How is Bipolar Disorder Treated?

Bipolar disorder is a medical condition characterized by periods of mania and depression. The term itself actually applies to several different conditions, including Type I disorder, Type II disorder and cyclothymia. Those suffering from cyclothymia may experience mood swings of a less severe variety than other disorder sufferers experience. Type I patients often experience more manic periods than depressive periods, and Type II patients experience more depression than mania. Those diagnosed with any form of the disorder will find that there are several treatment options used by doctors today.

Prescription Drug Treatment

The most common form of treatment for bipolar disorder patients is prescription drug treatment. According to the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), these medications include mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications and antidepressants. Doctors often prescribe antidepressants for those diagnosed with Type II bipolar to help them conquer the symptoms of depression that they experience. Those diagnosed with Type I bipolar may do better with a mood stabilizer or an antipsychotic that helps calm their mania. The NIMH recommends that patients talk with their doctors about any potential side effects before starting the use of one of these medications.


Another type of treatment available for bipolar patients is psychotherapy. Psychotherapy serves to change the way the brain responds to different forms of stimuli and help patients learn more about the disease. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a type of therapy that helps patients learn how to recognize the symptoms of a depressive or manic period and how to change their actions and behaviors during one of those periods. Some doctors may suggest that patients involve their family and friends in their therapy sessions. Loved ones can learn how to handle the stress associated with living with or being around a bipolar person.

Lifestyle Changes

There are a large number of patients looking for alternative treatments that do not require the use of prescription drugs. Some of those patients can get help through simple lifestyle changes. They can learn how to keep track of their symptoms and how to identify the symptoms they experience prior to a major mood swing. Patients may also develop coping mechanisms and stress management techniques that teach them how to handle stressful situations that might lead to a manic or depressive break. Doctors may also recommend that those making lifestyle changes abstain from the use of illegal drugs, some prescription drugs and alcohol.

Finding the Best Treatment

There is no one size fits all approach to treating bipolar disorder. What works well for one patient may not work as well for another. Patients will typically need to try different forms of treatment while working under the guidance of a doctor. Some may try several different prescription drugs and multiple combinations of medications before finding one that calms their symptoms. Others do best with a combination of medication and therapy. Doctors can work with patients, help them monitor their symptoms and determine the best way to treat their version of the disorder.

The treatments used by bipolar patients varies based on their diagnosis. Those suffering from extreme periods of mania may do well with antipsychotics, while those dealing with depression do better with antidepressants. The treatments for bipolar disorder can also include psychotherapy, stress management courses and other lifestyle changes that patients can make at home.