Treatment for bipolar disorder is best guided by a medical doctor specializing in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions, like a licensed psychiatrist. As bipolar disorder is a life-long condition, treatment is aimed at managing symptoms. The primary treatments for bipolar disorder includes medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy) to help control the symptoms.

Finding the right medication or combination of medications can take some time– if one doesn’t work, there are several others to try. This process requires patience from both patient and doctor as some medications can take weeks or month to take full effect. Medications are changed one at a time to allow the doctor to identify which medications are relieving symptoms and which are not. Medications may also need to be adjusted as symptoms change. 

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A number of medications are used in the treatment of bipolar disorder and are chosen based on the patient’s particular symptoms and goals. During the initial assessment, we can start to build a treatment plan based off the patient’s symptoms. Medications can include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants, antidepressant-antipsychotics or anti-anxiety medications. Mood stabilizers are needed to control manic and hypomanic episodes.

Antipsychotics are used to treat symptoms of depression or mania if they persist in spite of other treatments. Adding an antipsychotic medication can help improve symptoms alone or in conjunction with a mood stabilizer.

Antidepressants are used to treat a wide array of mental disorders, but can be particularly effective in managing depressive episodes that come with bipolar disorder. Because antidepressants have the ability to trigger and manic episode, they are typically prescribed with a mood stabilizer.