In the short term, the kind of treatment someone needs will depend on whether they are high or low and how severe their symptoms are.
When someone has severe symptoms, they might need medication and to be admitted to hospital to help their symptoms improve and to keep them safe.
In the long term, the goal of treatment is to help people with bipolar disorder to have healthy, balanced and productive lives.
If you have bipolar disorder, your mental health team can work with you and your family to help you understand your condition, manage your symptoms and stay well. Below are some of the different treatments used to support people with bipolar disorder:
Help with understanding yourself and the condition (psychoeducation)
It is very important that you and your family are helped to understand bipolar disorder, how best to cope and what to do to reduce the chances of you getting unwell again.
You and your family may notice ‘triggers’ to your episodes or early warning signs that an episode is starting.
Being aware of these can help reduce the chance of episodes occurring. Getting help in the earliest stages of an episode can stop it from getting worse.
Also known as talking therapies, these include:
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) – You will learn to understand the links between your feelings and thoughts and how this affects your behaviour (see our factsheet on CBT). Sometimes this will be done with your family.
- Family-focused treatment (family therapy) - The whole family can be supported to reduce stress, solve problems and communicate better.
Medication plays an important role in the treatment of bipolar disorder, especially if someone’s episodes are severe.
The medication you’re given can depend upon the type of episode you’re having. Everyone is different, and so the type of medication that is recommended will depend on your unique circumstances. Types of medication used to treat bipolar disorder include:
- Antipsychotic medication - usually used for high/manic episodes
- Antidepressant medication - used for the low/depressive episodes
- Mood stabilizers (e.g. lithium) help to keep your mood stable both during and between episodes