Bipolar disorder is known to throw moods out of balance, where the person with the condition has high moods at a given time and low moods at other times.
This makes it hard to relate well with people and also affects the level of productivity, peace, happiness, and overall well-being in the long term.
The medical approaches to dealing with bipolar are mostly aimed at helping manage moods and aim to stabilize them.
Meditation is also another useful technique that may come in handy in this case.
Let’s take a look at how it can help.
The Global Issue of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is among the top 10 most common mental health issues in the world and it affects people almost as much as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia.
In the United States alone, millions of people especially adults have been found to have it, although teenagers, as well as children, suffer from it but often times it goes unnoticed (1).
It has also been found that 4.4% of the adults in the United States have been affected by the bipolar disorder at some point in their lives and it affects men and women equally.
Bipolar disorder comes in many forms and is usually divided into 3 types (2).
First, the Bipolar I disorder, where the patient suffers one major manic episode and possibly a depressive episode as well. This type is often confused with delusional disorder or schizophrenia but it is quite different.
Second, the Bipolar II disorder, where the patient experiences many periods of depression and milder manic episodes called hypomania. Depression is the major problem of this type.
Lastly is Cyclothymia, where the patient experiences manic and depressive episodes which are more toned down than in the other types.
Some of the most common symptoms noticed in people with bipolar disorder include being filled with high levels of energy and acting out of them in areas such as socializing, racing thoughts, getting into risky things, increased libido, feelings of self-importance, and high self-esteem.
Also, while in the depressive episode, extreme sadness, feelings of hopelessness and despair, extreme fatigue, irritability, and underperformance in various settings are also noticeable.
Some of the treatments used for bipolar disorder are medications, psychotherapy, and self-management techniques.
Meditation is another intervention that can also go a long way for the patient if well and consistently used.
How Meditation Helps With Bipolar Disorder
Meditation is a practice that is linked to many health benefits as it improves the mind, body, and spirit.
It is not an exercise that can make a stand-alone treatment for many serious health issues, but it really goes a long way in helping people deal with various conditions and get to overcome them sooner than it would take without the practice.
When it comes to bipolar disorder, meditation works pretty much in the same way.
It helps with bringing down the levels of stress people with it experience and in stabilizing their moods.
Bipolar disorder, just like any other health condition, comes with its own challenges that put more stress on the patient.
The knowledge of having this condition itself is stressful and when you top that up with the negative effects it has on your daily life, you realize how much pressure it comes with.
That being the case, meditation helps you reduce the thoughts that get you stressed and be more in control of yourself that helps your condition become more manageable.
Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation that has shown effectiveness in regulating bipolar disease.
This is a meditation practice that is aimed at anchoring yourself in the present moment. It aims at helping you shut out the anxiety-inducing thoughts of the future, both immediate, near, and far future, and regretful thoughts of the past.
This way you are able to be more present-minded and aware of yourself, your actions, and thoughts in the present moment.
Mindfulness meditation increases the size of the gray matter, a part of the brain that is associated with executive functioning, which makes for better emotional control and problem-solving skills (3).
Also, it positively influences your brain waves by getting them from a high frequency to a lower one that helps you improve your ability to respond to different challenging situations as well as promote mental clarity.
Moreover, long-term practice of this meditation style reduces the size of the amygdala, which is a region of the brain that is linked to stress and anxiety and in turn helps you be more peaceful, calm, and mentally stable.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is yet another form of mindfulness-based approach that aids in managing bipolar disorder.
This therapy seeks to use mindfulness training to fight bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety.
MBCT reduces anxiety and depressive symptoms present in people with bipolar disorder that prevent other extreme symptoms like suicidal thoughts (4).
Research on Meditation For Bipolar Disorder
There has been quite some research on meditation and bipolar disorder and it shows how potentially effective meditation is in reducing the negative effects of the health issue.
A study that involved offering mindfulness training to patients with bipolar disorder found that both formal and informal practices of mindfulness help a great deal (5).
Some participants in this study received formal mindfulness training which included body scan, mindful walking, sitting meditation, and other mindful movements while others got an informal practice that was based on bringing mindfulness into daily activities.
Both groups reported positive results and improved changes in their daily life, better depressive relapse prevention, and heightened awareness which helped them improve their overall health.
Another study showed that mindfulness can help deal with the cognitive impairment that most bipolar disorder patients have (6).
This study was aimed at investigating how mindfulness can have an effect on the mental performance of patients with bipolar disorder and used Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) on the participants.
After some time, it was noted that after offering MBCT and then adding follow-up practices, there were long-lasting effects of improved memory and executive functioning.
A study that involved 311 participants concluded that meditation does have the positive effects of reducing depressed mood, the sense of hopelessness, helplessness, and guilt that bipolar disorder brings (7).
Overall, mindfulness meditation, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and meditation, as well as mindfulness practices, have shown effectiveness in modulating bipolar disorder by reducing anxiety, depressive symptoms, stabilizing moods, and the negative effects of it, improving health and behavior at large.
When used continuously over a long period, these exercises can have a significantly greater effect on the patients and help them have the condition more in control.
However, it is worth noting that choosing the best meditation or mindfulness-based intervention for you and working with a certified, qualified, and experienced health professional matters a great deal.
Always seek professional medical guidance when you choose to work on your condition and ensure that you can trust and fully rely on the doctor to help you through your journey since you may be negatively affected by these interventions if you are not under proper medical observation and guidance (8).
In summary, meditation is a good practice that can help with bipolar disorder, and consistent practice has been linked to better results and improved well-being.
Since it is still under study and has not been fully confirmed how beneficial it can be on the patients with bipolar disorder and which approaches work well for most patients, it can only be used as combination therapy or complementary practice to therapy at the moment.
It should not replace the medical treatment prescribed by your doctor. Instead, it should add to it.
As more research is done on this area in the future, we will be able to understand better if it can make a worthwhile stand-alone treatment and how best to work with it for optimal results.