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Daily Routine May Help Bipolar Disorder

Study Shows Regular Sleeping and Eating Patterns May Help Stabilize Patients

The Importance of Routine

These patients learned the importance of establishing regular routines, and they also learned strategies for anticipating and coping with stress.

"We teach them to think of their illness the way someone with diabetes or asthma would; as a health problem that can be managed," Frank says. "A diabetic has to be careful about what they eat and when they eat. And people with asthma probably shouldn't have three dogs and two cats in the house."

The study is published in the September issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

No difference was seen between the two treatment groups in the time it took to emerge from a manic episode. But patients who got the social rhythm therapy had longer periods of stability between such episodes. Those who were most successful in establishing regular routines saw the most improvement.

The intervention translated into a 72% increase in time between manic events, Frank says.

A Holistic Approach

Depression and bipolar disorder patient advocate Sue Bergeson, who suffers from depression herself, says the study by Frank and colleagues shows for the first time in scientific terms what many patients have long understood.

Bergeson is vice president of the Chicago-based Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

"It is clear that medication can take you only so far," she says. "An effective wellness strategy for bipolar disorder and depression has to go beyond that. We know that we have to get enough sleep and understand our triggers. And travel can be problematic."

Bergeson watched her sister Barbie battle undiagnosed bipolar disorder for years. Five years ago, Barbie took her own life, a few months after her disease was finally identified.

"She had been misdiagnosed for years," Bergeson says. "She had gone through decades of struggle with no light to be seen, and she was just worn out."

Her sister's suicide led Bergeson to learn as much as she could about her own illness and become a voice for others with depression and bipolar disorder.

"It is not OK that so many people die of this," she says.

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