Explains what bipolar disorder is, as well as different diagnoses and treatments. Offers information on how you can support someone with bipolar and tips for self-management.
The two main types of treatment for bipolar disorder are medication and talking therapies.
The exact combination of treatments offered will depend on whether you're managing a current mood episode, or managing your mental health in the longer term.
This page covers:
Your treatment for a bipolar usually depends on what kind of episode you're experiencing.
During depressive episodes:
During manic or hypomanic episodes:
“When my mood dips, CBT helps me to cope to some extent, but it doesn’t really help me get out of this state and it doesn't prevent the mood swings – that’s what my medication does.”
You may need to access crisis services if:
Crisis services may include:
For more information about your options in a crisis, see our pages on crisis services.
Long-term treatment aims to help you maintain stable moods and manage your symptoms. As you start to feel more stable, most of your support could come from a community mental health team or your GP. But your GP should also put you in touch with a mental health specialist.
Health professionals should work with you to help you identify:
If you're receiving a talking therapy, you might set some of these goals with your therapist. You should share these goals with your GP. You may also want to share them with others in your life, such as your family, friends, partner or carer.
“It has been 13 years since I was hospitalised or sectioned, and I've done so well. My medication is working.”
Your doctor might offer one of several talking therapies to help you manage bipolar disorder in the longer term. These could include:
Some of these treatments are more widely available than others. It can also depend on what you and your doctor agree would be most useful for you.
For more information, see our pages on talking therapies.
In the longer term, talking therapies for bipolar disorder can help you to:
“In a lot of ways being so in tune with my brain is very useful; I can often spot a mood shift pretty early on which can help me try to prevent it spiralling out of control.”
Doctors should only consider electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as a treatment option for bipolar disorder in extreme circumstances.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) produces guidelines on best practice in healthcare. It advises that doctors could consider ECT if you meet both of the following criteria:
If you feel like you're in this situation, you should discuss it with your doctor. They must explain ECT in a clear and accessible way before you make any decisions.
This information was published in February 2022. We will revise it in 2025.
References and bibliography available on request.
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