Treating Bipolar Disorder with CBT

The media often does a disservice to those suffering from bipolar disorder by portraying the lives of artists like Marilyn Monroe, Amy Winehouse and Vincent van Gogh, all who were known to have suffered from the condition, as at once romantic and catastrophic. Their art is said to have been propelled and even inspired by the instability the condition caused, and their untimely deaths attributed to the darkness that eventually enveloped them.

While it’s certainly true that bipolar disorder can present serious challenges to an individual and their loved ones if left untreated, there are many therapies and treatment options that do offer relief for the millions suffering from the condition. It’s possible to live a very functional and healthy life with bipolar disorder. One of the intentions of the Mind Body Seven practice is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health diagnoses by offering a more complete picture of what these conditions actually look like, who they affect, and how treatments can offer relief.

With the guidance of medical professionals, there are many options that can help lift and empower those with bipolar disorder and gain emotional stability. New studies show that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of them. Researchers report that CBT enables people to address bipolar disorder in three key ways:

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1. Decrease Negative Thoughts

Often, emotions result from neutral situations to which we give negative meanings. If a mistake happens at work, we might think “I’m a failure, I’m not good at anything,” neither of which are true. Nonetheless, these meanings influence our moods, and might trigger a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions.

CBT techniques step in right after the hypothetical mistake at work and before the toxic thoughts step in, helping to stop negative emotions in their tracks and prevent the continuation of an exhausting cycle. In being able to identify the self defeating thought patterns and increase overall self- awareness, CBT can help to minimize the frequency with which circumstances can provoke an extreme, negative emotional response.

2. Increase Self Awareness

By becoming attuned to the relationships between negative thoughts and beliefs and our emotions, we can start to track how our emotions fluctuate and what kind of triggers effect us. Little by little, this awareness can enlighten what might trigger a manic or depressive episode, information that, when paired with the right measures, can prevent these episodes from taking place.

3. Client-Therapist Collaboration

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The relationship that forms between the client and therapist is instrumental to the healing process and to developing self-monitoring and coping skills. In CBT, the client does the daily work described above and the therapist helps guide this work, providing direction, insight and accountability. The goal is for the client to gain the tools they need to live a full and satisfying life, one where they have agency and are in control.

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