Anyone with bipolar disorder should be under the care of a psychiatrist skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of this disease. Other mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatric social workers, and psychiatric nurses, can assist in providing the person and family with additional approaches to treatment.

Help can be found at:

University-or medical school-affiliated programs Hospital departments of psychiatry Private psychiatric offices and clinics Health maintenance organizations (HMOs) Offices of family physicians, internists, and paediatricians Public community mental health centers

People with bipolar disorder may need help to get help.

Often people with bipolar disorder do not realize how impaired they are, or they blame their problems on some cause other than mental illness.

A person with bipolar disorder may need strong encouragement from family and friends to seek treatment. Family physicians can play an important role in providing referral to a mental health professional.

Sometimes a family member or friend may need to take the person with bipolar disorder for proper mental health evaluation and treatment.

A person who is in the midst of a severe episode may need to be hospitalized for his or her own protection and for much-needed treatment. There may be times when the person must be hospitalized against his or her wishes.

Ongoing encouragement and support are needed after a person obtains treatment, because it may take a while to find the best treatment plan for each individual.

In some cases, individuals with bipolar disorder may agree, when the disorder is under good control, to a preferred course of action in the event of a future manic or depressive relapse.

Like other serious illnesses, bipolar disorder is also hard on spouses, family members, friends, and employers.

Family members of someone with bipolar disorder often have to cope with the person's serious behavioral problems, such as wild spending sprees during mania or extreme withdrawal from others during depression, and the lasting consequences of these behaviors.

Many people with bipolar disorder benefit from joining support groups such as those sponsored by the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (NDMDA), the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), and the National Mental Health Association (NMHA). Families and friends can also benefit from support groups offered by these organizations.

This article has been provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, 04/09/2004