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Natural Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

written by: Stephanie Mojica • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 9/19/2010

Natural treatments for bipolar disorder may not necessarily be able to replace medication for this mental illness, but can potentially alleviate symptoms and reduce the amount of drugs needed.

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    Warning

    People with bipolar disorder have a tendency to not take medications as directed, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It is important for people not to use these natural treatments for bipolar disorder guide as a license to stop taking medication. Remember that suddenly ceasing your psychiatric medications can lead to serious depression or mania. Never stop taking a psychiatric drug without a doctor's supervision.

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    What is Bipolar Disorder?

    There are several types of bipolar disorder, but in a nutshell the illness leads people to have mood swings from depression to over-elation and agitation (mania.) When someone is manic, he or she may take a lot of risks such as having promiscuous sex, driving recklessly, engaging in spending sprees, and experimenting with alcohol and/or drugs. Some patients also experience hallucinations and delusions, which is seeing things that don't really exist and believing things that are not true. Medications including antipsychotics such as Seroquel, mood stabilizers like lithium, and sometimes antidepressants such as Prozac are usually prescribed to alleviate bipolar symptoms. Most patients take at least two medications for bipolar to even out their moods.

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    St. John's Wort

    If your bouts of depression are typically not severe (and not all bipolar patients suffer severe depressive mood swings) and you are not already taking an antidepressant in your drug regimen, ask your doctor if it's okay to take the herb St. John's wort. These pills, derived from a plant with yellow flowers, can help alleviate depressive moods. They are over-the-counter, but like almost any remedy there are some potential side effects, including diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth, increased sensitivity to sunlight, and fatigue.

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    Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    Taking a daily omega-3 fatty acid supplement has provably helped some mental illnesses, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder as noted in the Bright Hub article "ADHD Natural Treatments."

    It also could potentially work as one of the natural treatments for bipolar disorder. Eating more fish can help regulate the chemicals in the brain which contribute to mood. However, Dr. Gary Sachs, director of the bipolar clinic and research program at Massachusetts General Hospital warns that such remedies cannot replace conventional treatments.

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    References

    "Are There Natural Remedies That Will Help Bipolar Disorder? http://abcnews.go.com/Health/BipolarTreatment/story?id=4359138"

    "NIMH - Bipolar Disorder. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/complete-index.shtml"

    "St. John's Wort and Depression. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/stjohnswort/sjw-and-depression.htm"

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    Disclaimer

    Please read this disclaimer regarding the information contained within this article.