Dealing with the highs and lows of bipolar disorder can be difficult – and not just for the person who has the illness. “If one person has bipolar, it affects the entire family,” says Igor Galynker, MD, Associate Chairman of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Beth Israel Medical Center.
That's why when Dr. Galynker founded The Family Center for Bipolar Disorder four years ago, he set out to focus on preserving overall family health as part of a successful, long-term treatment plan for those with bipolar.
What are the risk factors and symptoms?
Family history, living in an environment with someone who has bipolar, and major life transitions are all risk factors for the disease. People with bipolar disorder often experience extreme highs and lows in their mood, triggering symptoms of depression or mania.
|Extreme fatigue||Feeling invincible|
|Bouts of uncontrollable crying||Engaging in unsafe, risky or illegal activities|
|Losing interest in hobbies||Feeling angry and irritable|
|Ignoring responsibilities||Experiencing hallucinations|
|Feeling hopeless or worthless||Feeling euphoric|
A family-centric approach to treatment
Although bipolar disease is a lifelong illness, most people can reduce their symptoms and control their mood swings with the right combination of medication, therapy and family support.
At The Family Center for Bipolar Disorder at Beth Israel Medical Center, Dr. Galynker and his colleagues created three programs to address the unique needs of those affected by the illness.
Family Inclusive Treatment (FIT)
“We involve the entire family in treatment, from psychiatric education to inform the patient and the family about the illness, to teaching them how to better communicate and problem solve,” Dr. Galynker says. “Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness, so these management skills are very important.”
Families who participate in the program’s outpatient sessions learn how to:
- Recognize the signs of an impending episode and intervene before it gets out of control
- Adjust family activity to avoid triggering an episode
- Support the family member with bipolar disorder during an episode
Cannabis Use and Bipolar Spectrum Services (CUBB)
This groundbreaking program was designed to treat people with bipolar disorder who smoke marijuana. “As medical marijuana gains a bigger presence in the United States, it’s important for people to know how bipolar and smoking habits are related,” Dr. Galynker says. The CUBB program has been key to a population of people who are ashamed of seeking addiction treatment, but need help addressing mood disorders.
Family Inclusive Treatment for High Risk (FITHR)
Although the FITHR program is in the development stage, Dr. Galynker believes it will be crucial in preventing bipolar disorder in children who live with someone who has bipolar a situation that puts children at a 50 percent higher risk for developing a mood disorder.
“Hostility, criticism and emotional over-involvement are three patterns of behavior that create an atmosphere in the family that is conducive to children developing bipolar disorder,” Dr. Galynker explains. The FITHR program will monitor high-risk family behaviors and teach members how to avoid them.
If you or someone you know is dealing with bipolar disorder, find a physician who can help by visiting bpfamily.org or by calling 1-855-411-LWNY (5969).