Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pushing The Positive with Bipolar Disorder

Can the mind stave off disease? Growing evidence links positive thinking to a longer and healthier life.
But, can simply thinking good thoughts help you deal with some of the ups and downs of bipolar disorder ? Yes, how you think can often affect the way you feel and act.

Bipolar Disorder is a brain disorder that causes swings between low mood (depression) and high moods (manic). There are serveral different types, and people with bipolar vary widely in how severe their moods are. But, in general, bipolar disorder is marked by emotional turmoil ranging from grandiose thinking to irritability and rage to sadness and feeling of worthlessness.

Bipolar is a serious condition that typically needs to be treated with both medication and psychtherapy. You cannot sunply "get over" bipolar disorder with a change in attitude. But research has shown that consistent therapy can help people control agonizing bipolar symptoms.

One type of counseling, called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is designed to help people change negative and harmful thought and behavior patterns. There are other effective types of psychotherapy used to treat bipolar disorder, but this post focuses on CBT.

Positive results with cognitive behavioral therapy :
CBT is a skills-oriented form of psychotherapy. In CBT, counselors teach tools to help manage moods, change thinking and cope with problems. For example, people are taught to recognize negative thinking patterns. These patterns often lead to problem behaviors and depressed moods. Some of these patterns include:

*All-or-nothing thinking
*Thinking the worst will happen (catastrophizing)
*Feeling others are thinking negative thoughts toward you (personalizing)

You may be coached on techniques to help you gain some distance from these negative thinking habits. One tool is called "thought stopping." As its name implies, you literally tell yourself to stop when you are having irrational or automatic thoughts. Then replace the negative thoughts with more positive thoughts.

For example, your boss e-mails you to set up an appointment with you. You might automatically think: "I'm going to get fired. I won't be able to make my house payment." Or, "He doesn't like me. I'll never succeed in this job." In the past, you may have complained to co-workers about your boss before you even knew why he wanted the meeting. In CBT, you would be coached to replace the negative thoughts with something like "My boss wants an update on the project. I have done a good job on so this will give me a chance to shine."

Another tool is a "mood graph." By writing down your moods along with the factors that influenced them, you can identify situations that might make you more depressed.

Your therapist may also help you develop problem-solving strategies, communicate better, handle social situations and learn relaxation methods.

Setting yourself up for success :
Of course, finding the right therapist and committing to a consistent therapy schedule can be a hard feat in itself. Ask your doctor if he can suggest a licensed counselor who has training in CBT. It is important to find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable relaying your inner thoughts. Also, you must trust this person to give you honest feedback and value that feedback.

For many, learning how to cope with bipolar is a lifelong journey. CBT can help give you some of the tools needed for that journey. Learning how to think in a more positive manner might help you take some of the bumps out of life.


  1. Great information Dr. Fred. CBT really works for me. Hopefully we can get others using it, including those with "normal" mental health. Being positive isn't just a challenge for people with any illness, I wonder if society as a whole would benefit from a CBT course!

    Keep up the good work!

  2. You know I love you Fred and you have inspired me from the day we first met over three years ago. We were on the same path to positive thinking and it has obviously worked well for both of us. I just wish all could learn to understand that truth.

    CBT was just "one" of the many therapies I worked through in my life. I found that even when a therapy was designed for a specific disorder in mind, all of them had some benefit to every day living. Once we put anything into practice enough, it becomes second nature. It is no longer something we have to think of as "positive thinking" but it is a "way of life". One that offers us stability and the strength to get through those horrid episodes. I have worked through several therapies including CBT, DBT, EFT, anxiety analysis therapy, etc. etc. etc. They have all offered wonderful skills in one way or another.

    I have not been as fortunate as you have been to be episode free over the years. I tend to move into cycles of "rapid cycling" which can be very difficult to deal with. However, I find that having the skills and tools that I have developed over the years makes a huge difference for me and for my family.

    "If you pay attention to the darkness, you'll never find the light."

    I wish there was a way to get through to all those who have lost their world to the abyss and can't seem to see the light around their drowning. Oh, wait.......I think this is what you are trying to do. LOL, Never give up Fred.