Treatment of Bipolar Disorder depends first, of course, on correct diagnosis of the disorder. Many times, unfortunately, Bipolar Disorder is misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), as the manic phase of bipolar closely mimics the symptoms of ADHD. Bipolar Disorder has also been misdiagnosed as schizophrenia, unipolar depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and other mental illnesses, because they share similar symptoms.

Bipolar Disorder has gone under-treated as well, when it co-exists with other psychiatric disorders such as those listed above, because its symptoms may not be noticed, nor seen as separate from these other disorders. In addition, there may be lesser disorders concurrent with Bipolar Disorder, such as anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or sleep disorders, to name a few.

For treatment of bipolar to be maximal once you do have a correct diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, you must also have the correct sub-type of bipolar diagnosed as well, as treatment (such as medications) may differ, depending on which sub-type you have. These sub-types are: Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Cyclothymic, and Bipolar NOS (Not Otherwise Specified).

How is Bipolar Disorder treated?

Treatment Stages: There are two stages of treatment. The first treatment stage of bipolar is the acute phase, where treatment is aimed at ending the current episode. The second treatment stage of bipolar is the preventive phase (sometimes called the maintenance phase), where treatment is continued on a long-term basis, with the goal of preventing future bipolar episodes.

Treatment components are threefold: Medication, education, and psychotherapy. The most important part of any treatment for Bipolar Disorder is medication. Without medication, all other treatment for bipolar will fail. Usually, treatment for Bipolar Disorder will entail the use of multiple medications. These medications will come from three types: mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics. Your psychiatrist and/or doctor will know which drug, or combination of drugs, will work best for your type of Bipolar Disorder.

The second treatment component of bipolar is knowledge (education). It is essential as well, as it empowers you, and helps you to be an active participant in your own management of the disorder. With the appropriate knowledge, you can best tell others how to help you. By being the first to notice early signs of an oncoming episode, for example, you can get help earlier, and also help prevent complications.

The third treatment component of bipolar is psychotherapy, which helps you deal with the symptoms and consequential behaviors associated with Bipolar Disorder. The best way for you to involve your family in treatment of your disorder is to include them in at least one or two of your therapy sessions, especially in the acute phase of your disorder, where personal issues surrounding your bipolar can be discussed and methods of dealing with these problems can be worked out in treatment.

Treatment modalities of bipolar include:
  • Use of prescribed medication (usually multiple drugs)
  • Regular visits to the psychiatrist (who prescribes and manages the medication)
  • Regular visits to a therapist (one-on-one and/or family therapy)
  • Visits to a family care doctor (who does regular blood testing)
  • Self-care management techniques (learned ways to take care of yourself and your Bipolar Disorder)

About the Author

Michele Soloway has dealt with bipolar disorder from a very young age. Her grandmother, mother, herself, and her teenage son all have the disorder. She also lost her sister to suicide because of bipolar disorder. Michele has a blog for bipolar survivors at http://bipolarsurvivor.blogspot.com, and is also a contributing writer to www.bipolarcentral.com.