a woman contemplates bipolar treatments

Bipolar Treatments

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that affects the chemistry of the brain. This is a disorder that is usually present at birth, but it may not present symptoms for many years.

Usually bipolar disorder will be triggered by external factors. Once the symptoms of manic and depressive cycles begin to present themselves, treatment will be required for the rest of your life. It is important to be properly diagnosed as soon as possible so an effective treatment plan can be established.


Usually upon diagnosis, a medication treatment will need to be started immediately. After the mood swings have been balanced and other symptoms are under control, a long-term bipolar disorder treatment plan will be established by your doctor. This will include maintenance drugs that will need to be taken indefinitely. If maintenance treatment is not taken seriously, your risk is significantly higher for a relapse into dangerous symptoms and sudden, drastic mood changes. The medications that are usually prescribed for bipolar disorder include:

  • Mood stabilizers – These most commonly include Lithobid (lithium), Depakene (valproic acid), Depakote (divalproex sodium), Tegretol or Equetro (carbamazepine), and Lamictal (lamotrigine). Mood-stabilizing medications are necessary for preventing manic or hypomanic episodes.
  • Antipsychotics – Your doctor may prescribe an antipsychotic along with a mood stabilizer if you are still exhibiting some symptoms of depression or mania. Generally, the antipsychotics prescribed are Zyprexa (olanzapine), Risperdal (risperidone), Seroquel (quetiapine), Abilify (aripiprazole), Geodon (ziprasidone), Latuda (lurasidone), or Saphris (asenapine).
  • Antidepressants – Antidepressants are often prescribed to manage the depression aspect of bipolar disorder. However, these kinds of medications are generally prescribed in conjunction with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic, since antidepressants being used alone are likely to trigger manic episodes in people with bipolar disorder.
  • Antidepressant-antipsychotic – There are some drugs that have been specifically designed to treat depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder. One example is the medication Symbyax, which is a combination of an antidepressant (fluoxetine) and an antipsychotic (olanzapine).
  • Anti-anxiety medications – Sometimes other medications can be prescribed to treat other symptoms of bipolar disorder besides the manic and depressive episodes. Anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines can be very effective in helping with anxiety as well as improving sleep.

Since there are so many medication options for treating bipolar disorder, it will usually take a period of trial and error to find the right combination that works for you. This can become a long process, since it can sometimes take months in order to correctly judge a medication's effectiveness. Patience is important since finding the right medications will be the key to managing your condition.


Commonly, psychotherapy is also recommended for bipolar disorder along with the medication regiment. There are many different types of psychotherapy, and their effectiveness will vary from individual to individual.

The most commonly used form of thherapy used to treat bipolar disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy focuses on improving behaviors and mindsets of individuals who suffer this condition. It can also help with identifying the triggers that cause manic or depressive episodes.

There are other therapies that are viable options as well, such as psychoeducation, which focuses on helping you and your family understand your disorder as much as possible. This can be very helpful for recognizing symptoms and therefore being able to prevent episodes from happening.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy is used in order to achieve a stability and consistent routine for bipolar individuals. This has been shown to significantly help with mood management. 

Last Updated: September 06, 2016