Remission in Bipolar Disorder

If someone figures out how to “cure” genetics, let me know. You can’t exactly pick up a bottle of Grecian Formula for Brain at the local pharmacy.

Remission is another thing altogether. That simply means that you are having an extended symptom-free period. Given that the DSM-IV bipolar criteria only require that the patient have ONE episode of mania or hypomania, some folks may remain in remission for the rest of their lives even without meds.

Science *is* empiricism. I would like to suggest that a large percentage doctors are not particularly careful in their application of the science of medicine. If they were scientific, they’d test and retest the bipolar patient’s continued need for meds instead of following the bizarre rule of thumb that once you’re on meds you need them forever. The killer is that as long as the illness is masked by drugs, it is impossible to practice “evidence-based medicine” as they disparagingly call it.

None of us on meds is being treated in an scientific manner. It isn’t scientifically valid to say that bipolar disorder causes cognitive deficits if a large percentage of the patients in the study were on meds. Antipsychotics have been *proven* to reduce the IQ by affecting the short-term memory. They aren’t the only drug to cause cognitive deficits. Lithium makes you feel as if your brain is wrapped in cotton wool.

I don’t believe that it is scientifically valid to say that bipolars must be on meds for life. If the patient stops the meds and experiences a return of symptoms… well, you’ve rewired the brain. The drugs themselves create a continued need for themselves by reconfiguring the brain’s neurons to need higher levels of serotonin in the synapses. The symptoms are bound to return, and much worse than before the drug did its damage.

Another thing about remission is that so many things besides bipolar disorder cause mood swings. Bipolar disorder has periods of remission. Things like the personality disorders, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, PTSD and any of a hundred organic illness all cause mood swings. But they don’t necessarily have periods of remission, and in many cases remission just doesn’t occur.

Here – this is my particular manifestation of bipolar disorder. Three-year cycles. They come no matter what, but fortunately the meds attentuate the episodes. On the other hand, until I was on meds the cycles didn’t seriously impact my salary.

I think that it’s important, if a bipolar isn’t having remissions, to figure out why. Ultra-rapid cycling could be caused by an antidepressant, particularly in women. Newly-diagnosed bipolars often experience a great deal of fear or anxiety that might be better treated with therapy than with additional meds. Antipsychotics may ruin the patient’s ability to effectively manage the illness by dumbing them down. Sometimes it isn’t the illness, it is the meds that make bipolars disabled.

Are your drugs masking periods of remission?

Sometimes I get tired of the reverse stigma that I get for taking fewer meds so that I can continue to have a life. Isn’t that the purpose of treatment? If not, what is?

Most bipolars have the so-called milder varieties of the illness, and many of them are unfairly overmedicated and isolated from society for no good reason. It is unbearably sad to see that happening. So if I can tolerate psychosis instead of trying to medicate away every little nuance of mood or emotion, does that make me somehow inferior? I don’t f*cking think so. It isn’t pathological until it has a negative effect on my life.

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4 Responses to Remission in Bipolar Disorder

  1. zuc_grl says:

    You just made me feel so much better.

    I feel like I live under a magnifying glass, even though there’s no need to magnify me.

    I just started an antipsychotic, Geodon. No reason. Just fear. My short-term memory has been significantly impaired. I’m doing worse now than I was before.

    But what would people think if I took a break from meds? The glass would draw closer.

    I took a year off for pregnancy and breastfeeding, did just fine. Then I found out afterwards that my mother and husband were keeping close watch on me the entire time, communicating by e-mail about my every action and mood.

    For me, being on meds. gives me freedom. If someone is “concerned” I can say, “Well, I’m on this, that and the other… I just started this.”

    The meds are like a talisman that steer the magnifying glass away from me to some other ant.

  2. […] “Remission in Bipolar Disorder” […]

  3. freak032173 says:

    I have been in remission for a year now. Am I totally symptom free? Nope. I’ve had a couple of minor episodes that have lasted a couple days…but then I’m fine again. I’ve discovered that stress plays a big role in whether or not I cycle. I have not told my shrink that I quit taking meds a year ago, because he is the kind of guy that thinks I need to be emotionally numb. Since I went off, I have a better relationship with EVERYONE! I am more active and have learned to laugh again. Thanks for making me not feel weird to have gotten better for awhile!!!!

  4. lizibeth101080 says:

    I was diagnosed with Bipolar II (rapid cycling) about three years ago. I was 25 at the time. I started off taking Lithium only. I responded well to it. I had a great doctor who wanted to avoid putting me on a bunch of meds. After a year of turmoil and figuring out how to deal, I was hit with two deaths of people that I loved dearly (they died within 1 week of one another). I was then put on Celexa and a few months after that Welbutrin was added to the mix. I soon found that I was gaining weight and I just felt like a ghost of my old self. I hated how I felt. I discussed this with my doc and together we worked out a plan to get me off of the Lithium and Celexa as soon as possible. Today I am med-free and in a remission which began about 8 months ago. I was very nervous about coming off of the meds completely. I did well taking the Welbutrin alone, but I do believe that these types of meds should not be taken long term if it can be avoided. It feels good to know I am off of them for now. I realize that I will one day have to take them again probably. I am open to that, but for now I am enjoying this season of normalcy in my life. I am not saying things have been perfect, because there have OF COURSE been ups and downs and I have had my moments but I feel more in control of myself and my emotions than EVER and it is a great feeling to know that I am this way without the drugs.

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