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Explore Complementary Medicine

The following is an Editorial Resource from YourTotalHealth.

Reviewed by:  Steven A. King, M.D.

bipolarPhototherapy. Sitting in front of bright, full-spectrum light may improve symptoms in people with bipolar disorder more than in people who have depression without mania, even if those people don’t have seasonal affective disorder, according to research from New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. Researchers at the University of British Columbia concluded that bright-light therapy, when combined with medication, may enhance therapeutic effects, reduce side effects of medication and optimize treatment in people who do—and who don’t—have a seasonal element to their bipolar illness. 

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). ECT may be prescribed for people with very severe symptoms, or for those who haven’t responded to medications or therapy or who can’t use these treatments. Modern ECT techniques are much improved, and side effects, including memory problems, have largely been overcome. And contrary to the depiction of ECT in movies, the therapy doesn’t hurt; it is administered under anesthesia and muscle relaxants. Electrodes are precisely placed to deliver electrical impulses to the brain. Multiple sessions are usually needed for full therapeutic effect.

Supplements. Case reports have shown that St. John’s Wort, a botanical supplement sometimes used to treat depression, may actually induce mania in some people. On the other hand, preliminary research from Harvard Medical School found that omega-3 fatty acids (the kind found in fish oils), given in addition to treatment with medication, may extend periods of remission in people with bipolar disorder, but more research is needed to confirm these results. Unlike prescription medications, supplements are not FDA regulated or approved, so the quality of supplements can vary widely. Bottom line? Talk to your doctor before adding any supplement to your program.

What's Next: 7 Ways to Minimize Symptoms


Review Date: May 01, 2009


Ask Your Doctor

bipolar disorderBefore you go to your doctor’s office, be prepared to ask these questions, according to your situation:


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