How Ayurveda Helps in Navigating Life for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depressive illness. It is a lifelong condition. Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes extreme mood swings and change in energy levels, activity levels, sleep, judgment, ability to carry on a normal day to day activities and ability to think clearly. The mood swings may range from elated/ euphoric and energized behavior (mania or hypomania episodes) to completely hopeless depressive episodes. These mood swings may occur rarely or a number of times in a year.

Bipolar disorder may put the individual in risky situations as mood swings are unpredictable and between the mood swings, the person feels and act normal..

Genetic, family history, brain structure, and functioning are all responsible for developing bipolar disorder.

According to Ayurveda, bipolar disorder is described as a lack of stability or Ojas in the body. Vata Dosha imbalance leads to bipolar disorder as Vata energy manifests movements, instability, coldness, dryness, roughness, and its imbalance leads to insomnia, fear, alienation, change in thoughts, restlessness, hopelessness, palpitations, tremors, etc. Excess of Vata in the mind mimics the symptoms of manic episodes like racing thoughts, overspending, talkativeness, etc. and the excess of Kapha in the mind mimics depression symptoms like sadness and lethargy. Low sattva guna (peace of mind) leads to bipolar disorder.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are mainly three types of bipolar disorders:

  • Bipolar I disorder: People with bipolar I have mania and depression phases. At times the symptoms are so severe that the person needs hospital care. The episodes may last from 7 days to two weeks.
  • Bipolar II disorder: People with bipolar II have hypomania (less severe mood swings) and depression phases.
  • Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder: When there are numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms that last for two years, it is called cyclothymia disorder.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar disorder can occur at any age but is typically diagnosed in the early 20s. Symptoms vary from person to person and can change over time.
  • The patient suffers from mood swings, feels wired or jumpy, have a high sex drive, may get irritable and agitated and may feel he can do lots of things at once. The patient may have trouble sleeping.
  • In the depression phase, the person may eat too much or loss of appetite completely, feels tired and may even think about suicide, one may experience uncontrollable crying.
  • The episodes can also be of mixed feelings like both manic and depression together.
  • At times psychotic symptoms like hallucinations or delusions are experienced by the patient.
  • Some patients indulge in alcohol or drugs and perform poorly at work.
How Ayurveda Helps in Navigating Life for Bipolar Disorder
How Ayurveda Helps in Navigating Life for Bipolar Disorder

Diagnoses of Bipolar Disorder

The doctor may do a complete physical exam and mental health evaluation to come to the conclusion if a person as bipolar disorder and that the condition is not mistakenly diagnosed. A person with major depression may also have the same symptoms so it is important for a doctor to get to the roots before starting the treatment.

A series of psychological assessments are done to get additional information about the patient.

Ayurvedic Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar disorder may be treated with medications and psychological counseling or psychotherapy. A therapist helps in improving life by getting an insight into the patient’s condition and personality. Continuous treatment helps to control symptoms with time.
  • Medications often include mood stabilizers and anti-depressants. Sleep medications are also prescribed in some cases.
  • According to Ayurveda, Vata pacifying remedies help in managing the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. These include some lifestyle changes like following a daily routine that involves some exercise (yoga/pranayama/meditation), avoiding all the triggers like caffeine, loud music and avoiding cold meals and drinks. It is also important not to skip meals and opt for Vata pacifying diet which includes whole grains, rice, cooked vegetables especially carrots, beets and asparagus, fresh dairy, nuts (almonds, cashews), seeds like pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds and oils like coconut oil, olive oil, and almond oil. Use of ghee and sesame oil is recommended.
  • Oil massage with warm sesame oil is extremely useful for bipolar disorder patients. This has a calming effect on the mind. It is very important for the patient to relax and give himself priority like have a cup of tea in silence.
  • The best fruits for people with bipolar disorder are bananas, avocados, mangoes, apricots, plums, berries, figs, grapefruits, oranges, lemons, melons, papaya, peaches, pineapples, kiwi and dates.
  • Minimize the consumption of beans as they aggravate Vata. Minimize the consumption of sprouts and cabbage and take vegetables like peas, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and sweet potatoes in moderation. Always drink boiled /warm milk.
  • Getting adequate sleep is the key to faster recovery. Missing sleep triggers mood swings so good sleep hygiene is very important which means going to bed on time and getting up at a regular time, avoiding large meals before bedtime.
  • Imbalance of chemicals called neurotransmitters like serotonin also causes bipolar disorder. Serotonin affects appetite, so it is very important to eat at regular interval of time and stick to fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet. The diet should be supplemented with Omega 3 fatty acids, Magnesium, Vitamins especially Vitamin C. A healthy diet aid therapy for depressive episodes while a poor diet may contribute to inflammations and aggravate the symptoms further.
  • Avoid frequent traveling.
  • People with bipolar disorder engage in addictive behaviors. They need to practice moderation and seek help whenever needed. After a certain age, bipolar disorder can lead to a fixed personality trait and that can lead to a lot of dependence on substance abuse and unsatisfied unproductive life.
  • Treatment is very important for bipolar disorder. Without treatment, people with hypomania may develop severe mania or depression. People with bipolar disorder are at a higher risk of thyroid disease, migraines, heart problems, diabetes, obesity, and other related illness.
  • Paying attention to warning signs is very important. Addressing symptoms early helps in preventing the episodes from getting worse. We all have highs and lows, but those diagnosed with bipolar disorder experience it on an extreme level.