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Mental Health Services for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by periods of elevated mood (called mania or hypomania depending on severity) and periods of depression. During mania, an individual feels or acts abnormally energetic, happy, or irritable, and often makes poor decisions with little regard for consequences. During depression, the individual can have difficulty making eye contact with others, feel a sense of despair, and have a negative outlook on life. Other mental health issues such as anxiety disorder, drug abuse, and self-harm are frequently associated.


Bipolar disorder requires lifelong treatment, even during periods when you have your symptoms under control. Treatment is usually guided by a psychiatrist skilled in treating the illness. Your treatment team may include psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, and other a mental health services professionals. Primary treatment centers on medication to minimize symptoms and psychological counseling to help you manage your mood swings. A number of different steps might be necessary, depending on the severity of your symptoms. Mental health services potentially used include the following:

  • Hospitalization. Your doctor may have you hospitalized if you are behaving in a way that could cause harm to yourself or others, if you feel suicidal, or if you become detached from reality.
  • Initial treatment. You will often need to begin taking medications to balance out your moods right away. Once your symptoms are under control, you will discuss long-term treatment options with your doctor.
  • Continued treatment. Maintenance treatment is used to manage bipolar disorder on a long-term basis. People who skip maintenance treatment are at high risk of a relapse of symptoms or having minor mood changes turn into full-blown mania or depression.
  • Substance abuse treatment. Bipolar disorder is often associated with alcohol or drug abuse. You may turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to deal with your mood swings. However, it can be very difficult to manage bipolar disorder unless substance abuse problems are eliminated.

The Right Medication for You

Finding the right medication or medications for your particular symptoms will probably take some trial and error. The process will require patience and a commitment to the program, since many medications take weeks to months to take full effect.  In addition, generally only one medication is changed at a time so your doctor can identify which medication is working to relieve your symptoms without causing negative side effects. This can take months or even longer, and medications may need to be adjusted further as your symptoms change.

Mental Health Services

Psychotherapy and other mental health services are an integral component of a treatment plan designed to help you manage your bipolar disorder. These include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. This is a kind of individual therapy commonly used for bipolar disorder. The purpose of the therapy is to identify unhealthy, negative behaviors and internal beliefs and replace them with healthy, positive ones. It can help you figure out what triggers your bipolar episodes, and teach you effective strategies to manage stress and cope with difficult situations.
  • Family therapy. Family therapy involves visiting a psychologist or other mental health services professional along with your family members. It can be beneficial because it can help identify and reduce stress within your family, helping you to prevent bipolar episodes.
  • Group therapy. This kind of therapy focuses on giving you a forum to communicate with and learn from others who are dealing with bipolar disorder. It can provide a good support group, as well as help you develop health relationship skills.
  • Psychoeducation. This is counseling to help you learn about bipolar disorder, and it can help you and your loved ones understand your condition better. Knowing exactly what you are dealing with can help you get the best treatment and help you and your loved ones identify the warning signs of mood swings.
  • Other mental health services. Other therapies that might be effective in your case include early identification and therapy for worsening symptoms and interpersonal and social rhythm therapy to help you resolve problems with your daily routine and relationships. Ask your doctor if any of these mental health services may be helpful for you.
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