Weighted Blanket for Bipolar Disorder

We all have mood changes; that's just a part of everyday life. But if you notice that your mood swings are becoming more frequent, and come in extreme highs and extreme lows, then you might need to take a trip to the doctor to check if you have Bipolar Disorder.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Also referred to as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a serious mental health disorder that causes intense fluctuations in someone's mood and energy. People with bipolar disorder have extreme emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

The typical age of onset is around 25 years old, but there have been cases wherein teenagers have been diagnosed with the condition. The condition may arrive as early as childhood, but cases of those are rare.

The condition affects both men and women in equal measure. In the U.S. alone, about 2.6% of the population have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and roughly 83% of those are considered severe.

Bipolar disorders are classified into four basic types, all of which involve differences in mood, energy, and activity levels. 

1. Bipolar I Disorder

These are characterized by manic episodes which last for a minimum of 1 week, or severe manic symptoms that require immediate hospitalization. Depressive episodes also typically appear and last for at least 2 weeks, while episodes wherein both depression and mania are present may also occur.

2. Bipolar II Disorder

This is marked by episodes of depression and mania, but of significantly less intensity than the full-blown incidents described above.

3. Cyclothymic Disorder

Also reffered to as cyclothymia, this is a chronic mood disorder characterized by numerous short periods of highs and lows that persist for 2 years or more. This is considered a milder form of bipolar disorder as in between the hypomaniac and depressive episodes, the sufferer still goes back to a baseline wherein they feel more or less themselves.

4. Not Otherwise Specified 

These are the disorders that don't necessarily follow a particular pattern (e.g., continous depression with no mania followed by a sudden onset of mania that only lasts for a few days). 

Treatments And Therapies

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong disease. Proper diagnosis is a helpful first step in managing bipolar disorder and allowing sufferers to live healthy and fulfilling lives despite their condition. A doctor or licensed physician will be able to prescribe the right treatment for them to gain better control of their mood swings.

1. Medication

Different medicines work for different people. What may work for one person with bipolar disorder may not work for someone else. It's recommended to try several types of medications to know which one fits you best. These may include:

  • Atypical antipsychotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Mood stabilizers 

Anyone taking medications should talk at length with their doctor first in order to understand the risks that come with the drugs. They should report any side effects or concerns right away in order to ascertain whether or not it's an emergency case, and avoid stopping their treatment as it may have a whiplash effect or worsening of symtoms.

2. Psychotherapy

This is also referred to as "talk" therapy, and when done in conjunction with medications, it can be very effective for treating bipolar disorder. Working with a therapist will allow you to know more about your disorder and learn about the coping mechanisms to prevent future problems and setbacks.

3. Social rhythm therapy

People with bipolar disorder are said to have extremely sensitive biological clocks. Experts say that nearly 25% of sufferers sleep too much at night or take long naps, and around a third of them are plagued with insomnia when they aren't in an episode. Abnormal sleeping patterns may instigate a manic or depressive episode.

Social rhythm therapy aims to stabilize "social rythms" (sleeping, exercising, eating, etc.). For example, setting an alarm for the same time every day, even when you don't have to get up for work or school, helps keep your biological rythms stable and regulates your moods.

A weighted blanket is helpful in this regard, in that it reminds your body that it's time to sleep.

A 2015 study by the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders found that participants who slept with a weighted blanket every night for 2 consecutive weeks fell asleep faster and experienced a significant increase in total sleep duration.

Participants also reported subjective developments in sleep quality; they enjoyed a much better quality of sleep than when sleeping with normal blankets. They also felt more refreshed in the morning.

A weighted blanket helps people with bipolar disorders settle down into a calmer state, especially during episodes of mania wherein a person's energy levels are really high.

The blanket is filled with glass microbeads suspended in polyester padding, which gives it its weight. It comes with a soft, minky fabric cover that you will want to snuggle into at the end of a long day.

A weighted blanket uses the concept of Deep Pressure Therapy, which occupational therapists have been using for years in patients with disorders such as anxiety, autism, and dementia. The heavy weight helps to "ground" the patients and induce a calmer state.