Bipolar Disorder Treatment and Support

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on March 13, 2024
3 min read

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, doctors, and therapists.

Doctors almost always prescribe medication for people with bipolar disorder. So your first step is to seek out a professional who has experience treating the condition. In most cases, this will be a psychiatrist. It is also important that you talk with your primary health care provider about any mental health issues and medications. 

Find someone 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.

Your recovery will be stronger if you take an active role in your care. Before an appointment, read about bipolar disorder and its treatment. Go in with questions.

Some people hesitate to go to a doctor because they're afraid they’ll be forced to take medication. Unless you're putting yourself in danger, that won't happen. Your doctor will advise you, and together you will look at treatment options.

Whatever you decide, it’s not a good idea to put off getting help. Untreated bipolar disorder could get worse.

On its own, talking with a therapist isn't enough to control bipolar disorder, especially during episodes of mania or depression. But along with medication, it can play a key role in your recovery and treatment.

Bipolar disorder is more than the symptoms you have during a mood episode. It affects many parts of your life. A therapist can help you:

  • Work on your relationships with family, friends, and co-workers
  • Find good ways to manage stress
  • Solve problems at school or work
  • Stick to your bipolar treatment and live a healthy life
  • Get a new perspective on your situation
  • Learn ways to talk to other people about your bipolar disorder
  • Avoid situations that may trigger a manic or depressive episode, such as too little sleep or drug and alcohol use
  • Make a plan for what to do if you become depressed or manic

In addition to one-on-one therapy for bipolar disorder, you might want to try couples counseling or family therapy, depending on your situation.

You should find a qualified therapist, preferably one who knows a lot about mood disorders and has experience treating them. Ask your doctor 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).

Bipolar disorder can make you feel isolated. Although friends and family members care about you, they may not understand what you're going through. Some of them may be more critical than supportive.

That's one reason to think about joining a support group for people who have the disorder. It feels better to meet people who are in your position -- living with the same symptoms, frustrations, and worries. They might also have good suggestions for living with bipolar disorder, such as ways to manage side effects or talk to others about the condition.

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

There’s no proof that alternative therapies help with bipolar disorder. If you're interested in trying one, talk to your doctor. There’s no harm in trying things like massage or meditation, which don't have any risks.

But be careful with other remedies, such as herbs or supplements. Some can keep the medications you take from working well. Never start taking anything without asking your doctor about it first.