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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. 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.
  • Reduce stress.
  • 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.

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).

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