Charlie Sheen Talks to a Psychiatrist About Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder: Questions to Ask Your Doctor
While your doctor usually asks the questions during an exam, you can respectfully and proactively take charge, too. In fact, asking the right questions can make a big difference in the way you manage your bipolar disorder. Your health is important both to you and to your doctor, so don't hesitate to inquire about any topic you feel is relevant to your condition, whether it's a question about your bipolar diagnosis, something regarding your bipolar medication, curiosity about complementary or alternative therapies for bipolar disorder, or concern about your emotional health, your financial health, or any other lifestyle issue.
Engaging in a dialogue with your doctor will help educate you about bipolar disorder and the treatment options available to you, and it'll give your doctor a better sense of who you are and how bipolar disorder is affecting your health and your life. With the lines of communication open, you and your doctor will be able to develop the best treatment plan for your individual needs.
But remember, your time with your doctor is limited, so be sure to arrive at your appointment prepared and ready to discuss bipolar disorder and the questions that are important to you. Start by:
- Researching bipolar disorder.It's a good idea to get a better understanding of bipolar disorder before your appointment. Through research, you may even be able to answer some of your own questions. Visit Everyday Health's Bipolar Disorder Center, the , the , and .
- Strategizing.Your family doctor may not be able to answer all your questions about bipolar disorder; some may be better addressed by a psychotherapist or psychiatrist who specializes in treating people with bipolar disorder. Discuss this with your doctor, set up a plan for addressing your concerns, and follow up with a specialist, as directed by your doctor. You can also do additional research of your own.
- Keeping records.Consider keeping a journal about your bipolar disorder between visits to the doctor, and share any relevant information with your doctor, such as changes in mood or behavior and how well your medicine is working. Taking notes during your appointments will help you remember important details after your visit. Alternatively, you may consider bringing a recording device or inviting someone to accompany you and take notes.
General Bipolar Disorder Questions
If you haven't yet been formally diagnosed with bipolar disorder, talk to your doctor about arranging an evaluation with a specialist, such as a physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist with experience in diagnosing and treating mood disorders.
Once you have a formal diagnosis, your doctor will give you information about the condition and recommend a course of treatment. You may have questions or concerns about your diagnosis and how bipolar disorder will affect your health and your life. Consider asking your doctor the following:
- What type of bipolar disorder do I have? How severe is it? Can you explain the disorder to me?
- What is the best method (or combination of methods) of treatment for bipolar disorder?
- Does bipolar disorder change with age? Do people ever outgrow it?
- How will bipolar disorder affect me over the long term?
- What are the key components for successfully managing the challenges of bipolar disorder?
- Are there other types of medical or mental health specialists who should be involved in my care?
- When might hospitalization be beneficial or necessary?
- Should I (or a member of my family) alert you if there are any changes in my behavior?
- What kind of changes do you want to be informed about?
- What should I do if I feel I'm in crisis or need emergency help?
Mood stabilizers, like lithium, or anticonvulsant drugs are commonly prescribed to help manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Your doctor may also recommend other types of medication, such as antidepressants and antianxiety and antipsychotic drugs. It is important to understand the medication your doctor is prescribing. Ask your doctor about it, read the insert the pharmacy includes with your prescription, and take the medication as directed by your physician. Knowing how your medication is supposed to work will help you evaluate its effectiveness and whether it's the right medication for you.
Here are some questions you may want to ask your doctor about bipolar disorder medications:
- Do I need medication, or can I be treated effectively without it?
- What types of medications are used to treat the manic and depressive mood swings of bipolar disorder?
- How often and for how long will I need to take this medication?
- Is there medication that I can take on an as-needed basis?
- What type of drug are you prescribing for me, and how does it work?
- Where can I get more information about this drug?
- How will the medication make me feel, and how will I know if it's working?
- When can I expect to notice improvements in how I feel?
- What are the risks if I don't take my medication as directed, or if I forget to take it?
- How has this medication been tested? Are there any recent clinical studies on it?
- What should I do if I experience any side effects? Are there any that may require me to call a doctor? Are there any that may require me to stop taking the medication immediately?
- Is this drug habit-forming?
- Can I take this on an empty stomach, or should it be taken with food?
- Could this medication interact with other medication I'm taking?
- Are there any foods, drinks (such as alcohol), vitamins, herbal supplements, or over-the-counter drugs that I should avoid while taking this medication?
- Can other conditions affect or be affected by my medication? What if I have a family history of heart disease?
- What is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)? Is it still used to treat bipolar disorder?
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Doctors often recommend a combination of therapies to treat the symptoms of mania and depression. In addition to your medication, you may consider complementary or alternative therapies, such as practicing meditation, taking a yoga class, or trying a dietary supplement. Ask your doctor whether any of these options might be beneficial for you:
- Are there any complementary or alternative therapies I should consider?
- Do any clinical trials or research support these complementary or alternative therapies?
- Do you recommend any herbs or other natural supplements, like omega-3 fatty acids or Saint John's wort?
Bipolar disorder can take a toll on your emotional health and your relationships, but your doctor can help you find ways to cope with the emotional stress, manage your manic and depressive symptoms, and handle the impact bipolar disorder is having on your relationships. Psychotherapy, in particular, can help people with bipolar disorder recognize changes in their personality that may signal an oncoming mood swing. It can also help with other challenges, such as manic episodes, spending sprees, substance abuse, and withdrawal during depressed phases. Ask for a referral to a good therapist or support group and find out what else you can do to improve your emotional health while living with bipolar disorder.
- Should I seek any emotional support from a support group or a therapist? Can you give me some referrals?
- How will I know if my therapist is right for me?
- Will I need to see both a psychologist and a psychiatrist? If so, why?
- What is cognitive-behavioral therapy? Am I likely to benefit from this type of therapy?
- Is social rhythm therapy effective at helping people with bipolar disorder improve their relationships and organize their daily routines?
- How should I explain my condition to my spouse, family, and friends? What, if anything, should I say to my boss and co-workers?
- How can my family and friends help me? Are there specific things I should ask of them?
- What should I do if I feel I'm being discriminated against at work or school?
- What should I do if I feel that I can't keep up at work or school? What accommodations can I ask for? Where can I get more information about work- and school-related issues?
- How is my condition likely to affect my relationships, and what can I do to improve my situation?
Health and Lifestyle Concerns
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to keep yourself in good shape. Participating in a physical fitness regimen, following a balanced diet, getting adequate rest and sleep, quitting smoking, moderating your alcohol consumption, and avoiding substance abuse of any kind can all contribute to your overall health. Check with your doctor to see whether you need to make any lifestyle changes or whether there's anything he or she recommends that you do at home, work, or school to help you better manage your bipolar disorder:
- Do I need to make any changes in diet, exercise, or how much I rest?
- Can stress, drinking alcohol, smoking, or using drugs affect my condition?
- Are there any activities I should avoid?
- Should I make any special accommodations for school, home, or my work?
- Can you recommend any good books, magazines, organizations, or online resources that focus on bipolar disorder?
The costs associated with your bipolar disorder treatment will have an effect on your finances. It's crucial to find ways to balance your physical health with your financial health. Ask your doctor about ways in which you may be able to offset the cost of your treatment.
- Will my medication be covered by my health insurance plan?
- About how much will my medication cost?
- Is there a generic version of the medication that would be more affordable? If not, are there other, equally effective medications that are available as generics?
- Do you have any samples or discount coupons for my prescription?
- If I need to be hospitalized, will the hospital accept my insurance? How much of my care can I expect to be covered? If my hospitalization is not covered by insurance, will I have any payment alternatives?
- Are there separate fees or charges at the hospital for doctors, therapists, caretakers, or anything else? If so, what kind of charges can I expect?
- If I choose a complementary or alternative therapy, is it likely to be covered by my insurance? If not, what kind of out-of-pocket costs can I expect?
Additionally, people with bipolar disorder sometimes get themselves into financial straits during manic phases in which they go on spending sprees or gamble.
Video: Understanding Bipolar Depression
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