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Treating Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder results in extreme mood swings that can greatly disrupt your life. These symptoms may cause you distress. But with treatment, you can lead a more normal life.


Bipolar disorder is often treated with medicines that stabilize moods. They help you feel better by keeping your moods more even, and help prevent future mood swings. Sometimes you may also be prescribed medicines that treat depression or for times when thoughts and emotions are so affected that you lose contact with external reality. Medicines prescribed are based on your symptoms, your response to the medicine, and the type and severity of side effects. Because of that, both the dose and the type of prescribed medicine can change over time. All medicines can have side effects. If you’re troubled by side effects, tell your healthcare provider. Changing the dose or type of your medicine may help. But don’t stop taking medicines or increase or decrease the amount you take until you talk with your healthcare provider. Unplanned medicine changes can cause serious side effects or the return of symptoms.

Closeup of man's hands holding prescription pill and pill bottle.

Talk therapy (psychotherapy)

Talking to a therapist or counselor may be part of your treatment. Having bipolar disorder can make it hard to hold a job or go to school. It can create stress for both you and your loved ones. A therapist can teach you how to cope with bipolar disorder. This can help you lessen manic or depressive episodes, or even prevent them. Your therapist can help you work out problems and heal relationships. He or she can also provide support when you need it most.

Friends and family

Those closest to you may also need support. There are many groups for families of people with bipolar disorder. Learning more about this disorder can help your loved ones cope. It can also help them take an active role in your care.

Looking ahead

People with bipolar disorder have periods with no symptoms and can function successfully in a variety of settings. But it is a chronic illness that requires lifetime care. Just as with heart conditions or diabetes, bipolar symptoms can return or treatments many need to be changed. Ongoing professional support is key to effective long-term management. Much research is being done on bipolar disorder. This research may lead to improved treatments and hope for a better future.

To learn more

  • National Institute of Mental Health   866-615-6464

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness   800-950-6264

  • Mental Health America  800-969-6642

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2020
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