Everyday we learn a little bit more about mental disorders and how darned complex they really are. While imagine studies that use tools such as fMRI are interesting, it’s just as interesting to see our knowledge expand in other ways too. Far from being some simple brain disorder, we see that mental disorders, even those that react positively to certain medications, still can be affected through a variety of non-medication treatments.

Yesterday, we published a news article about a study about how regular routines and sleep patterns positively affects the treatment of people with bipolar disorder.

The study found that patients who participated in interpersonal and social rhythm therapy in the earlier phases of the trial were able to go longer without a new episode of mania or depression than those who received clinical management.

Now, keep in mind, both experimental groups in this study were receiving medication for the bipolar disorder. If medication were sufficient to treat bipolar, virtually nobody should be relapsing. As it is, medication alone is rarely sufficient for most people.

This study showed that this other stuff, the stuff that is so often ignored when being treated by a primary care or family physician, can also be very important to obtaining and then maintaining treatment gains.

The researchers found that simply by helping people maintain a consistent sleep schedule and wake time helped balance the circadian system, which in turn helped people avoid nighttime sleeplessness or daytime exhaustion. Such exhaustion or sleeplessness can increase the risk of new episodes of mania or depression.

I find this stuff fascinating because of its impact on client outcomes, and how easy it is to give people these skills through a few sessions of therapy.

Read the article: Regular Routines, Sleep Helps Improve Bipolar