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Support groups for bipolar disorder can help you feel understood and connected.

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Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition that’s generally treated through a combination of medication and therapy.

According to the World Health Organization, bipolar disorder affects about 45 million people worldwide. Plus, it’s estimated that 2.8% of U.S. adults experience bipolar disorder annually.

Still, even though the condition affects millions of people worldwide, you may initially feel alone or overwhelmed after having been diagnosed. Here’s where peer-to-peer support can help.

In addition to helping you connect with others, researchers have found that support groups give you the opportunity to share your personal story and give or receive strategies for coping with your day-to-day challenges.

To find the best online support groups, we reviewed dozens of sites, looking at the following:

  • Professional guidance. Many forums aren’t actively moderated. We only included ones that had some degree of moderation, whether it be by a peer or a professional.
  • Expertise. We looked for national organizations that either had a specific bipolar disorder option or a local option.
  • Price. We included options that we believe offer affordable solutions, as well as several free options to fit a variety of budgets.

Best overall

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)

Cost: free

DBSA offers support groups led by peers who live with bipolar disorder. In these groups, you can share your experiences with others, discuss coping skills, and support one another. There are national online groups, as well as local ones that will accept participants from around the United States.

In addition to their general support groups, DBSA also offers specific groups geared toward young adults, military veterans, People of Color, and people who are also diagnosed with substance use disorders. Family, friends, and caregivers have a separate support group.

What we like

  • There are a variety of groups, allowing you to connect with others who have similar life experiences.
  • You can live anywhere in the United States and join a local or national group.
  • You don’t have to participate by webcam and can instead join by voice only.
  • There’s at least one meeting per day.
  • Their online support groups have increased in popularity recently, so they’re constantly adding new groups.

What to look out for

  • Groups aren’t specifically for bipolar disorder, so they may also contain people living with depression.
  • These groups won’t replace professional help, nor can the leaders diagnose or treat bipolar disorder.

Best for 24/7 Support

Inspire by Mental Health America (MHA)

Cost: free

Regardless of the hour or day, you’re likely to find someone available to chat and offer support in MHA’s support community Inspire, making you feel less alone. As a member, you can “friend” and message other members, as well as participate in discussion feeds in your specific community.

Each group, or community as they’re called, features 24/7 moderators who review all comments, removing any that aren’t kind or supportive.

What we like

  • You don’t have to wait for a specific meeting time to get support.
  • There are patient advocacy partners who can offer you expert support related to bipolar disorder.

What to look out for

  • The support is via chat, not voice. If you’re a slow typist or chatting with someone who types slowly, the back-and forth might take a while.

Best for chatting

7 Cups

Cost: free for most services, $150 per month for online therapy and counseling (for ages 18 years and older)

While 7 Cups does offer virtual communities and support groups, what we like most about the service are the one-on-one chats with trained listeners. These listeners are people who have completed 7 Cups’s training course and volunteer time so that everyone can have an opportunity to be heard.

If you’re a little hesitant to try this type of support, know that a group of researchers found that 7 Cups users felt that listeners were just as helpful as psychotherapy. Plus, they said the support feels more genuine.

If you’re looking for professional help, 7 Cups also offers treatment from licensed therapists for $150 a month. However, this service is only available to people who are older than 18 years.

What we like

  • A weekly support session meets on Wednesdays at 11:00 a.m. ET in the bipolar support room.
  • You can connect with a 7 Cups listener at any time.
  • Forums and chatrooms are available as well.
  • 7 Cups listeners can receive advanced training and certifications, which increases their knowledge and confidence.

What to look out for

  • Forums and being “heard” by a listener are all done via chat, which can be a bit time consuming for slow typists.

Best for face-to-face (even if it’s virtual) support

LifeStance Health

Cost: varies, depending on your health insurance

If you’d like a support group run by a local, or semi-local, mental health professional, turn to LifeStance Health, a national company that offers in-network telehealth therapy through most insurance plans.

In addition to traditional therapy, some of LifeStance’s providers offer group therapy options both in-person and remotely (virtually).

What we like

  • LifeStance focuses solely on mental health and offers a variety of psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed therapists from around the United States.
  • The service works with most insurance plans.
  • Support groups are a combination of in-person and telehealth, so you have the opportunity to do either one, depending on how you feel.
  • Groups of more than 20 people will typically have more than one therapist.

What to look out for

  • Support groups aren’t free.
  • Your insurance provider must agree to cover virtual support.

Best local support

National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) Connection

Cost: free

NAMI Connection offers weekly support groups. Though group leaders may not have experience with bipolar disorder specifically, they all have firsthand experience with mental health conditions.

During a 90-minute NAMI meeting, you’ll meet with others in your area who may be experiencing difficulties similar to yours. These could be challenges with maintaining balance, taking medication regularly, or coping with their condition.

NAMI follows a structured model and offers weekly meetings in which you can receive helpful advice and solutions from your neighbors.

What we like

  • All group sessions are designed to guarantee that everyone has the opportunity to share and receive support.
  • Local support means you may receive tips on local resources and programs.
  • Weekly meetings are always on the same day and time, so you can plan accordingly.

What to look out for

  • Groups are based by location, not diagnosis.
  • If there isn’t a group near you, you may need to start your own.

What is the purpose of a bipolar disorder support group?

While it’s not a substitute for therapy, bipolar disorder support groups can provide you with emotional support from others who know where you’re coming from.

Sometimes, there’s nothing like connecting with other people who can share their tips and tricks for living with bipolar disorder.

Still, if you want to try something that’s been suggested in a forum or support group, it’s best to speak with your treatment team first to ensure it’s safe for you. What helps alleviate symptoms for one person may not work for another.

How do online support groups differ from in-person support groups?

Some days, just turning on your computer may be an accomplishment. With online support groups, you can always come as you are, without leaving the comfort of your own living room or bedroom.

However, most professionals would agree that some of the nuance is missed when you’re communicating online. Online participation requires a bit more patience than in-person meetings.

How do I know which option is best for me?

Finding the right support group can require a bit of trial and error. While we recommended support groups that meet our standards, not every group of people will be right for you.

If something feels “off” about a group, we recommend trying another within the same organization or through a different one. It may take two or three tries to find the group in which you can connect and feel supported.

But that’s okay. What’s important is that you find your people, not that you try to make it work with people who may not get you.

If you’re unsure about how to vet support groups, we’ve put together a helpful guide.

Online bipolar support groups can help you connect with others with similar experiences. Whether it’s a 24/7 group or a weekly meeting, sharing and receiving advice from peers can help you manage symptoms, work through difficulties, and stick with your treatment plan.

Still, it’s good to remember that support groups aren’t a replacement for therapy or medication. They’re a supplement that can help you feel connected and part of society.