Bipolar and Other Mood Disorders
Depression Bipolar Support Alliance |
Like an upscale department store, this site presents only high-quality information, laid out in a well-designed, clear, and highly attractive manner. The DBSA is the largest national education and advocacy group on mood disorders, headquartered here in Chicago, IL. Supports research, education, and clinical trials. Sponsors local and national chapters with support groups, meetings, and newsletters. Information is current and accurate. A great source and first stop for basic education about the illness. Website features:
- Great starting place to learn about all things bipolar
- Links to online and community support groups
- Online forums for patients and families
- Information on clinical trials and other resources
If the DBSA site is an upscale department store, psycheducation.org is that special, independently owned, quirky retailer with deep stockpiles of buried treasure. Run by Corvallis, Oregon psychiatrist Jim Phelps, psycheducation.org provides a depth of information on bipolar disorder that is not found elsewhere on the web. Just like an independent store owner who is passionate about their wares, Dr. Phelps’ passion for this clinical area is on obvious display. For example, a somewhat partisan opponent to the use of antidepressants for bipolar depression, he amasses dozens and dozens of scientific references about the dangers, lack of effectiveness, and alternatives to antidepressant pharmacotherapy. Other areas that are lovingly and painstakingly covered: the bipolar spectrum, the fundamental importance of mood stabilization, bipolar conditions in the primary care setting, chronotherapeutic treatments and much more. Like any connoisseur, Dr. Phelps makes no effort to disguise his views or hide his likes and dislikes. He presents information in a folksy and digestible manner that is both simple and sophisticated. Extremely well referenced. Website features:
- Hand-crafted, painstakingly-curated layers of information about bipolar disorders
- Manages to be informative to the novice and the expert alike
- Covers most aspects about diagnosis and treatment
- Tips on how to find a psychiatrist or therapist
Black Dog Institute |
Australia’s version of DBSA, NAMI and a clinician-rich trove of information rolled into one. This is a wonderful site bursting with well-curated information for patients, significant-others and clinicians. They cover the basics as well as any other site on the web. Given their location down-under, their clinical services will unfortunately be unavailable to North American viewers.
McMan's Depression and Bipolar Web |
Another great indie site on mood disorders, McManweb.com is run by an articulate, informed financial journalist with bipolar disorder, Jim McManamy. Like psycheducation.org, this spot has a distinctly personal feel with an additional patient-based, knowledge-is-empowerment perspective. Though his views and tone seep through his writings, the information presented here is generally accurate and current. Links to many journal articles, personal accounts, and other sites. This site is up-to-date and advocates for people suffering from bipolar disorder.
Mood Network |
A wonderful site sponsored by Massachusetts General Hospital, promoting collaboration between individuals with bipolar disorders (patient experts), researchers and clinicians. While the ultimate aim of this site appears to be research-driven, it provides a blog section to share experiences of mood disorders with others. It seeks to respect and empower the first-hand knowledge of those with mood disorders and solicit that expertise in selecting and designing research studies. This is the first site that I would direct patients toward who want to participate in clinical research.
BP Hope |
Oriented toward persons with bipolar disorder, the site is supportive and offers helpful information: brief description of the illness, extensive listing of resources, and ezboard discussion group link. Beware: for those wary of Pharma support, this site has lots of drug-company advertisements.
Help Guide |
Started by the parents of a young woman with depression who took her own life, this website is committed to providing patients and their families with basic information about depression, bipolar disorders and other psychiatric conditions, along with a list of wellness activities that can be used to address these problems. The site is free from commercial influence, well-designed and easy to navigate.
International Bipolar Foundation |
Another education, advocacy and research-promoting group, this IBF website provides clear, brief facts about this illness, an expansive list of international groups, and a complete menu of informational resources on the web.
National Institute of Mental Health Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (Step-BD) |
Although over a decade old now, the STEP-BD research program was one of the most important and wide-ranging clinical projects ever conducted on bipolar disorders. This NIMH-sponsored website provides info for the public and researchers on the questions, data, results and practice implications from the project research. It includes a complete list of all publications generated from the study. The STEP-BD study was the largest North American study ever undertaken to exclusively examine bipolar disorder
Needy Meds |
This website has information on financial assistance programs for medications. It also offers helpful webinars on a variety of subjects.
The Stanley Medical Research Institute |
The Stanley Institute is one of the foremost funders and coordinators of national and international research on bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This site funds and lists clinical trials on novel drug compounds, psychotherapies, electrical stimulation treatments, sleep modifications, etc. Identifies ongoing trials and whether they are accepting new patients. This site is only about research, not clinical practice.
The US Health and Human Services site that provides information on medical and psychiatric disorders affecting women. This section gives a succinct and accurate overview of bipolar disorders.
The Very Basics About Bipolar Disorders
Mayo Clinic |
Aimed at the general public, this site details the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder. Very basic.
Web MD |
An overview of bipolar disorder for the lay public.
Bipolar Resources for Kids, Teens and Families
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry |
The place on the internet for reliable and balanced information on childhood and early adolescent bipolarity. Containing diagnostic, treatment and other educational material, the AACP site thoroughly covers the basics and provides guidance for families. For clinicians, links to current guidelines are offered, including assessment tools, tips for monitoring weight gain and other medication side effects, and patient handouts. Unlike many websites about mood disorders, this one even-handedly presents data on both pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy
Balanced Mind Parent Network |
This is a wonderful offshoot of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance site devoted to and for parents of children, teens or adults with bipolar illness. It is an excellent, authoritative and comprehensive providing clinical, educational and research information about pediatric and adolescent forms of the illness. Links to local chapters, advocacy groups, workshops for parents, educators, etc…
Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation |
The Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation is the first charitable organization dedicated solely to the support of research for the study of early-onset bipolar disorder. The board is a remarkable one, made up of dedicated parents, treating professionals, and world-class clinical investigators and basic science researchers. Mainly a fundraising organization that supports research into juvenile bipolar disorder.
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law |
This website has information on mental health law. Use it for questions about the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights issues regarding mental health. Keep up to date on recent legal decisions regarding mental health issues.
Depression Bipolar Support Alliance |
Per above: best single source of information regarding mood disorders, contacts, and resources on this illness. Provides both local and national resources.
Job Accommodation Network |
Information for employers and employees on accommodations in the workplace for individuals with bipolar disorders. This site offers an active newsletter and blog.
Mental Health America |
Mental Health America (formerly known as the National Mental Health Associations) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting mental wellness. The site has detailed information on a wide range of issues, all major mental illness, and an impressively tailored set of information for target groups, e.g., African American, military, etc. The organization also encourages taking action on social and policy-making issues. Even with the vast amount of information, this site is surprisingly easy to navigate.
National Alliance on Mental Illness |
If you’re looking for information about the full range of psychiatric disorders, the NAMI site covers the basics clearly and simply. From schizophrenia to bipolar disorder, ADHD to Tourette’s, the abc’s of each condition are explained in easy to understand language. NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with serious mental illness and their families. The site is divided into three categories: inform yourself, find support, and taking action.
Life/Mood Charting and Self-Monitoring Methods
Not-for-profit research group that provides electronic, computer-based software to record and track mood, sleep, stressors, medications and other variables over time. Software costs $25.00 if person agrees to allow their anonymous data to be used in research; $50.00 if not.
Fees include: software and over-the-phone training. Encrypted data is emailed to organization once per month. They process information and send both patient and clinician a graphic read-out of that month’s mood tracking. This is a simple, quick way to track mood changes and it provides extremely important information for both patient and clinician in understanding the course of mood changes, precipitants to episodes, response to medications, etc.
The most popular online app for mood tracking, this is also the only one that was specifically developed for individuals with mood disorders. The user interface is simple and intuitive, allowing for customization depending on one’s preferences and needs. Offered on a freemium model, the basic plan can be upgraded for $5 to $10/month. The upgrades allow for sharing data with others, including your physician, and incorporating weather and light information (a wonderful addition!).
Life Charting Overview |
Life charting is a method originally developed by the 19th century German psychiatrist, Emil Kraeplin, one of the first to conceptualize manic depressive illness as a distinct psychiatric entity. It is a simple process of visually graphing mood changes over time for the purposes of identifying, anticipating and – ultimately – preventing or reducing relapse and maintaining optimal mood stability.
- A simple visual tracking method to identify and follow mood states over time
- Designed to develop self-monitoring capacities, better anticipate mood changes, limit and prevent relapse
- An essential part of every bipolar patient’s treatment.
At present, there are two major versions of life charts available: one from NIMH, and the other sponsored by a not-for-profit group, www.chronorecord.org. Their similarities outweigh their differences. Both provide a simple graphic form for recording daily mood states, hours of sleep, level of anxiety/irritability, menstrual phase, presence of life events/stressors, and medications taken. The NIMH version has a retrospective form for summarizing one’s past history of mood states, and a prospective version for following ongoing emotional status. The NIMH version also provides separate forms for clinicians and patients.
In addition to these two major options, I also encourage patients to create their own methods for tracking moods. Sometimes this produces creative and effective self-monitoring strategies. What’s important is that both patient and clinician develop and share a similar vocabulary for what constitutes a mood state and for how to rate a mood state’s severity. With this shared understanding, remarkable progress can be made in tracking, anticipating and gaining increased control over this frequently unpredictable illness. PDF’s and websites for different methods are listed below
And now for something completely different. And futuristic. And fantastic!
I just returned from the 9th International Conference on Bipolar Disorders where the developers of this technologically innovative system (then called, Monarca, which has since morphed into Monsenso) had a poster presentation on their work. This Android-phone-based monitoring device has the potential to leapfrog over existing formats through its multidimensional assessment capacities. In addition to self-reports of mood, Monsenso also uses actigraphy (to quantify activity levels throughout the day) social communication levels, as indicated by phone and texting frequency, to combine subjective, physiologic and social measures to track and predict changes in affective states over time. As with other e-monitoring programs, the information is aggregated and sent to both patient and clinician to facilitate and enhance episode prediction and overall treatment. If it passes the feasibility test (ie, will it be user-friendly enough?), this has the potential to truly revolutionize the clinical care of bipolar patients and bring the life charting methods of Kraeplin squarely into the 21st century.
NIMH Life Charting |
The most popular and comprehensive version. Some will find the level of detail daunting, but the effort is well worth it. The result will be the uncovering of your own personal signature of this illness, how it operates, what it’s sensitive to, how it evolves over time, etc..
ADDitude Magazine |
ADDitude Magazine Online is mainly a collection of articles with current information. Though at the first glance it appears to be tailored to parenting ADHD children, the Adult ADD/LD session has plenty of useful tips and live webinars for job, time and money management, organization, love and friendship; topics pertinent to adult life. Also has a number of useful handouts for parents, teachers and individuals.
ADHD & Marriage |
A site designed for couples where one or both people in the relationship have ADHD. It offers videos, podcasts, and a blog that is updated regularly.
Attention Deficit Disorder Association |
Attention Deficit Disorder Association is an international non-profit organization for adults with ADHD. Their mission is to provide information, resources, networking and advocacy. This user-friendly website has numerous articles on various topics written for the general population, including organization/time management, women vs. men with ADHD, relationship and family issues, school/career/workplace, ADHD coaching, research and treatment.
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder |
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) is the nation’s leading non-profit organization with 20,000 plus members, serving the needs of children and adults with ADHD. CHADD provides evidence-based information to parents, educators, professionals, the media and the general public.
Totally ADD |
An interactive site for adults with ADD, Totally ADD offers newsletters, blogs, videos and coaching for people who are looking for a supportive community.
Verywell Mind |
Verywell Mind provides practical information and articles on motivating teenagers, behavioral therapies for adults with ADHD, ADD coaching, and ADHD treatment. Well-designed and easy to navigate, this site packs a good deal of information about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. Note: there is some advertising, but this financial support did not seem to bias the content.