Treatment of Bipolar Disorders

Life can be rather traumatic. The uncertainties of daily living can be triggers for anxiety, depression, fears, and constant grief. Our joys can turn quickly into aggressions, sadness, and worries. How does one fight the constant sword of unprecedented thoughts over one’s head, and encountering the vice grip of previous ones numbing your voice in the background. In the mind/body separation, there is a distinct break between what we feel and what we think. In that separation the doubt of actually having control of our situation or our own emotions, strikes a familiar dread that we are afraid to feel again.

And then the anxiety begins, and then when the control is lost the sadness begins.

In bipolar disorders, the anxiety phase when control is slipping, can drive people to exorbitant extents to grasp upon all the control they have. It can be seen as flights of fancy, emotional outburst, extravagant expenditures, or even violence.

When the final realization of control is addressed, the depression begins and so does the regret, and personal turmoil. Unceasing thoughts, and voices that echo a negative state become difficult to turn off and the body begins to shut down in an overload.

In polyvagal theory, Stephen Porges, breaks down how in autonomic makeup, our flight and fight responses have become exhausted, and that we then surrender to another of our limbic brainstem functions, that off freeze and play dead. This is a crucial animal instinct that we have. It is a defense mechanism for ensuring a last chance grasp at life.

I am not a psychotherapy expert, but in that loss of trying to establish some sort of control of our life, in the manic phase the flight or fight instinct gets exhausted, so that all that remains when faced with the reality of the current situation is freeze and play dead. One can play dead for a day, two days, and for some it can be weeks or even months.

There are many questions as to whether serotonin reuptake approaches to treatment of depression or bipolar disorders are the answer. The research is inconclusive. Close monitoring of medications and mood stabilizers as well continual psychotherapy is the current treatment for bi-polar disorder.

In Chinese medicine, bipolar disorder has been termed Kuan-dian.

In the Ling Shu, the Spiritual Axis, a chinese text of 2000 years, Kuan-dian is explained as

“When Dian first appears, there is lack of joy, heavy and painful head, red eyes, eyes looking up. When Kuang first appears, there is little sleep, no hunger, glorification of the self as if one were the most knowledgeable person, shouting at people, no rest in day or night.”

There is a similarity between both pathologies. The fact that something like bipolar disorder existed before our modern conception, points out to the roots of the illness.

In Chinese medicine, a rubric of patterns are treated. They are a simple expressions of different presentations in the body where the goal of healing would be of balance within. Yin and yang are counterbalanced, as well as hot and cold, blood and qi, and the inner and the outer. The emotions are seen as an interplaying cycle of different element of where a linked correspondence in the body occurs. Mind and body are interlinked where an excess of one element to the other creates a deficiency in another.  An excess in the Heart can create a deficiency in another part of the body, say the Lungs, or the Kidneys. The role in healing would be to establish balance a between the excess and the deficiency, so a stability would develop, where one could find strength to tread upon.

In the next part, how Chinese medicine looks at how our emotions are established in the body would be examined as well as how those emotions are treated when they are in excess or in deficiency.





Bi-polar Disorders and Acupuncture

Part One

We’ve seen many a movie where the main character goes through a drinking binge or some sort of ego trip where he commits a sequence of events that s/he regrets for the remainder of the film. Depending on how the story unravels s/he either sinks or swims, s/he drags or is supported by the auxiliary characters in some shape or form.

Many times we have an affinity for the film and can relate to the situations aroused- either ourselves or someone we know has done such a thing. We whole heartedly feel for that person.

Variations in moods and energy levels have been observed as part of the human experience throughout history. “Melancholia” has been a part of our human sentiment for centuries. It is considered one of the 4 temperaments caused by the imbalance of humours in our body according Hippocratic times. Black bile offset the body’s temperament and left a person to withdrawal, despondency, and depression.


In the Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton, author of one of the first books dedicated to the condition, writes

Melancholy, the subject of our present discourse, is either in disposition or in habit. In disposition, is that transitory Melancholy which goes and comes upon every small occasion of sorrow, need, sickness, trouble, fear, grief, passion, or perturbation of the mind, any manner of care, discontent, or thought, which causes anguish, dullness, heaviness and vexation of spirit, any ways opposite to pleasure, mirth, joy, delight, causing forwardness in us, or a dislike. In which equivocal and improper sense, we call him melancholy, that is dull, sad, sour, lumpish, ill-disposed, solitary, any way moved, or displeased. And from these melancholy dispositions no man living is free, no Stoick, none so wise, none so happy, none so patient, so generous, so godly, so divine, that can vindicate himself; so well-composed, but more or less, some time or other, he feels the smart of it. Melancholy in this sense is the character of Mortality… This Melancholy of which we are to treat, is a habit, a serious ailment, a settled humour, as Aurelianus and others call it, not errant, but fixed: and as it was long increasing, so, now being (pleasant or painful) grown to a habit, it will hardly be removed.

It is funny to note that Burton states also that the best treatment for Melancholia is music and dancing. In one of my favorite movies on the subject, I am pretty sure it comes to mind, The Silver Linings Playbook, music and dance ultimately became the solution to the ailment.

Modern Medicine categorizes the Bi-polar disorders in degrees of severity, whether the mood of the episodes experienced are more manic or depressive. There is a whole spectrum of the disorder where the changes of the mood are more frequent to moments of hypomania, and that of such severe intensity where concentration on daily life maybe too difficult.

If anyone experiences these swings of hypo or hyper excessive restlessness, to intense depressions with lack of concentration, please seek professional medical help.

Part 2.  Treatment of Bi-Polar disorders