Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

For most people with bipolar disorder, a treatment plan will involve a combination of medication and therapy. Treatment is aimed at managing an individual’s symptoms, such as mood swings, feelings of depression, or experiences of mania or hypomania. Bipolar disorder is a chronic illness and people diagnosed with the disorder will likely need long term treatment. However, the symptoms can be managed effectively and may even subside or decrease in severity with treatment.

It is important to talk to your doctor or see a behavioral health specialist if you experience any changes in your thoughts, feelings, mood, or behaviors. Treatment enables individuals with bipolar disorder to return to optimum function of daily activities and responsibilities.The earlier treatment begins, the more manageable a person’s symptoms become.

At MedStar Harbor Hospital, our Behavioral Health specialists believe comprehensive medical evaluation and diagnosis are the keys to determining the right treatment plans for our patients. Because treatment plans are catered to manage an individual’s symptoms, it’s important to share all of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with your doctor to ensure the most effective treatment plan.

Which Medications are Prescribed to Treat Bipolar Disorder?

People with bipolar disorder will often be prescribed medications to help manage their symptoms. There are several medications used to treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder. The types and doses prescribed will be based on an individual’s particular symptoms after careful medical evaluation and diagnosis. Medications may include:

Mood Stabilizers: Mood stabilizing medications are typically prescribed to control manic or hypomanic and depressive episodes. These medications also work to prolong the period of time between episodes, or mood swings.
Antipsychotics: If a person’s symptoms of depression or mania persist after treatment with other medications, your doctor may recommend adding an antipsychotic drug. These medications can be prescribed alone or along with a mood stabilizer.
Antidepressants: Your physician may prescribe an antidepressant to help manage symptoms of depression. However, antidepressants can sometimes trigger a manic episode, so it’s usually prescribed along with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic. It’s important to let your doctor know if you experience symptoms of mania or hypomania while taking an antidepressant.

It is important to discuss all of your symptoms with your doctor, as each medication is designed to treat specific symptoms. After prescribing a medication, our psychiatrists will ensure the patient understands the prescribed medication, including how it works, the dosage, and possible side effects. Be sure to discuss any concerns or questions you may have about a prescription with your physician.

Finding the Right Medication

It’s imperative to work with your doctor or psychiatrist to manage your drug therapy. Because the symptoms of bipolar disorder vary greatly from person to person, it can take time to identify the best medication to manage an individual’s symptoms. Sometimes, patients may need to try a few medications or combinations of medications before finding the right one.

Although people with bipolar disorder may experience many of the same symptoms as those with a form of depression, the drug therapy for each is different. Patients with depression will typically be treated with an antidepressant, while bipolar patients generally need a mood stabilizer. It’s important to discuss all of your symptoms with your doctor, including all instances in which you may have experienced bouts of mania or hypomania. Being treated for the wrong form of depression can worse your symptoms and quality of life.

Each patient responds differently to medication and it can take several weeks for your body to adjust to a medication or for the side effects to ease. MedStar Harbor’s team of Behavioral Health specialists are here to help you find the medication plan that works best for you and your symptoms.

Note: It’s important not to stop a prescribed medication without consulting your doctor. For more information, read below.

What are the Risks of Abruptly Stopping Medication?

If your doctor has prescribed a medication to treat bipolar disorder, it’s important to take that medication as prescribed. Abruptly stopping your medication or skipping doses could cause your symptoms to return or worsen. In addition, you could experience withdrawal symptoms.

If you feel like your medication is doing more harm than good or if you’re experiencing negative side effects, talk to your doctor. He or she can work with you to safely change your medication or dosage. Bipolar disorder requires lifelong treatment, even during periods when you feel better or your symptoms subside. People who suddenly stop their medication or skip doses risk a relapse of symptoms or having minor mood changes turn into an episode of mania or depression.

How is Therapy Used to Treat Bipolar Disorder?

Our team of licensed therapists and counselors use various modalities of therapy that allow individuals the opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a safe, confidential, and comfortable setting. Typically, patients will begin with individual therapy sessions, allowing them to discuss their condition, symptoms, and related issues or concerns. Your therapist may also recommend group or family therapy.

Inpatient Care

Many patients with bipolar disorder are treated in an outpatient setting, however for some, the symptoms are so severe that your doctor may recommend inpatient or partial hospitalization services.

If you’re unable to care for yourself, or if you’re in immediate danger of harming yourself or others, an inpatient treatment facility may be recommended. Inpatient services at MedStar Harbor include recreational therapy, group therapy, crisis intervention, and medication management.

Learn more about Inpatient Behavioral Health Services at MedStar Harbor Hospital.

Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Programs

The Partial Hospitalization Program and Intensive Outpatient programs at MedStar Harbor provide treatment to patients who require more care than the typical outpatient setting, while avoiding an inpatient stay. These programs provide group therapy, education, and medication management to help patients get their symptoms under control.

Learn more about Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Services at MedStar Harbor Hospital.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a behavioral health specialist or for more information, please call 



MedStar Harbor Hospital
3001 South Hanover St.
Baltimore, MD 21225