Catherine Zeta-Jones and Bipolar Disorder

Catherine Zeta Jones has recently announced that she’s received treatment for bipolar disorder after dealing with the stress of her husband, Michael Douglas’s, battle with throat cancer.

Bipolar, also known as manic depression, causes severe mood swings which can last up to  several weeks or months, and symptoms may include swinging between a low mood, intense depression and despair with “manic” feelings of joy, over-activity and loss of inhibitions.

Exact causes are not known. But it has been noticed that if you have a relative with bipolar disorder, you may be at greater risk.

There may also be a physical problem with the brain system which controls mood and, of course, as was probably the case with Catherine Zeta Jones, stress can trigger mood swings. But is there hope for victims of bipolar?

“Being diagnosed with bipolar doesn’t have to be an awful death sentence, it’s the start of recovery,” says Laura May, who has lived with the condition since she was a teenager.

Laura, who is 27 and from Essex, said: “I had one particularly bad episode when I was 18 and my Nan died of cancer, so I can totally see how that kind of stress can trigger an episode.”

She first went for help when she was 13.

“I noticed a complete loss of sleep, headaches, nose bleeds, blackouts.”

She takes daily mood stabilisers and antidepressants every day, but says: “it only works with weekly counselling.”

Indeed, any of the ‘talking-and-listening’ therapies have had good results with bipolar disorder and one in particular, interpersonal psychotherapy.

How does interpersonal psychotherapy work?

Interpersonal psychotherapy works on the belief that psychological problems which we experience are because of communication problems which have been developed due to attachment styles.

This follows from the belief by many attachment theorists that loss and irregular attachments form the framework of human psychopathology, which interpersonal psychotherapy indirectly addresses.

It was initially developed to treat adults with clinical depression, but has now been modified to work with a number of other conditions too.

These include post-partum depression, bipolar disorder, bulimia nervosa, substance misuse, somatisation and couples counselling.

But how effective is it as a means of treatment?

Preliminary findings for interpersonal psychotherapy being effective for treating adolescent depression, post-natal depression, bipolar disorder and dysthymic disorder are good.

And further studies are under way to discover whether interpersonal psychotherapy would be an effective form of therapy for a number of other conditions too.


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