There is no cure for bipolar disorder. However, bipolar disorder can be effectively treated. The best treatment for people who have bipolar disorder is a combination of medication and counseling.
Medication types currently used to treat bipolar disorder include mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, and antidepressants.
People with bipolar disorder who also have symptoms of anxiety (such as worrying, not sleeping, or having difficulty concentrating), panic attacks, or symptoms of psychosis may need additional medications to treat those conditions.
If you have predictable episodes of depression or mania and your mood changes are mild, you can usually be treated without being admitted to a hospital. If you have very extreme or unpredictable mood changes, thoughts of suicide, extremely reckless or violent behavior, or other conditions (such as symptoms of psychosis), you may need hospital treatment.
If medication and counseling do not improve your symptoms, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be an option. ECT has been used successfully to treat depression and other mood disorders in individuals who have not responded to other forms of treatment.
Counseling is an important part of treatment for people who have bipolar disorder. Some types of counseling used to treat bipolar disorder include cognitive behavior therapy, interpersonal therapy, problem solving, and family therapy.
What to Think About
There has been a great deal of research conducted recently on medication therapy for treating bipolar disorder. There are now several approved treatments for manic episodes that occur in bipolar disorder that use existing medications, including anticonvulsants (such as valproate) and antipsychotics (such as olanzapine). Research into the treatment of children with bipolar disorder has brought attention to several new uses of old antipsychotics (such as olanzapine and risperidone) as well. You and your doctor(s) should discuss the medication options and then decide which treatment(s) may work best for you.
When you and your doctor are considering your medication therapy, evaluate your lifestyle and your ability to take your medications on time every day. You may want to try a medication that you only have to take once a day if it is difficult for you to remember to take medications.
The side effects of the medications should also be considered. You may be able to tolerate some of the side effects more than others. Discuss the side effects of each medication with your doctor as you discuss your treatment options.
Be aware that overuse of antidepressants has been linked to an increase in manic episodes. Antidepressant treatment needs to be monitored closely and used in combination with other drugs (such as mood stabilizers or antipsychotics). In fact, many doctors choose to treat patients with a mood stabilizer alone or treat with combination therapy (mood stabilizers in combination with an antidepressant) since using an antidepressant alone has been linked to producing manic episodes and worsening rapid-cycling.