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One Year Medication-Free with Bipolar Disorder

Although he doesn’t recommend it for others, Philip over at Furious Seasons describes what kind of year it’s been since he’s been off of his medications for bipolar disorder:

I’m comfortable saying that if I were going to crash and burn and wind up back at square one, it likely would’ve happened by now. Things haven’t been perfect–there was a bout of depression/seasonal affective disorder a few months back, and my metabolism went haywire after I got off Lamictal and I put on 20 pounds–but I did come through an extremely cold, gray winter (one of the worst ever in Seattle), have been under loads of professional and life stresses and so on. And, yet, things are pretty good.

This isn’t supposed to be happening, not by the standards of medicine and psychiatry. Bipolar disorder is a lifetime diagnosis and you take medications pretty much forever. If you don’t follow through, you are dangerous, a person best kept at arm’s length by one and all.

I know I am lucky, but luck only accounts for so much. The rest is all questions: Did I ever have bipolar disorder? Was my initial diagnosis wrong? Am I a false positive? Did I cure myself? Am I simply a bipolar who does well without meds? Am I in a lengthy remission that will crumple on me someday? Is the diagnosis of bipolar disorder bullshit to begin with? Does the disorder ebb with time? Or am I just a medical freak show, the lone exception that proves the rule?

In his followup post, he describes what led to his decision to try his psychiatrist’s advice to get off of medications altogether, after trying a number of combinations of medications that didn’t seem to be helping him all that much.

I don’t think bipolar disorder has to be a “lifetime diagnosis” — people can and do get better with it over time. And while I don’t think going off of meds for bipolar is for anyone to try on their own (Philip did it with his psychiatrist’s help), it may be something to discuss with your doctor if you feel like you’ve hit a treatment wall. The problem with medication compliance in bipolar disorder is primarily when a person is in a manic phase and feels like they no longer need the medication, and discontinue it on their own, without consulting their psychiatrist or doctor.

The conventional wisdom is that for someone to be successfully treated with bipolar disorder, they must be on medication for a very long time. Sometimes the conventional wisdom is wrong.

Congratulations, Philip! We hope you have many more fruitful years to come.

Read the first post: Losing my religion
Read the followup post: How I got off meds

One Year Medication-Free with Bipolar Disorder

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). One Year Medication-Free with Bipolar Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 23 Jul 2008)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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