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What to know about bipolar disorder treatment

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Medication is the key treatment for bipolar disorder. Therapy and lifestyle changes can also help you manage your symptoms. 
Medically reviewed by Nicole Washington, DO, MPH
Written by Uxshely Carcamo
Updated on

Bipolar disorder treatment often involves a mix of strategies, including medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes.

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, and symptoms will likely come and go throughout your life. But, with the right treatment, you can manage your symptoms and improve the way you feel.

There are three main types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymia. Treatment aims to improve extreme mood shifts, such as depression, mania, and hypomania.


A person gesturing with their hands during a group therapy session
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Healthcare professionals prescribe medication to people living with bipolar disorder to manage their symptoms. With the support of a healthcare professional, you may try a few different medications to find out which one works best.  

In no particular order, these are five medication options.

1. Lithium

Lithium (Lithobid) is a medication that can help stabilize your mood. Doctors often prefer this option for managing bipolar disorder symptoms.

Lithium can help you manage manic and depressive episodes. If a person is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it may offer prevention.

You will likely work with your healthcare professional to monitor your use of this medication. You may have regular blood tests to check your lithium levels. 

The American Psychological Association advises that they will likely monitor your thyroid levels and kidneys when taking this medication. 

2. Antipsychotics

Antipsychotics can help manage episodes of mania and stabilize your mood. You may start on a low dose of this medication as it can have side effects, such as blurred vision.  

Some common antipsychotics for managing bipolar disorder are: 

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3. Anticonvulsants 

Anticonvulsant medications are common in epilepsy treatment, but can also help with bipolar disorder.

These medications help stabilize mood and may help with manic episodes too. A healthcare professional may prescribe an anticonvulsant alone or alongside lithium.

Some common anticonvulsants that can help manage bipolar disorder are: 

4. Antidepressants

Your healthcare professional may offer you antidepressant medication alongside a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic. Sometimes, they offer a medication that combines both an antidepressant and an antipsychotic to improve and stabilize your mood.

For some people, antidepressants are not suitable as they can trigger manic episodes and worsen some symptoms of bipolar disorder. 

5. Anti-anxiety medication

Benzodiazepines are medications used to manage anxiety. Anxiety medication is not a standard treatment for bipolar disorder. A person may use this medication short term if there is a need to quickly manage a manic episode. 

Medication summary

The American Psychiatric Association advises that you’ll likely have to keep taking bipolar medication long term — including during periods when you don’t have any symptoms.

Some of these medications may not be suitable for certain periods of your life, such as during pregnancy or nursing. It can be helpful to monitor your medication with your healthcare professional. 


Alongside medication, you may want to consult a therapist to get support for bipolar disorder.

Several types of talking therapy can help you with bipolar disorder: 

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT can help you understand and manage your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It can help you learn coping tools and understand what activates your mood shifts. Sometimes, an adapted form of CBT for insomnia is helpful.
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT): IPSRT can help you build helpful routines, such as work and sleep routines. Evidence suggests this type of therapy can improve bipolar disorder symptoms and improve daily life. 
  • Family-focused therapy (FFT): FFT is a type of therapy that teaches your family about bipolar disorder. It allows you to work together with your loved ones to manage changes in your mood.
  • Psychoeducation: Psychoeducation allows you to learn about your condition. What you learn can help you notice and then deal with the early signs of depressive or manic episodes. 

Therapy services like BetterhelpFindAPro, and Talkspace can connect you with a therapist. 


Making small changes to your lifestyle may also help you manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health suggests the following lifestyle strategies:

  • Building routines so that you have regular mealtimes and a regular sleeping schedule. 
  • Doing regular vigorous exercise, such as cycling, swimming, or running, improves your mood and sleep quality.
  • Developing a treatment plan with your healthcare professional and building a support network of friends and family to help you stick to this plan. 
  • Tracking how you are feeling, so you can spot any changes in your mood sooner. 

Eating a healthy and balanced diet may also improve symptoms of bipolar disorder. 


With treatment, you can effectively manage bipolar disorder and lead a happy and fulfilling life. Medication is often the key treatment for bipolar disorder, but therapy and lifestyle changes may also help you manage the condition. Your healthcare professional can help you find the right treatment for you.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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