Alternative treatment specifically for manic/psychotic crisis--other than hospitals and medications

by Frank

I am specifically interested if anyone has worked on a plan for manic/psychotic crisis intervention that does NOT involve hospitalization and medication with things like haloperidol. I am thinking of full-time home care, with restraints if necessary, featuring nutrition, rest and supplementation.

I have had three such episodes in my life, the first two separated by three years and then the third separated from the second by over seven years. I have worked actively to heal myself with nutrition, lifestyle, supplementation, as well as spiritual discipline and physical exercise. I have felt intuitively that hospitalization was an intervention which, in every case, stunted the "healing" that took place during these crises, and that each crisis would have subsided on its own, in approximately the same amount of time without hospitalization as with. What was lacking, each time, was a prepared care plan and a willing set of individuals (family, friends and therapists) to administer such care.

Any resources or thoughts on this subject would be very much appreciated. Thank you for this site and for your work.

Ben's Response:

I think a lot of people have this same question and it sounds like you've put a lot of thought into this. I don't know what resources are available to handle such a manic crisis safely. As you are aware, the main issue is containment and physical safety. In a more ideal society we might have the human resources to provide this kind of safe environment to allow the episode to resolve on its own. While some people have long and very intense manic episodes, lasting even for months, for many people this is not the case, and you might be right when you say that the actual recovery time may not be any less than if you had used a traditional medical approach.

There used to be a residential treatment center here in Sonoma County, CA, where people could be supported naturally though such a crisis, with access to nature and holistic treatments. Unfortunately it didn't last.

The danger with having friends or family use restraints on you, is that you, or they, could get hurt - and to an outside authority, this would appear to be completely unethical, and probably illegal (tying someone up against their will). I would rather suggest that you prearrange your care with a psychiatric hospital that you have at least some trust in, and that you prepare a legal document listing your specific requests regarding your medical care, in the event of such an episode.

Hopefully, you'll never need to use it.

There are not a lot of easy non-medical approaches for reversing a manic episode. Relaxing, sleep-inducing herbs and supplements may help to a degree. Sleep is often the most important regulating factor in recovery. Another is "Dark Therapy" - having absolute darkness for the entire night - at least 10 hours - helps regulate the brain, according to a NIMH study.

Another interesting intervention has to do with "inter-hemispheric switching" - and involves using a small amount of ice water in the ear to activate the opposite hemisphere of the brain (see research by Dr. Jack Pettigrew).

For a really interesting optical illusion that demonstrates the way the hemispheric dominance of the brain continually switches (normally every 30 seconds or so), check out this fun link:

Right-Left Brain Dominance - Optical Illusion

According to Dr. Pettigrew, for a person with Bipolar Disorder, the right-left switching happens less frequently, and when stuck in mania, it means you are stuck on the left hemisphere (and need to get the brain to switch over to the right).

I haven't seen many people actually try this technique, but have seen it work in some cases.

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