Bipolar Disorder For Dummies
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When your moods are out of sync with reality, your brain's physiology is disrupted. A psychiatrist, fondly referred to by many with bipolar disorder as a p-doc, prescribes medications to help adjust the neurobiological systems in your brain to enable it to respond appropriately. Medication doesn't cure your bipolar disorder, but it helps regulate your moods so you can function and begin to deal with real-life issues that may trigger mania or depression.

Your psychiatrist's primary functions are to accurately diagnose your illness, develop a comprehensive treatment plan that includes education and support as well as appropriate medications, and help you manage your medications, as we explain in the following sections.

Although any medical doctor can diagnose and treat bipolar, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has specialized training in treating mental illnesses. Doctors who've completed this rigorous training run the gamut from relaxed and amiable to hurried and detached. When choosing a psychiatrist, remember that while knowledge and experience trump congeniality, listening skills are essential for the doctor to appropriately apply her expertise.


Before you can begin any sensible treatment, you need a diagnosis, and your psychiatrist is usually the one who gives it to you.

Master planner

Typically, your psychiatrist or your treatment team (usually a doctor and a therapist) draw up the initial game plan with you — a comprehensive treatment plan that typically includes a combination of medication, education, therapy, and self-help tailored specifically to your system profile. However, many people with bipolar disorder expand and personalize their plan as they become more aware of their own needs and the available treatments and supports. As your treatment plan evolves, having a master plan is an important component to address all facets of treatment.

Medicine man (or woman)

In the old days, psychiatrists handled all aspects of treatment. They diagnosed the illness, prescribed any necessary medications, and offered therapy and counseling. Although this is still the case for some psychiatrists, many people work with a treatment team that includes a psychiatrist, who primarily manages the medical end of things, and a therapist, often a psychologist or clinical social worker, who provides the psychotherapy.

Unfortunately nowadays, some psychiatrists spend more time scribbling on prescription pads than they do listening to their patients or answering questions. The insurance reimbursement system encourages seeing as many patients as possible rather than spending extended time with each patient. The resulting time limits with patients are challenging, because the medical management of bipolar disorder is complex and requires adequate time to address many important topics at each appointment.

If the time you spend with your psychiatrist is insufficient for successfully communicating your needs, voice your concern. You and your doctor may be able to arrange for longer visits that can be appropriately reimbursed.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Candida Fink, MD is a psychiatrist, board certified in child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry, who specializes in working with people of all ages?and their loved ones?to manage bipolar disorder. Joe Kraynak is a professional writer who deals with bipolar in his family.

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