take on the future independently, without the need for regular therapy.

So what do you think? I believe this is solid stuff. And the best part is, with or without a therapist, you can put it to work for you right now.

When it comes to treatments for bipolar disorder, it’s much more than just a meds proposition. No doubt about it, non-med options have to be selected and put into action. TEAMS is just one.

“I’d like more,” you say? Open your favorite search engine and enter “bipolar disorder non med treatment” and have at it.

Matthew – hope this helps…


I’d like you to read more chipur Feelin’ Better articles. If you’re with me, just click here. The chipur bipolar disorder article collection? Here ya’ go.

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