Bipolar Disorder Treatment

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

National Institute of Mental Health statistics show that around 2.8 percent of American adults were diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the last 12 months. Approximately 4.4 percent of US adults receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder during their lives. And if you take a closer look at the numbers, the degree of impairment among people with bipolar disorder ranges from moderate to serious.


Over 80 percent of adults with the condition struggled with serious impairment, which is the highest percentage among mood disorders. That means most people with the disorder have trouble maintaining everyday functions like going to work or socializing with others. But it’s not enough to cite statistics; we need to think about solutions, too. So, to understand how people with bipolar disorder can get better, let’s discuss different treatment options.


According to the American Psychiatric Association, bipolar disorders make up a category of disorders that are characterized by changes in mood, behavior, and energy levels. The three diagnoses in the category are bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder.


Having bipolar disorder means that you go through intense emotional states that last between a few days and weeks. You’ll also go through periods of neutral mood, but stressful events can trigger a mood episode. Fortunately, the right treatment can help lead a productive and happy life.


Keep in mind that fluctuations in mood are a normal part of the human experience. The difference between a mood change and a mood episode is that an episode can last for days. Additionally, you experience extreme behavioral changes and have trouble sticking to a routine or managing social interactions.

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Depressive Episode

During bipolar depression, you may encounter symptoms that make it difficult to function in day-to-day life. These include:

  • Low mood: You feel hopeless and sad. In children or teenagers, this symptom can manifest as irritability.
  • Loss of pleasure: You no longer show interest in any activities. Even things you previously considered enjoyable fail to bring pleasure.
  • Marked weight gain or weight loss (despite not being on a diet): You experience an increase or decrease in appetite, which leads to a change in weight. In children, the inability to gain weight can indicate a depressive episode.
  • Sleep disturbances: You start sleeping too much (hypersomnia) or too little (insomnia)
  • Psychomotor retardation or restlessness
  • Fatigue: You have low energy levels, which can prevent you from doing even the simplest of tasks
  • Feeling worthless: You blame yourself and feel guilty for being unable to perform.
  • Low concentration and indecisiveness
  • Suicidal ideation: Thinking about death, planning to commit suicide, or attempting suicide.

These symptoms are the same as those for major depressive disorder. A depressive episode is the first sign of bipolar disorder in about 75 percent of women with the condition. Because depressive symptoms are dominant in women with bipolar disorder, mental health professionals end up misdiagnosing them with depressive mood disorders.

Manic and Hypomanic Episodes

Manic and Hypomanic Episodes

Although you’ll experience different episodes with bipolar I as opposed to bipolar II, mania and hypomania share the same symptoms.
You’ll need to show at least three of the following symptoms for a manic or hypomanic episode.

  • Excessive feelings of happiness or joy
  • A marked increase in activity
  • Exaggerated feelings of self-confidence
  • Feeling like you don't need sleep
  • Talking faster than you usually do
  • Experiencing a rush of ideas due to racing thoughts
  • Easily distracted
  • Impulsive behavior: Examples include going on a shopping spree or engaging in risky behavior

The difference between bipolar I and bipolar II is that mania can cause notable issues in functioning and relationships. Moreover, mania can increase your risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms and needing hospitalization. In terms of time, a hypomanic episode only lasts up to four consecutive days instead of an entire week.

Mixed Episodes


In most cases, people have distinct episodes of depressive or manic symptoms. However, it’s also possible to experience mixed episodes, during which you show high mood with some depressive symptoms. Studies indicate that such episodes occur more frequently among females with bipolar disorder.


Similarly, women have a higher chance of experiencing rapid cycling. This is when your mood changes very quickly in a short time period. Research shows that approximately 30 percent of women with bipolar disorder go through rapid cycling.

Cyclothymic Disorder


The third diagnosis in the category, it’s a milder variation of bipolar disorder that involves frequent mood swings. Having cyclothymic disorder means that you go through emotional ups and downs, but symptoms are less severe than usual manic, hypomanic, or depressive episodes.


For a cyclothymia diagnosis, you need to show hypomanic and depressive symptoms for at least two years. However, these symptoms shouldn’t meet the criteria for bipolar I or bipolar II disorder. The symptoms should account for no less than half of the two-year period. If symptoms stop, it shouldn’t be for more than two months,

Treating Bipolar Disorder

Treating Bipolar Disorder

Just like with other mental disorders, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treating bipolar disorder. The best methodology is to consider your personal experience with the condition and alleviate the symptoms. Depending on the mental health center, you’ll have to complete a treatment plan, which usually includes the following:


One of the first steps that your psychiatrist will take to help you get better is to prescribe medication. This is important for managing symptoms in the short term, so you’re more receptive to therapy.

Evidence-Based Therapy

Long-term therapy can involve different approaches, such as CBT, DBT, or family-focused therapy. At URP Behavioral Health, a range of treatments is available to ensure that each patient benefits from therapy sessions. Your psychiatrist and physician will prescribe therapies based on whether you have bipolar I or bipolar II.

Complementary Treatments


In addition to evidence-based treatments, you can engage in alternative therapies that improve your sense of well-being. The purpose of these therapies is to increase relaxation and promote better mental health. They can include:



  • Exercise: Research indicates that exercise can increase the release of feel-good chemicals in the body. Not to mention, it’s a great way to expend the extra energy you get during a manic episode, which allows you to get enough restful sleep.


Other alternative treatments include therapeutic massage and acupuncture, which are effective for pain relief and increased energy levels.


Inpatient Treatment Program


When you seek professional help for bipolar disorder, it’s likely that you’ll have two options: outpatient and inpatient treatment programs. At URP Behavioral Health, you can enroll in a residential treatment program that’s designed to improve your coping skills and manage symptoms to lead an independent life.


Mental health experts recommend an inpatient program for people who have trouble functioning due to the intensity of their symptoms. During inpatient care, you receive constant professional support and encouragement in a comfortable environment that’s conducive to recovery.

Residential Treatment Program for Bipolar Disorder

The residential treatment program is based on a holistic approach, which focuses on improving all aspects of your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. The United Recovery Project has an interdisciplinary team of physicians, psychiatrists, therapists, and registered nurses.


The Treatment Process


After you undergo a psychiatric and medical evaluation, the team will prepare an individualized treatment plan that’s suited to your specific needs. You can expect it to include the following:

  • Individual and group-based psychotherapy
  • Family-focused therapy and psychoeducation
  • Medication management counseling
  • Nutritional counseling and exercise
  • Evidence-based treatments to learn coping strategies
  • Alternative treatments to complement your treatment plan
  • Educational support to help you achieve financial independence 
  • Life skill training such as communication, vocational, and anger management 

At a residential treatment program, you can access a number of amenities and recreational activities as well. This way, you heal in a comfortable and private space that prevents exposure to harmful triggers.

Treatment in Children and Teenagers


If your child experiences major changes in mood and behavior, they may have bipolar disorder. Common signs of the condition in children include


  • disproportionate feelings of excitement and irritability compared to other children


  • extreme changes in mood and behavior


  • low performance at school due to symptoms


Fortunately, your child can get better with professional help. A mental health expert can devise a suitable treatment plan based on your child’s needs. Typically, treatment involves:

Atypical Antipsychotics

Some people with bipolar disorder develop psychotic symptoms during a manic or depressive episode. Atypical antipsychotic medication, also known as second-generation antipsychotics, can help alleviate symptoms like hallucinations and delusions while causing fewer side effects.


In some situations, your psychiatrist may prescribe antidepressants to alleviate the symptoms of a depressive episode. However, they also prescribe a mood stabilizer since taking antidepressants alone can risk triggering a manic episode.

Mood Stabilizers

This medication is used to prevent mood swings and reduce the intensity of a manic or depressive episode. Most psychiatrists prescribe mood stabilizers, but these can take a couple of weeks to start working. They work by altering levels of neurotransmitters that lead to mood disturbances.

Side Effects of Medication for Bipolar Disorder

Depending on the medication your psychiatrist prescribes, you can expect to experience certain side effects. For instance, mood-stabilizing medication can lead to side effects like drowsiness, fatigue, frequent urination, and trembling in the hands.


Atypical antipsychotics can cause side effects like seizures, blurred vision, agitation, and dry mouth. Potential side effects of antidepressants include restlessness, nausea, nervousness, and loss of appetite.

Types of Therapy to Treat Bipolar Disorder

As mentioned above, a typical treatment plan for bipolar disorder involves a combination of medication and therapy for the best results. At URP Behavioral Health, we provide the following evidence-based therapies to help manage bipolar disorder.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is an evidence-based technique that’s effective for bipolar disorder treatment. You’ll work with your therapist to learn which negative thoughts cause you to experience further emotional distress. By addressing these thoughts, you avoid engaging in harmful behavior.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Your therapist may suggest dialectical behavioral therapy if you experience intense emotions, which is common in bipolar disorder. It helps you regulate emotions, avoid engaging in negative coping behaviors, and makes you less susceptible to strong emotions.

Family-Focused Therapy

This evidence-based technique is suitable for adults and children with bipolar disorder and is provided along with pharmacotherapy. During family-focused therapy, a mental health professional will conduct sessions with you and your family. Components include building problem-solving skills, improving communication, and psychoeducating family members about your illness.

Nonverbal Therapies

When you develop bipolar disorder as a result of stressful or traumatic events, your verbal recollection of experiences can be limited. It’s why therapists recommend nonverbal approaches like art therapy, which involves creating artwork to express feelings, process conflicts, and build self-awareness. There’s also music therapy, which can relieve symptoms and help with emotional regulation.


In addition to the above-mentioned therapies, our experts take a trauma-informed approach to healing. There is evidence that traumatic events play a role in the development of bipolar disorder. It’s why our therapists and psychiatrists consider the effects of that experience on your mental health when preparing an individualized treatment plan.

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FAQ for Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Here are some of the commonly asked questions about bipolar disorder treatment.

In addition to attending therapy sessions and taking medication for your condition, you can implement the following lifestyle changes:


  • Stick to a daily schedule to control your mood.
  • Focus on your sleep patterns to determine whether you’re experiencing a manic or depressive episode. Make sure you sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Get some exercise every day.
  • Reduce your intake of processed foods that contain excess sugar or salt. Choose whole grains, lean protein, vegetables, and fruits, instead.

The main difference between both conditions is that one is a mood disorder while the other is a personality disorder. In bipolar disorder, you have specific episodes of manic or depressive symptoms. In contrast, having borderline personality disorder means that you show disproportionate emotional responses to life events. As a result, you experience abrupt changes in relationships, behavior, self-image, and mood.

The APA decided to replace the term ‘manic-depressive’ with bipolar disorder. One of the reasons was to help patients with the condition avoid stigma and labels such as ‘maniac.’ Another reason is that the previous term only focused on emotional symptoms and excluded the hypomanic and cyclothymic variants of the condition.

The most common trigger is a major or minor stressful life event. Examples of major stressors include a medical emergency or the loss of a loved one, while minor stressors can include having a bad day at work. Additionally, relationship problems, a lack of sleep, and substance use can trigger mood swings. It’s why therapists recommend sleeping and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding substances, and talking to them about issues in your relationships.

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