What Types Of Bipolar Disorder Treatment Work Best?

Updated February 15, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Bipolar disorder treatment has taken many forms over the years. The conventional wisdom on treating bipolar is that a combination of pharmaceutical drugs and psychotherapy is needed. However, there are many kinds of medications and therapy that people use to help with mania and depression. The question many people with bipolar disorder and their families want to answer is, "What works best?" The answer will likely be personal to you, but a combination of medication, therapy, and support from friends and family tends to be the best option.

Are You Experiencing Signs Of Bipolar Disorder?

Is Bipolar Disorder Curable?

First, it can be essential to understand that bipolar disorder will likely not completely disappear once you have it. Though it generally responds well to treatment, there is no cure for bipolar disorder – that is, there is no treatment option that will undoubtedly and entirely eradicate the disorder and its symptoms. At the same time, living bipolar disorder doesn’t have to mean you can’t live the life you want to. Proper treatment can help you manage your symptoms successfully, perhaps even to the point where you begin to experience them less often than you do. The following are some of the treatments that might help.

Conventional Bipolar Disorder Treatments

Conventional Western medicine relies on medications and therapy to treat bipolar disorder. This has worked very well for many people as long as they follow their treatment plan. And in fact, there is much evidence to support these types of treatments.

Treating Bipolar Disorder With Medications

Prescription medications are often the first-line treatment for bipolar disorder. Medications can help manage moods and lift bipolar depression. They can also relieve other symptoms that come with the territory.

Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers do just what it sounds like they do; they can stabilize a person’s mood so that it is less susceptible to the changes sparked by mania or depression. 

One of the first mood stabilizer medications to be used successfully for bipolar disorder was lithium carbonate. Lithium has been shown effective in many studies. In one review of the scientific literature on lithium, researchers found that lithium did prove effective in preventing relapses. This was especially true of manic relapses but also true of depressive relapses to a lesser degree. However, lithium is used less often now than in previous decades.

More recently, doctors have turned to other pharmaceutical drugs for mood stabilization. Many of these medications were designed as anticonvulsant medications for people with epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Here are a few in this category:

  • Depakene

  • Depakote

  • Tegretol

  • Equetro

  • Lamictal


Antidepressants are commonly used to treat the depressive phase of bipolar disorder. Although many people with bipolar disorder experience intense and potentially dangerous manic episodes, it’s not unusual for a person to spend more time in a depressed state than in a manic state. So, antidepressants can be an overall effective option for managing symptoms.


Antipsychotics can be helpful for treating the delusions and hallucinations that can happen during a manic episode. Often, when depression or mania don't go away with other medications, adding an atypical antipsychotic medication can bring some relief. Also, these antipsychotic medications can be added to an antidepressant in the medication regime as an antimanic agent to prevent mood switching. Some of the atypical antipsychotics typically used for bipolar treatment include:

  • Zyprexa

  • Risperdal

  • Seroquel

  • Abilify

  • Geodon

  • Latuda

  • Saphris

Therapy Treatment For Bipolar Disorder

Many types of psychotherapy have been used for bipolar treatment. Sometimes, more than one type of talk therapy is used. For example, you may receive psychoeducation as well as cognitive behavioral therapy. Or, you might have CBT along with family-focused treatment. Expressive treatments, such as music therapy or art therapy, can also be helpful.

Although you likely can have some level of control over the type of therapy you engage in, it's typically a good idea to work with your doctor and therapist to choose the right style for you. 


Psychoeducation is simply learning about what bipolar disorder is and how it might affect you. Often, one of the first types of therapy you receive after you get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is psychoeducation. This helps you know what to expect and understand how following your treatment plan can benefit you.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can treat many types of mental health disorders. It works by helping patients, alongside with their therapists, explore the negative or unrealistic thoughts and beliefs behind unwanted behaviors. Once the root of these behaviors or attitudes is located, you can work to overwrite them with more positive and healthy ones.

This technique can help you improve your behavior as well as your mood. If you have bipolar disorder, CBT can be effective in helping to identify the triggers that tend to bring on a bipolar episode for you. You can also use CBT to manage stress and deal with situations that exacerbate your bipolar disorder symptoms.

Family Focused Therapy

Family-focused therapy is a type of intervention that can help prevent relapses in bipolar disorder. This type of therapy builds support and improves communication within the family. During sessions, the family learns more about bipolar disorder and finds out how to help the person who has it by recognizing warning signs.

Are You Experiencing Signs Of Bipolar Disorder?

Interpersonal And Social Rhythm Therapy

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) is a type of therapy that has been shown successful in helping people with bipolar disorder prevent relapses. IPSRT may enable you to stabilize daily rhythms, like sleeping, waking, exercising, and mealtimes. Because these can become very erratic during a bipolar episode, many people with bipolar disorder abandon their regular schedules, even when they're not having an attack. Getting back on track with these daily habits can improve their mood and prevent mood swings.

Regardless of what type of therapy you pursue, working with a therapist online to address your symptoms may be beneficial. Online therapy can help save you time and money by allowing you to avoid commuting, gas costs, and the overhead costs that often come with in-person treatment.

Additionally, online therapy options may be a more approachable way to receive professional support. One recent review of over a dozen studies on online cognitive behavioral therapy found it to be a more cost-effective option for clients than in-person therapy, all while successfully treating mental health symptoms related to depression.


The type of treatment you receive for your bipolar disorder may depend on many factors. The most important thing, then, is likely to seek treatment in general so that you can learn what steps you can take to manage your symptoms successfully.  Bipolar disorder may not be curable, but treatment can have a significant impact and allow you to live more peacefully, productively, and comfortably.

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