Way out for bipo­lar ther­apy

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health -

From Health cover spe­cific plans to ad­dress episode and col­lab­o­ra­tive part­ners to help them,’’ Cas­tle says. ‘‘ We are very ex­cited about the pro­gram’s suc­cess. This is the first time that we are aware of in the world that we’ve been ac­tu­ally been able to re­duce manic episodes and get peo­ple to re­duce their signs of ma­nia much sooner.’’

Bipo­lar is a very dif­fi­cult dis­ease to live with, for in­di­vid­u­als and their fam­i­lies. Some ex­pe­ri­ence de­pres­sive episodes that are much more than than just sad­ness, but lack of self-worth and self-es­teem, poor con­cen­tra­tion, lack of in­ter­est in any­thing.

‘‘ The other side is the manic pole and that’s char­ac­terised by elated mood, talk­ing fast, they feel they have spe­cial abil­i­ties or pow­ers, they might think they have lots of money so they’ll go on a spend­ing spree.

‘‘ They may be­lieve that they are very sex­u­ally at­trac­tive so it can lead to sex­ual in­dis­cre­tion. It can be very de­struc­tive.’’

MBF gen­eral man­ager health prod­uct, Michael Carafil­lis, says the new pro­gram pro­vides a much-needed bridge be­tween the men­tal health ser­vices that treat peo­ple when they are acutely ill and the GPs and private psy­chi­a­trists who would pro­vide on­go­ing care.

‘‘ Bipo­lar is a com­pli­cated dis­ease in­volv­ing pe­ri­ods of de­pres­sion and ma­nia, and its suf­fer­ers don’t al­way take their med­i­ca­tions when they should,’’ Carafil­lis says.

‘‘ Peo­ple with the con­di­tion strad­dle the di­vide be­tween pub­lic and private sys­tems re­sult­ing in poor con­ti­nu­ity of care for many suf­fer­ers.

‘‘ They tend to gain ac­cess to the pub­lic sys­tem in the most se­verely dis­abling phase of their ill­ness, typ­i­cally ma­nia, and are of­ten too ill and the dis­or­der too com­plex to be eas­ily man­aged in pri­mary care.’’

Howell says the pro­gram has changed her life. ‘‘ I can’t be­lieve how help­ful the pro­gram was. It helped me to un­der­stand the role of med­i­ca­tion, but also how re­spon­si­ble I am for how I feel. It pro­vided prac­ti­cal ad­vice and in­cred­i­ble sup­port.’’

‘‘ They taught us to mon­i­tor our thoughts be­cause your thoughts in­flu­ence your ac­tions. That was cru­cial for me to learn to watch what I think.

‘‘ Be­fore I was di­ag­nosed, I used to stay up later and later, to two or three in the morn­ing to try and lose my­self in movies so I couldn’t think. I can’t speak highly enough of it. I’m a dif­fer­ent per­son.’’

Carolynne Holdsworth, an oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist and re­search clin­i­cian at the Men­tal Health Re­search In­sti­tute, says the treat­ment will change the way health-care pro­fes­sion­als treat bipo­lar dis­or­der.

‘‘ In the 1990s the idea be­gan to emerge that rather than be­ing just a bi­o­log­i­cal ill­ness, other fac­tors, in­clud­ing the so­cial en­vi­ron­ment, con­trib­uted to a per­son’s bipo­lar. This pro­gram put those ideas into prac­tice.’’

Holdsworth has trained 28 clin­i­cians in­clud­ing oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pists, psy­chol­o­gists, psy­chi­a­trist and so­cial work­ers to con­duct the treat­ment, and hopes it will be rolled out na­tion­ally.

‘‘ At the mo­ment it’s only of­fered Vic­to­ria but we’re also train­ing staff Rock­hamp­ton and in South Aus­tralia.’’

Peo­ple with bipo­lar dis­or­der typ­i­cally have to en­dure al­most 13 years of man­icde­pres­sive mood swings be­fore be­ing cor­rectly di­ag­nosed.

A re­port from Melbourne re­searchers last year also found that dur­ing that time, 55 per cent of those with the con­di­tion will be mis­di­ag­nosed and given the wrong med­i­ca­tion or treat­ment.

The study, which tracked 240 peo­ple with bipo­lar dis­or­der, has found many doc­tors con­fuse the con­di­tion with other men­tal ill­nesses.

‘‘ It’s usu­ally mis­di­ag­nosed as a per­son­al­ity dis­or­der or de­pres­sion,’’ said lead re­searcher Jayashri Kulka­rni, di­rec­tor of the Al­fred Psy­chi­a­try Re­search Cen­tre in Melbourne.

Cas­tle says 80 pa­tients are now on wait­ing lists in Vic­to­ria to un­dergo the treat­ment.

‘‘ We didn’t want this to just be a re­search project. We know it can pre­vent nasty re­lapses and hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tions.’’

A com­bi­na­tion of the right med­i­ca­tion and the ther­apy helped Howell to the point where her GP says she will no longer re­quire med­i­ca­tion.

‘‘ My doc­tor says that if I keep go­ing the way I am, she won’t need to see me for an­other six months.

‘‘ My friends can’t be­lieve how I’ve changed. And my hus­band and I can now com­mu­ni­cate be­cause I’m not al­ways snap­ping his head off. I’m just so grate­ful that I’m fi­nally happy.’’ in in

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