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Bipolar Disorder: Managing the Balancing Act

Bipolar disorder symptoms include dramatic shifts in mood and the ability to function. Successful bipolar disorder treatment requires a careful course of medication, psychotherapy, and discipline to stay on track--and avoid an emotional crash

More Than Pills

In addition to medication, there is also family support, counseling, and keeping regular routines to help people with bipolar disorder live with the condition. Molliner has been successfully living with bipolar disorder for 10 years, but that's not to say she does not feel the onset of symptoms and moods from time to time. "I know I need [help] when I sense symptoms coming on in my sleep. I let the people in my life know that I sense it coming on. In doing that, I feel empowered," she says. Exercise helps, too.

Molliner's family has been a huge source of support over the years. "They didn't throw it in my face," she says. "Initially they were like, 'Have you taken your lithium?' 'Are you having a manic episode?' or 'Are you having depression?' -- which was not helpful," she recalls. "What was useful for them to say was: 'You are feeling happy, that's OK,'" she says. "They learned to be supportive of me having emotional experiences without it being an episode."

Bernard agrees that support from his family has been crucial in his recovery. "Since taking my medications and starting on General Hospital, I have accomplished a great deal in acting and in my life. My life is as perfect as can be," he says. "I still go through moods and whatnot; but in general, if you get treatment for bipolar disorder, stay on your medications. You can live an incredible life. That's the bottom line."

The same holds true for Molliner. The Berkeley graduate is now earning her master's degree in psychology at Phillips Graduate Institute in Los Angeles. "I am developing programs for people recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder that incorporate art therapy, relapse prevention, and building medication compliance." She says she wants to become the therapist that she never had.

"We work on self-esteem and identity through group therapy and relapse prevention through education about symptoms that come on before an episode, as well as coping mechanisms," Molliner says. "You can't get rid of bipolar, but you can choose how to live with it."

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Edited by Louise Chang, MD on June 01, 2006

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