The Range of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder is a “spectrum” illness with episodes that come in a range of forms (depression, mania, hypomania, mixed episodes, dysphoric hypomania) … cycles that can turn on a dime (episodic, rapid, ultradian) … and severity that ranges up one side and down another.
Wait a minute. What?
The episodes vary by type and in severity, the cycles vary in length and severity from one to another, the acceleration over time varies from one person to the next and even varies according to how many antidepressants are used, for how long, and how high … and the overall burden of illness varies from one person to the next.
So many variables.
So many things that can go wrong.
Some people are diagnosed as adults, others during adolescence, and some as children. At any age, it’s a tough illness to weather, as well as to effectively treat.
Still, some people are lucky. They can take certain medications like lamotrigine or lithium … or maybe Latuda or Vraylar … and experience balance along with some relief from their symptoms of depression and anger.
Others, however, really suffer.
If you’re one of them, you probably despise the depression. (Although you might love the mania…at first.) And you may not have experienced real help from mood stabilizers or antidepressants. After trying to control your symptoms with one medication after another, you can get just sick and tired of it.
The depressive episodes, especially. Most people with bipolar disorder say that that’s the worst part of it. Horrible. Long-lasting. Life-robbing. Often, your doctors will avoid using antidepressants — even though you may be secretly (or not so secretly) begging for an antidepressant, or for anything that could give you relief. They’re afraid it’ll flip you. Turn on mania. Accelerate cycling.
And so … what are you supposed to do…?
IV Ketamine is the Hero Again
The good news is that rising numbers of people with bipolar disorder are experiencing extraordinary relief of their depressive episodes with IV ketamine infusions, with remarkable results.
Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder that can cause intense mood swings, racing thoughts, suicidal thinking, risky behaviors, and sometimes distorted perceptions. Moods can swing from deep, dark, despairing depression to mania… or hypomania… or terrible mixed states that last from hours to weeks or months … and then the next episode of depression takes over.
Talk about debilitating.
Unfortunately… effective treatment is all too often tough to find. It’s estimated that as few as 40% of people who suffer with this illness receive treatment that actually helps. That means 60% of patients have no real help.
Even one person with no real help is too many.
As it stands, there’s no treatment that brings remission to 100% of people, but we work tirelessly to uncover everything possible that can make a difference in our patients’ lives.
Our goal, always, is to put episodes of illness into a remission that can stretch … to infinity. (What a great goal!) So that your best self can emerge for good.
Bipolar Disorder : IV Ketamine Isn’t a New Idea
As far back as 2010, studies were conducted with children, adolescents, and adults with bipolar disorder that were aimed at measuring the effect of ketamine on the symptoms they were experiencing. They hadn’t been helped by previous oral medications.
And even in those early studies, they reported improvement in depressed mood, but also anger, outbursts, night terrors, and suicidal thinking.
Since one of the symptoms we see in bipolar disorder is impulsivity, the intense depression, suicidal thinking, and agitation that can occur in the middle of the night and in the early morning hours — in a mixed state, or during an abrupt mood switch — is dangerous. When you combine impulsive decisions with recurrent thoughts of dying, the most devastating result can be suicide.
To try to prevent this, IV ketamine can be given to treat the suicidal thinking rapidly and to improve depressive symptoms.
Fear of Harm
Most data regarding IV ketamine and bipolar disorder focuses on the depressive symptoms. But… individuals with bipolar disorder who’ve been treated with IV ketamine are also reporting reductions in other symptoms like rage, violent outbursts, and racing thoughts.
One sub-type of bipolar disorder in children is known as “Fear of Harm.” There is a unique list of additional symptoms we see which are very different than those experienced by adults with Bipolar I or Bipolar II. Things like getting hot in the evening and through the night accompanied by terrifying dreams, fear of being hurt by others, and fear of violently hurting others in retaliation.
And as far back as 2010, children and adolescents with this diagnosis who were un-helped by oral medications were being successfully treated with ketamine. A series of doses removed their depression, their terrifying dreams, their rage, and their low self-esteem. They reported feeling much calmer, happier, and more relaxed. And they said they had far less rage, were sleeping better, and feeling confidence… and hope… about their futures. Their performance on school homework and exams also improved dramatically.
Some of these kids had no memory of ever feeling better before. Can you imagine…? So they described the new way they felt as a strange feeling for them, but they could tell it was good.
Can You Imagine?
Imagine never experiencing peace. Or trying to remember a time when you didn’t want to hurt someone… or when you didn’t want to die. But not being able to conjure such a feeling. Because you have absolutely no experience in your memory you can draw upon.
Then, imagine feeling peace, joy, relief… happiness….for the very first time in your life. Not for a minute or an hour, but for real. What would you give for that?
Most of the world takes for granted the natural ebb and flow of emotion that’s part of being human. But for the many who have bipolar disorder, it’s a dream beyond their grasp.
Until IV Ketamine.
Treatment is focused on the depressive symptoms, but when the depression is successfully treated, so are a cluster of other miseries.
Things like lack of control, thoughts about harming yourself or others, blinding rage, racing thoughts, mental confusion, violent outbursts… After a treatment regimen of IV ketamine, patients report these symptoms are greatly diminished or gone. And, another thing… while most patients report dramatic change in depressive symptoms during and shortly after the infusions, some experience the results gradually over weeks or months.
The trajectory changes.
You need to know this if you have any form of bipolar disorder: IV Ketamine is making people WELL.
Neuroscientists Keep Studying
There’s still lots to be learned about bipolar disorder and all its forms and types. And about all the ways it can be successfully treated. Neuroscientists are forging ahead to discover new ketamine-based wannabe drugs. What’s more, they’re also finding more ways ketamine works in the brain to heal the malfunctioning structures there.
As we’ve said before, we’ve embarked on a new journey in psychiatry, a new approach to treating mood disorders, based on the remarkable and exciting ways that IV ketamine treatment is making people well. There is new hope for people with bipolar disorder: IV ketamine.
At this point, we’re seeing 80% of people who suffer from treatment-resistant depressive symptoms enjoying relief. They experience a dramatic reduction of symptoms, and often complete remission. If you have bipolar disorder in any form, you know that to dramatically reduce your symptoms would give you the power to live a fulfilling life.
But beyond that… remission? That’s a hope worth reaching for.
If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and you have been treated but don’t feel you’ve improved, call or email me. You can also ask your doctor or therapist to contact us. We’d love to work with your healthcare team to help you find balance and peace in your life.
To the release of your very best self,
Lori Calabrese, M.D.