The best bipolar disorder treatment is a combination of medication and counseling sessions. The exact mix of bipolar medication and counseling will vary because bipolar disorder effects people in differently. What works for you may not work for someone else.
Doctors will prescribe one set of drugs to treat the mania symptoms and another set of drugs to treat the depression symptoms. A patient will also receive a mood stabilizer to help maintain a steady mood. One can not take antidepressant drugs alone because it may trigger a manic episode for the depressed person. One example of a mood stabilizer is lithium.
Healthcare professionals have found that most people respond favorably to bipolar medication when taken as prescribed. For others symptoms do not go away even with therapy. However, each end of the mood swing, mania and depression, can lessen and become easier to manage.
For bipolar sufferers that don’t response to traditional therapy or can’t take medications electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a successful method for treating bipolar disorder. ECT works well to treat severe depressive, manic or mixed episodes. It is not a first treatment option.
Treatment during bipolar mania
If you seek a doctor’s help while going through a mania episode, the doctor may prescribe an antipsychotic medication and/or a benzodiazepine. These drugs will work quickly to control some of the bipolar symptoms you might be feeling such as irritability, hyperactivity and sleeplessness. You will also be given a mood stabilizer to prevent mood swings and reduce suicide risk.
Don’t be alarmed if you have to stay in the hospital for a few days while bring your mania under control. This is for your benefit as it helps to reduce your risk for reckless behavior and suicide. It also allows doctors to monitor how you’re responding to treatment.
If the medications do not seem to work for you, the doctor will adjust the drug dosage to find the right balance.
Treatment during bipolar depression
If you need to receiving treatment during a depressive episode in bipolar disorder, this will be more challenging. This is because using an antidepressant alone could cause a manic or hypomanic episode.
Antidepressants can also cause rapid cycling and increased suicidal thoughts. This is why the American Psychiatric Association suggests that doctors use both a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant to treat depressive episodes.
Some bipolar sufferers also try to take the non-drug approach to treating their mood disorder including the use of psychotherapy. Doctors do not feel psychotherapy alone is enough to treat bipolar depression though. Some will only work with patients that are on a medication plan.