If you put meditation techniques in the boxing ring with bipolar disorder, who do you think will dominate? That is the question that, over the years, many professionals, experts, and patients have been asking. Pharmacology and psychotherapy are commonly combined to help people manage bipolar disorder.
While cognitive-behavioral therapy has its benefits, medication receives a significant amount of attention—not to mention regular modifications in many cases. The problem that a lot of patients have with conventional medicine is the side effects and, of course, its degree of efficacy. Could meditation be the single answer to curing bipolar disorder?
With consensual denial that a cure exists, it should come as no surprise that some doctors do not believe meditation is a cure for the illness. In contrast, based on recent studies, others—notably contemplative neuroscientists—are proponents of the belief that meditation practices can once and for all neutralize the illness. While the debate is still on-going about the curative absoluteness of meditation, both sides do agree that meditation can efficiently manage and offset bipolar symptoms.
Meditation Better than Meds?
The Exploration of Consciousness Research Institute—better known as the EOC Institute—postulates that meditation is more effective and has a more profound therapeutic effect in treating bipolar disorder than pharmacological treatments for the condition.
The EOC Institute has explored the benefits of meditative techniques with individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder in these areas:
The anxiety, depression, and stress headquarters of the brain are located in the "primitive" amygdala. It is in this brain region that people's "fight or flight" mechanisms ignite as a defense mechanism against stress. Harmful stress hormones are released, which augment mental illnesses like bipolar disorder. Meditation has proven to favorably demilitarize the amygdala's influence on people with the disorder.
The prefrontal cortex acts as an amygdala-attuned "surge protector." Research has shown that meditation can thicken and increase the activity of this brain region. With more density, as a result of reflection, the prefrontal cortex can lessen bouts of depression and anxiety tremendously. Reports show that people who meditate are able to make better decisions and have more brainpower. They also have better emotional and mental health as a whole.
Experts acclaim serotonin as the most crucial brain-produced chemical, and it is essential to the stabilization of moods for sufferers of bipolar disorder. Studies show that meditation raises serotonin levels, which makes it possible for a patient to feel like they are in a "serotonin-rich neuroparadise."
Other Research Points to Better Mania Management Through Meditation
Researchers think that meditation can help people with bipolar disorder control their mania and get rid of their depression. The search for effective treatments for bipolar disorder, particularly the manic depression variant, continues. One avenue of research involves how changes in mood are related to differences in brain structure. The new study, which was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, gives some of the strongest evidence to date that meditation may help people with bipolar disorder.
The authors of the study used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure brain structure in 39 people with bipolar disorder and 39 people without this illness. The MRI showed that people with bipolar disorder tend to have larger ventricles, which are fluid-filled cavities in the brain. This can lead to abnormalities in the brain, such as problems with thinking.
The MRIs showed that meditation changes the ventricles from enlarged to normal-sized. It also alters the brain’s gray matter, which is related to memory, attention, and other cognitive functions. People with bipolar disorder may be less likely to have bad symptoms like depression, overthinking, and suicidal thoughts if they make these changes. The authors think that since people with bipolar disorder often have big changes in mood, meditation might help stop these changes in how the brain works.
Medication is good for some, but sometimes it is not enough. Meditation is a practice that has been around for thousands of years and is becoming more mainstream as research continues to validate its efficacy in managing stress and treating mental illness. With meditation practices such as mindfulness, patients are better able to control their thoughts and emotions. Also, the patient learns to align their thoughts with their emotions, which, in turn, alleviates symptoms.