In the short term, depending on whether you are high or low and how severe it is, you may need different treatments.
When you have severe symptoms, you may need medications and also sometimes admission to hospital to help your symptoms and also keep you safe.
In the long term, the goal of treatment is to help you have a healthy, balanced and productive life. This would include understanding the condition, controlling the symptoms and preventing the illness from coming back.
Below we briefly describe each aspect of the treatment.
Medication usually plays an important role in the treatment of bipolar disorder, especially if episodes are severe. In the initial stages of the illness, medication helps to reduce the symptoms.
The choice of medication can depend upon the type of episode (manic or depressed). Everyone is different and so the type of medication that is recommended will also be different.
The three main types of medication that are helpful are:
- antipsychotic medication: risperidone, olanzapine and aripiprazole are types of antipsychotics.
- mood stabilizers: Lithium is a type of mood stabiliser.
- antidepressants: fluoxetine is a type of antidepressant.
It is important that medications are not taken only when the problems are serious. If your child has had more than one severe episode of illness, staying on medication is important to reduce the risk of further episodes.
Medication may be needed for months or even years. Some people may, under medical supervision, be able to stop their medication when they have recovered and have felt well for a while.
They may need physical examinations and tests (like blood test) before starting or while on medication. It is important that if prescribed medication, you are regularly seen by your doctor or psychiatrist.
Side-effects of the medication can occur, some of which are quite serious. The psychiatrist will be able to advise about what they are and about what can be done to help. The risk of side-effects needs to be balanced against the risk of the damaging effects of the illness on a person's life.
No young person should be taking medication unless they are reviewed by a health professional regularly. This is to monitor the dose of the drug and to check for side-effects.
Talking treatments (also known as ‘psychotherapies’)
It is crucial that drug treatments are combined with practical help for the young person and their family.
Help with understanding the illness (psycho education)
It is very important that the young person with bipolar disorder and their family are helped to understand the condition, how best to cope and what to do to reduce the chances of it recurring.
The young person and their family may notice particular ‘triggers’ to their episodes and/or early warning signs that an episode may be starting - being aware of these can help reduce the chance of episodes occurring, and getting help in the earliest stages of an episode can stop it from escalating.
Stress at home can worsen the situation and can even trigger an episode of the illness. Talking therapy in which the whole family is helped to find ways of reducing stress, solving problems and communicating more effectively has been shown to help young people with bipolar disorder get better, and stay well.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)
This is another type of talking therapy in which the young person, sometimes with their family, learns to understand the links between their feelings and thoughts and how this affects their behaviour.