Richard G. Petty, MD

Risky Advice About Bipolar Disorder

Sad to say, I see a lot of articles on medical topics that don’t make much sense. Most are well-meaning so I usually just let them go unless the suggestions are dangerous or unwise. I have just seen an unfortunate example of both.

The writer is talking about natural treatments for depression and bipolar disorder. He or she first divides depression into three groups: mild, major and severe.

I have not seen that done in many years and it betrays a real misunderstanding of the illness. People with genuine depression or bipolar disorder can get very ill very quickly, and these are illnesses in which as many as a quarter to a half of all sufferers attempt suicide. So it is risky to minimize the severity of the illness.

The writer then talks about “Bipolar Depression is a severe condition of depression that has manic undertones.”

This is simply not accurate. The “manic phase” of bipolar II disorder may be very mild, or present as intermittent anxiety or irritability. There is a great deal of discussion going on about the clinical features of all the different forms of bipolar disorder as we begin work on DSM-V. He or she appears here to be talking about “Mixed states,” about which, as it happens, I shall be lecturing tomorrow.

The author deserves kudos for saying that medications may be necessary, but the potentially dangerous thing was the advice to use St. John’s Wort in “Mild” cases of bipolar disorder. St. John’s Wort may have a role in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: the experts are still deliberating about that. But the problem of using it in bipolar disorder is that it may precipitate mania. One of several reasons for the changing clinical features of bipolar disorder in recent years is the over-prescription of antidepressants and self-medication. It is always difficult to prove causality, but here are a few papers on the dangers of using St. John’s Wort in people who may have bipolar disorder: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Integrated Medicine constantly uses conventional medicine together with natural approaches, and respects the psychological, subtle and spiritual aspects of any life challenge. But have to be very careful about how we combine different approaches so that we don’t do more harm than good.

Be careful of advice that you read online!

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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