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Bipolar Disorder Health Center

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Daily Routine May Help Bipolar Disorder

Study Shows Regular Sleeping and Eating Patterns May Help Stabilize Patients
By
WebMD Health News

Sept. 8, 2005 -- Most of us function better when we maintain a regular daily routine, but for people with bipolar disorder, routine may make a big difference in recovery.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine report that bipolar patients fared better when their treatment stressed the importance of establishing daily routines for things like sleeping and eating.

Social rhythm therapy, as it has been dubbed by the researchers, is based on the idea that irregular sleeping habits and those associated with other daily activities can trigger manic episodes by disturbing the body's sleep-wake (circadian system) clock.

"We see patients with bipolar disorder as having exquisitely sensitive and fragile body clocks," researcher Ellen Frank, PhD, tells WebMD. "They need to be more attentive than the rest of us to things like when they get up and go to bed and when they eat their meals."

'A Manageable Problem'

Once known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme swings in mood, energy, and ability to function. Periods of highs and lows are referred to as manic or depressive episodes. Medications such as lithium are prescribed to people with bipolar disorder; these drugs can help stabilize mood swings.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 2 million Americans have bipolar disorder.

The study by Frank and colleagues included 175 severely ill patients with the disorder, all of whom were treated with medications. In addition, about half of the patients got social rhythm therapy from the beginning of the study.

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