Bipolar Disorder Treatment

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Treatment is best prescribed by a doctor who specializes in treating mental health conditions (psychiatrist), a doctor who is skilled in treating bipolar disorder. You may have a treatment team that also consists of a psychologist, social worker and psychiatric nurse. Treatment consists mainly of medication and psychotherapy.


Medication is used to treat bipolar disorder. The type of medication and how much you will take depends on the symptoms you are experiencing. The medication you may have to take will include:

Mood stabilizers - You will be put on mood stabilizers typically to control hypomanic and manic episodes. Examples of mood stabilizers include lithium, valproic acid and lamotrigine.

Antipsychotics - Anti-psychotic medication is given when symptoms of depression or mania continue despite treatment with other drugs.  Adding an antipsychotic drug such as olanzapine, risperidone and aripiprazole can be beneficial. 

Antidepressants - These drugs are not always prescribed for people diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but your doctor might prescribe it to help with depression. Anti-depressants can sometimes trigger manic episodes and will have to be taken together with mood stabilizers.

Finding the right medication might  take some time. If one doesn't work well for you, there are many others to use as alternatives. This process requires patience, as some medication needs weeks to months in order for you to feel their full effect. Medication may need to be adjusted as your symptoms change.

Medication can come with some side effects. Talk to your doctor if you start experiencing side effects so that these can be addressed. Do not make any changes or stop taking your medication without consulting with your doctor. If you stop your medication, your symptoms may worsen or return. You may become very depressed, feel suicidal, or go into a manic or hypomanic episode. If you think you need to make a change, call your doctor.


Psychotherapy is a vital part of bipolar disorder treatment and can be provided in an individual, family or group setting.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) - The focus is identifying unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replacing them with healthy, positive ones. CBT can help identify what triggers your bipolar episodes. You also learn effective strategies to manage stress and to cope with difficult situations.

Psychoeducation - Learning about bipolar disorder can help you and your loved ones understand the condition. Knowing what's going on can help you get the best support, identify issues and plan to prevent relapse.

Written by Dr Ruusa Shivute | Health Window

Reference: McCormick U, Murray B, McNew B. Diagnosis and treatment of patients with bipolar disorder: A review for advanced practice nurses. J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 2015 Sep;27(9):530-42

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