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The Relationship of Stress to the Expression and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder – Part V

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The Relationship of Stress to the Expression and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder – Part V

by Julie Myers, PsyD, MSCP

Licensed Clinical Psychologist in San Diego;  http://www.DrJulieMyers.com

Treatment (cont.)

Psychoeducation is universally accepted as an integral part of the psychosocial treatment protocol and includes learning aspects of healthy habits, behavioral changes, symptom management, and adherence (Colom & Vieta, 2006). Colom and colleagues (2003) designed a 21-session program, which educates patients about all aspects of their illness, such as treatment, symptoms, drug use, life style and stress management.  Other common goals of psychosocial treatment include decreasing denial, challenging assumption, monitoring moods, managing environmental triggers, relapse prevention and enhancing social and occupational functioning (Miklowitz, 2006).

Cognitive behavioral techniques are useful, since bipolar patients have distinct attributional styles and cognitive distortions.   Research linking stress and lowered social support to bipolar episodes suggest treatment target stress reduction, improvement of relationships, and altering perceptions, and treatment that addresses these psychosocial vulnerabilities may help alter the course of Bipolar I disorder (Cohen, Hammen, Henry, & Daley, 2004).   Patients are then taught to plan for potential events and learn new ways of resolving interpersonal difficulties.  This approach has shown great promise for the treatment of BD (Colom & Vieta, 2006).  Combination CBT and medication has shown to delay relapse, improve symptoms, and sometimes increase social functioning (Miklowitz, 2006).

Interpersonal Social Rhythm Therapy revolves around the notion that sleep-wake cycles are primary to symptoms and disruption of the cycles can act as a stressor.  Social rhythms, such as exercise and personal habit routines, social stimulation, and work, affect the sleep cycle (Miklowitz, 2006).  Social routines may actually entrain circadian rhythms; disruption may cause bipolar episodes, suggesting that minimization of stressful and social rhythm disruptions may prevent episodes (Malkoff-Schwartz, Frank, Anderson, Hlastala, Luther, & Houck, 2000). The client is encouraged to track mood, sleep, and events that lead to a disruption of the social-rhythm, such as a lost night of sleep.   Bipolar manic episodes may be more sensitive to social rhythm disruption and life events, as compared to other types of bipolar and unipolar episodes (Malkoff-Schwartz, Frank, Anderson, Hlastala, Luther, & Houck, 2000

Other treatment modalities are available.  Family-focused therapy focuses on family interactions and use of family members as allies in the treatment process (Miklowitz, 2006).  Skill training is used to reduce negative expression of emotion, which result in stress.  Group therapy is also used, which help patients learn to feel accepted and learn self-care strategies from one another.

I am personally interested in the use of biofeedback and neurofeedback to treat BD. Although there is no real “hard” evidence about its effectiveness with BD, largely due to the difficulty in replicating treatment in controlled experiments, anecdotal information from such people as Siegfried Othmer (one of the “fathers” of neurofeedback) convince me that the possibility for treating BD with neurofeedback are just beginning to emerge.   The use of biofeedback techniques for stress management in those with BD are useful, but must be administered with care.   Over-activation of the parasympathetic or sympathetic nervous system may induce a bipolar event.

Of direct implication from the kindling hypothesis is the timing of intervention.  Intervention may be much more effective at the initial stages of expression than at later stages (Monroe & Harkness, 2005, p. 442).  By tackling the stressful life situations of those at risk early on, the course of the disorder may be changed.  How much of the developmental process is a reaction to life course and how much is an independent psychobiological process is as yet unknown, but begs for further investigation.  “The key implication of this study is that childhood adversity may be related to a more challenging presentation of bipolar disorder, with an earlier age at onset and greater vulnerability to experiencing recurrences of mood episodes in the face of even mild stress. Earlier onset and a more difficult course of bipolar disorder may have serious consequences for both the efficacy of treatment of bipolar disorder and for the functioning of bipolar individuals.  If childhood adversity is a trigger of earlier onset and sensitizes individuals to stress, preventing stress exposure in high risk families, or promoting coping capabilities in such youngsters might have positive consequences on the course of illness”  (Dienes, Hammen, Henry, Cohen, & Daley, 2006, p. 49).  Prevention of stress and early intervention may be critical in reducing the severity of the disorder in later life.

– Julie Myers, PsyD, MSCP

http://www.DrJulieMyers.com

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Copyright (2011) Julie Myers, PsD

Written by Julie Myers, PsyD, MSCP

July 13, 2011 at 5:44 pm

The Relationship of Stress to the Expression and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder – Part IV

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The Relationship of Stress to the Expression and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder – Part IV

 

by Julie Myers, PsyD, MSCP

Licensed Clinical Psychologist in San Diego;  http://www.DrJulieMyers.com

 

Treatment

The treatment of BD is complex.   Psychosocial treatments are necessary but rarely sufficient for controlling relapse or acute symptoms.  From my observations, the treatment of BD is as much of an art as it is a science, with different researchers and clinicians having different ideas as to what is the appropriate formulation.   Critically important is the assessment of suicide throughout the treatment.  Suicidal ideation and suicide completion is a very real possibility in those with BD, both in depressed and hypomanic or manic states.   Suicidal acts in those with BD may be a tendency to develop pessimistic response to major life stressors (Oquendo, et al., 2004).

 Comorbid anxiety disorders should be treated concurrently.  Treatment of anxiety disorders may lessen the severity of the BD symptoms and possibly increase pharmacological response (Simon, Otto, & Wisneiewski, 2004).  According to Simon and colleagues (2004), there is a growing awareness of the need to address comorbid anxiety disorders, which should be integrated into the treatment of high-risk bipolar patients and suicide prevention.  However, few specific anxiety-targeted interventions for BD have been developed.  As of 2004, there was no data showing anxiety treatment efficacy for clinical course of BD.   There is also little known about how anxiety increases suicidality, although it may be that BD patients with severe anxiety are less able to tolerate negative affect and less capable of calling upon social supports or cognitive strategies.

 Psychopharmacological treatment focuses on controlling current acute symptoms and maintenance to prevent relapse.  Mood-stabilizers are administered for reducing episodes, anti-psychotics generally for reducing symptoms of mania, hypomania, aggression, and irritability, and anti-depressants for depressive phases (although generally only after mood-stabilizers are use.)  Psychopharmacological treatment also usually involves treatment of the co-occurring disorders.  However, because there is such a strong co-occurrence of substance abuse problems in those with BD, many of the anxiolytics are used with caution.  Benzodiazepines, although very effective for many of the anxiety disorders, can generate rapid physical dependence and are subject to abuse.  Particularly important, according to some researchers, is the discontinuation of any stimulants, even coffee.

 A wide array of psychosocial interventions are available including psychoeducational, cognitive-behavioral, family therapy, social rhythm therapy and interpersonal psychotherapies.  All of these techniques help to teach self-monitoring, identification of early warning signs of relapse, and enhance coping mechanisms (Parkikh, et al., 2007).  Early warning signs are associated with life-stressors.  A number of studies have identified the coping mechanisms involved with prodromal states as being particularly important in controlling symptoms, including Parkikh, et al. (2007) and Koukopoulus (2006).  A self-report questionnaire called the Coping Inventory for Prodroms of Mania (CIPM) has been developed to assess coping styles in the manic and hypomanic state (Wong & Lam, 1999).

(continued)

– Julie Myers, PsyD, MSCP

http://www.DrJulieMyers.com