Treatments for bipolar disorder

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) produce guidelines on best practice in healthcare. They suggest the best treatment for bipolar disorder is talking treatments and medication.

Talking therapies for bipolar disorder

There are several different types of talking therapies specifically designed for bipolar disorder. You may be offered:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you manage your symptoms by changing your thoughts and behaviours
  • Interpersonal therapy to focus on you and your relationships with other people

They can be individual or group therapies. The therapy aims to help keep you from becoming unwell again by:

  • Understanding your bipolar disorder
  • Thinking about the effects that thoughts and behaviours have on your mood
  • Monitoring your mood, thoughts and behaviours
  • Making plans to stay well and plans for if you start to become unwell
  • Helping you to be aware of how you communicate, and deal with any problems
  • Helping you to manage difficulties in day-to-day life

You may be offered family focused therapy if you live with or are in close contact with your family, or behavioural couples’ therapy if you live with your partner. This is where you work with mental health professionals and your family or partner to help manage relationships.

Medication for bipolar disorder

The medication offered to help manage bipolar disorder will depend on your current and past symptoms as well as your physical health.

Mood stabilisers may be used to help manage mania, hypomania and depressive symptoms.

For mania or hypomania, the medication is sometimes referred to as ‘antimanic’ medication. Sometimes you may be offered anti-psychotic medications to begin with such as:

  • Haloperidol
  • Olanzapine
  • Quetiapine
  • Risperidone

For depressive episodes you may be offered:

  • Fluoxetine with olanzapine
  • Quetiapine
  • Olazanapine
  • Lamotrigine
  • Lithium
  • Sodium valproate

You may also be offered lithium and/or sodium valproate. You can work alongside your doctor to find out which combinations and dosages of medication work best for you. Your personal preferences should be listened to. With any bipolar medication, you should have regular health check-ups.

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