Bipolar Disorder Treatment and Support

Bipolar disorder is not a condition that you can tackle on your own. You need the help and support of a lot of people -- your family, your friends, and especially your health care providers.

Medical Care for Bipolar Disorder

Medication is almost always prescribed for people with bipolar disorder. So, your first step is to seek out a health care provider who has expertise in treating bipolar disorder. In most cases, this would be a psychiatrist.

Find someone whom you like and trust. Since you'll be seeing a lot of each other -- at least at first -- it's important to have a good working partnership. If you don't feel comfortable around your doctor, you might not be open about symptoms or side effects of your medication.

Don't be a passive patient. Taking an active role helps in your recovery. Before an appointment, read about bipolar disorder and its treatment. Go in with questions.

Some people are hesitant to go to a doctor because they're afraid of being forced to take medication. unless you're imminently endangering your safety, that won't happen; your doctor won't make you do anything. He or she will advise you, and together you will look at available treatment options.

Whatever you decide, delaying a discussion with a doctor isn't a good idea. We know that untreated bipolar disorder is likely to get worse.

Talk Therapy for Bipolar Disorder

On its own, talk therapy with a therapist isn't enough to control bipolar disorder, especially during episodes of mania or depression. But along with bipolar medication, it can play a key role in your recovery and ongoing treatment. The effects of bipolar disorder go well beyond the direct symptoms of a mood episode. A therapist can help you:

  • Work on your relationships with family, friends, and co-workers
  • Find ways to manage stress more effectively
  • Resolve problems at school or work
  • Stick to your bipolar treatment and live a healthy life
  • See your situation from a new perspective
  • Learn ways to talk to other people about your bipolar disorder
  • Identify and avoid situations that may trigger a manic or depressive episode, such as sleep deprivation or drug and alcohol use
  • Make a plan for what to do if you become depressed or manic
  • Combat stigma surrounding mental illness

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In addition to personal therapy for bipolar disorder, it is sometimes helpful to try couple's counseling or family therapy, depending on your situation.

You should find a qualified therapist -- usually a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, psychiatric nurse, or counselor -- preferably one who is highly experienced and knowledgeable about mood disorders. Ask your health care provider for recommendations. Or get in touch with an organization like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).

Support Groups for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a condition that can make you feel isolated. Friends and family members just may not understand what you're going through. They may be more critical than supportive.

That's one reason to think about joining a support group for bipolar disorder. Meeting people who are in your position -- coping with the same bipolar disorder symptoms, frustrations, and fears -- can help you feel better. Other people who have bipolar disorder might also have good suggestions for living with the condition, such as ways to manage side effects or confront stigma.

If you're interested in joining a support group, ask your health care provider about organizations in the area, or contact NAMI or the DBSA.

Alternative Therapies for Bipolar Disorder

No kind of alternative therapy, like an herb or supplement, has been clearly established to help with bipolar disorder. If you're interested in trying one, however, talk to your health care provider. Certainly, there's no harm in trying unproven approaches like massage or meditation, which don't have risks.

But be cautious with other treatments for bipolar disorder, such as herbal remedies or supplements. Some can interact with medications you take. Never start taking an herb or supplement without your health care provider's approval.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on August 12, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth edition, Text Revision. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2000. The Nations Voice on Mental Illness. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA). American Psychiatric Association. National Institute of Mental Health. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Bipolar Disorder, 2002. WebMD Medical Reference in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: Bipolar Disorder. Muller-Oerlinghausen, B. Lancet, Jan. 19, 2002. Kaufman, K. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry. June, 2003. Compton, M. Depression and Bipolar Disorder, ACP Medicine.

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