People who live with bipolar disorder experience extremes in mood. The condition can be managed with treatment, peer support, and medication.

If you live with bipolar disorder, you may experience extreme shifts in mood that can be overwhelming. These shifts can make it hard to go about your daily activities, engage in work and school, or have healthy romantic relationships without proper treatment.

The mood episodes associated with bipolar disorder can come on suddenly and without much warning. You may also engage in behaviors during these mood shifts that can be harmful to yourself or others.

But treatment is available for bipolar disorder that can help lessen the severity of these shifts in mood.

Bipolar disorder cannot be cured, as it’s a lifelong condition that doesn’t usually go away. But you can manage bipolar disorder appropriately to lessen the effects. If you live with bipolar disorder, there are many treatment options available.

Effective management of bipolar disorder can help shorten mood episodes and reduce relapse of mood shifts. One 2023 study on treatment for bipolar disorder suggests that the main goals of treatment for bipolar disorder are to treat the presenting episodes and lessen the risk of future relapse.

Treatment options for bipolar disorder

If you live with bipolar disorder and are seeking treatment, psychotherapy, and medication are the most commonly recommended forms of treatment.

Research from 2019 suggests that the following types of psychotherapy and interventions have shown some effectiveness in the treatment of bipolar disorder:

  • Psychoeducation: Educational and informative sessions where individuals with bipolar disorder learn more about the condition and how to manage it effectively.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A type of psychotherapy that aims to help you identify thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that lead to maladaptive behaviors and change them to healthier ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
  • Functional family therapy (FFT): A manualized type of psychotherapy in which your family and or primary support is involved with treatment to help improve your relationship functioning.
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT): Another type of manualized psychotherapy where the goal is to improve mood by learning how to regulate social rhythms.
  • Peer support: A type of support for individuals living with bipolar disorder that involves social support in the form of sharing resources and tips for living with bipolar disorder.

Another component of managing bipolar disorder is taking medication. The first-line medication treatment often recommended for bipolar disorder is mood stabilizers.

Common mood stabilizers prescribed for bipolar disorder include:

These are all FDA-approved mood stabilizers that can help treat bipolar disorder.

In addition to mood stabilizers, you may also be prescribed some other types of medications if you’re seeking medication for bipolar disorder.

Other medications you may be prescribed according to 2017 clinical practice guidelines include:

These are often prescribed in combination with a mood stabilizer and can help treat symptoms of bipolar disorder.

If you live with bipolar disorder, there are ways to help yourself manage symptoms of the condition and lessen their effects.

Here are four ways you can help yourself manage bipolar disorder:

1. Get adequate sleep

Sleep disturbances are associated with bipolar disorder, and sleep plays a critical role in mood according to 2019 research. Following a sleep schedule, going to bed, and waking up at the same time can help you follow a sleep routine.

Practicing good sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a calm sleep environment and limiting screens before bed, can help you obtain adequate rest.

2. Manage stress in a healthy way

Bipolar disorder has been linked with high levels of stress, especially during manic mood shifts. Finding hobbies that alleviate stress and provide a sense of relaxation may be helpful tools for dealing with shifts in mood.

3. Maintain a healthy diet

A 2022 review of the literature on diet and symptoms of bipolar disorder found that increasing the following is associated with improved symptoms of bipolar disorder:

  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • folic acid
  • zinc
  • seafood

4. Exercise regularly

A 2023 study on exercise showed that there are some limited benefits of regular exercise in improving the depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder.

The individuals in this study also experienced muscle strength and body composition benefits.

It can be hard to deal with bipolar disorder alone. Knowing when you need to seek the help of a professional or peer is the first step.

Here are some signs you should contact a doctor or your mental health professional:

  • You’re experiencing suicidal thoughts.
  • You’re experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or others.
  • You’re experiencing hallucinations or delusions.
  • You feel hopeless, helpless, or worthless.
  • You’re engaging in behaviors that are harmful and could have negative consequences.
  • You notice changes in eating or sleeping patterns.
  • You’re acting impulsively or recklessly (e.g., driving vehicles recklessly, gambling all your money away, engaging in dangerous behaviors)

While these behaviors may indicate it’s time to seek help, if you’ve been trying to manage bipolar disorder without any support, it can be overwhelming and harmful to the progress of your illness. You can use the FindCare tool to locate a doctor or mental health professional near you for treatment.

If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can:

If you’re experiencing bipolar disorder, there isn’t a cure, but there’s hope that you can find relief from symptoms. Seeking out treatment and support from others can help you manage your mood episodes in a healthier way.

If you’re looking to obtain more support in dealing with bipolar disorder, The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance offers education and support groups for bipolar disorder. You may also find education and support groups at your local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter.

With treatment and support, you can learn to manage and help yourself deal with the mood episodes associated with bipolar disorder. You aren’t alone.