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Bipolar Disorder - Treatment Overview

Bipolar disorder is treated with a combination of medicines and counseling. It's important to take your medicines exactly as prescribed, even when you feel well. Your doctor may have you try different combinations of medicines to find what's right for you.

Your family doctor can prescribe medicines to treat bipolar disorder. But you will probably be referred to a psychiatrist, who is trained specifically to treat mental disorders.

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Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder with distinct periods of extreme euphoria and energy (mania) and sadness or hopelessness (depression). It's also known as manic depression or manic depressive disorder. Bipolar disorder occurs with similar frequency in men and women. But there are some differences between the sexes in the way the condition is experienced. For example, a woman is likely to have more symptoms of depression than mania. And female hormones and reproductive factors may influence the...

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Many people don't get help for bipolar disorder. You may not seek treatment because you think the symptoms aren't bad enough or that you can work things out on your own. But treatment can help you manage the highs and lows.

If you need help deciding whether to see your doctor, see some reasons why people don't get help and how to overcome them.

Your treatment plan

Treatment often starts with helping you through an "acute" phase or manic episode. You may be suicidal or psychotic or using such poor judgment that you are in danger of harming yourself. Your doctor may decide that you should be hospitalized for your own safety, especially if he or she thinks you are suicidal.

Medicines

Medicines that may be used include mood stabilizers and antipsychotics. Over time, these medicines will be adjusted with the goal of preventing manic and depressive episodes. It may take months for your symptoms to go away and for you to be able to maintain a normal routine of work and activity. To learn more, see Medications.

Counseling

Counseling is also an important part of treatment. It can help you cope with problems that may come up in your work or relationships because of bipolar disorder. To learn more, see Other Treatment.

Self-care

You can also do some things on your own to help manage your symptoms and maintain a normal routine. Joining a support group to talk with others who have bipolar disorder can help. To learn more, see Home Treatment.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 03, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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