What are the Different Types of Bipolar Disorder Therapy?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 11 May 2018
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Bipolar disorder therapy can involve psychotherapy, hospitalization, and the use of medications to manage a patient's bipolar disorder. This mental health condition will be present for the entirety of a patient's life and part of treatment involves regular follow-up appointments to see how well a patient is responding to therapy and to adjust the treatment as necessary. Assessment of treatment can be challenging because patients naturally experience cycles in their mental state as part of the disorder, making it hard to determine whether changes in mood are natural or the result of therapy.

There are several different forms of bipolar disorder. In general, people with this condition experience periods of highs and lows that are more extreme than those felt among the general population. People once called this condition “manic depression” to describe the most extreme form, where people experience mania, periods of stability, and periods of severe depression. In more mild forms the mood extremes may be less intense.

One important aspect of bipolar disorder therapy is the use of medications. Many patients take mood stabilizers to prevent the onset of mania or depression. Lithium is a common maintenance medication. Patients may take atypical antipsychotics, antidepressants, and seizure medications at various points to control their emotional states as part of bipolar disorder therapy. A doctor can determine an appropriate drug and dose for a patient on the basis of her symptoms.


In some cases, a patient with bipolar disorder experiences a severe episode and poses a risk to himself or others. Doctors may recommend temporary hospitalization to stabilize the patient in a safe environment where he has an opportunity to work through issues with the assistance of counselors and mental health professionals. The goal of hospitalization is to help patients through severe episodes so they can become stable enough to transition to outpatient treatment, allowing them to resume their lives.

Some patients find psychotherapy helpful along with medications. In psychotherapy sessions, patients can talk about issues and concerns in their lives and work with a counselor on developing coping and life skills. Sometimes, this bipolar disorder therapy can help people address the early onset of mania or depression to head it off before it develops into a full-blown episode.

Another form of bipolar disorder therapy available to some patients is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This treatment for mental health conditions has a bad reputation in some regions due to a history of abuse, but it can be helpful for the management of certain conditions when doctors use it appropriately. Patients can discuss this option with their doctors to see if they are good candidates and learn more about the risks and benefits. One potentially serious issue to consider is the potential for memory loss.



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