Bipolar Disorder Treatment: Therapy and Counseling

Bipolar disorder can be a life-altering diagnosis, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of life as you know it. By receiving bipolar disorder treatment and counseling, those suffering from bipolar disorder can regain control of their mental health and lead productive and fulfilling lives. On this page, we will explore the various therapies and counseling options available to treat bipolar disorder, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each. We will also look at what you can do to help yourself manage your condition and how to find the right support for your individual needs.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition and mood disorder that causes intense shifts in energy levels, moods, thinking patterns, behavior, and sleep. Moods can range from highs (mania or hypomania), where the individual feels extremely energized, elated, or unusually irritable, to lows (depression) which can lead to sadness, indifference, or hopelessness.

When an individual with bipolar disorder is experiencing a manic episode, they can feel overly excited, productive, and even invincible. Conversely, when the same person is experiencing a depressive episode, they can feel incredibly sad, hopeless, and tired. They may avoid socializing and participating in their usual schedule and activities.

These drastic behavior changes are typically a cause of concern for the individual’s family and friends. Working, going to school, maintaining relationships, and carrying out everyday tasks can be difficult during these mood swings. These shifts in mood can last for hours, days, weeks, or months and interrupt one’s ability to function as usual.

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According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 4.4% of U.S. adults experience bipolar disorder. While a bipolar disorder diagnosis can occur at any age, most people are diagnosed in their teens or twenties.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

A man with bipolar disorder split in two frames. Ther left side is smiling and the right side is screaming.

There are a few different types of bipolar disorder. They all involve experiencing significant fluctuations in mood levels, which are hypomanic/manic and depressive episodes. It’s important to know that people with bipolar disorder are not always in a depressive or hypomanic/manic state. They also experience euthymia, which involves periods of normal moods that don’t include intense highs or lows.

While each type of bipolar disorder includes periods of extreme highs and lows, the most significant difference between forms of this condition is how drastic the mood swings are and how long they last. In all three types, there are periods between manic and depressive episodes where symptoms lessen, or the individual can feel perfectly stable without any symptoms present. Most bipolar disorders fall into one of these three types:

Bipolar I Disorder

This type is characterized by episodes of mania that typically last a minimum of seven days and can require hospitalization. Depressive episodes that follow the mania episodes can last up to two weeks. If both depression and mania symptoms occur at the same time, it’s called a mixed episode.

Bipolar II Disorder

This type is characterized by mood swings that fluctuate from high to low, but the highs are less extreme than with Bipolar I and are called hypomanic states. However, the depressive episodes may be just as severe as those with Bipolar I experience, with the potential to last even longer.

Cyclothymic Disorder

This type is characterized by chronic mood swings (including both highs and lows) that are not as severe, frequent, or prolonged as those with bipolar I or II experience. Cyclothymic disorder is defined by periods of hypomanic or depressed states where symptoms last for at least 2 years (or 1 year in children and adolescents).

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Individuals with bipolar disorder can experience various symptoms depending on their mood swings and which type of bipolar disorder they have. Some individuals may never experience most of these symptoms, while some will experience all symptoms at various points in time.

Manic episode symptoms

While in a manic episode of bipolar disorder, the individual may experience these symptoms:

  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Appearing abnormally wired or jumpy
  • Easily distracted
  • Increased irritability and agitation
  • Intense feelings of happiness, euphoria, or excitement
  • Excessive energy
  • Acting on impulsive or risky behaviors such as having unprotected sex or spending large sums of money
  • Restlessness or insomnia, which results in a decreased need for sleep
  • Being unusually talkative or speaking faster than usual
  • Experiencing jumbled or racing thoughts

Depressive episode symptoms

While in a depressive episode of bipolar disorder, the individual may experience these symptoms:

  • Having low energy or feeling tired
  • Showing a lack of interest (or no interest at all) in activities typically enjoyed
  • Indecisiveness
  • Feeling sad, worried, anxious, worthless, guilty, or hopeless
  • Experiencing forgetfulness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Experiencing changes in sleep, such as sleeping too little or too much
  • Experiencing changes in appetite, such as eating too little or too much
  • Thoughts of self-harm, death, or suicide

A severe depressive or manic episode can also trigger psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that others cannot) or delusions (false beliefs not rooted in truth or reality).

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

While scientists haven’t been able to land on one single cause of why someone is likely to develop bipolar disorder, they believe several factors may contribute. These potential causes of bipolar disorder are:

Genetics or inherited components

People are at a higher risk of bipolar disorder if they have parents or siblings with the condition. According to the National Library of Medicine, the risk of someone developing bipolar disorder is 10-25% when one of their parents has an existing mood disorder. However, just because someone has a biological relative with bipolar disorder doesn’t guarantee they will also develop it.

Stress and trauma

Trauma and stress may also play a role in someone developing bipolar disorder. A traumatic event such as the death of a loved one, serious illness, divorce, or financial problems can trigger manic or depressive episodes. A person’s ability to handle stress also influences whether they develop bipolar disorder.

Brain changes and structure

While brain scans cannot yet diagnose bipolar disorder, researchers have identified slight differences in the size and activation of some brain structures in people with bipolar disorder. Scientists are researching more to determine the relationship brain changes can play in diagnosing bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder and Mental Health Comorbidities

Bipolar disorder treatment comorbidities

Many people with bipolar disorder also have other mental health conditions. Around 92% of people with bipolar disorder may also experience other mental health disorders during their lifetime. These comorbidities can further complicate their diagnosis, and healthcare providers look at both a person’s symptom history and family history to determine whether they have bipolar disorder along with another mental health disorder.

The other mental health conditions typically seen alongside bipolar disorder include:

  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Psychosis

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

While bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, it is possible to manage the symptoms and mood swings associated with it. Treatment plans for bipolar disorder typically include medications and psychotherapy, and healthcare providers work with each individual on an ongoing basis to ensure effective treatment.

Medications

Getting a bipolar disorder diagnosis correct is essential since it influences the recommended treatment and determines prescribed medications. Medications used to treat bipolar disorder may include:

  • Mood stabilizers
  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Antidepressant-antipsychotic
  • Anti-anxiety

Psychotherapy (bipolar disorder supportive therapy)

Psychotherapy is an excellent bipolar disorder supportive therapy. It can help people accept their condition, become familiar with and recognize warning signs of manic or depressive episodes, learn coping skills to handle stress better, and stick with a consistent medication schedule.

Therapy can also help improve communication with loved ones and allow the individual to enjoy better relationships with those who support them in managing their condition.

The most effective treatment for bipolar disorder

A combination of medication and psychotherapy is usually the most effective treatment for bipolar disorder. While there may be periods between manic or depressive episodes where the individual feels fine, it’s essential to maintain a consistent treatment plan. A long-term, uninterrupted treatment plan can help reduce the frequency and severity of mood swings to help the individual best manage their bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment & Counseling Options in Phoenix

A woman in a red blouse doing EMDR therapy with a therapist.

There are many options for bipolar disorder treatment in Phoenix at Mental Health Center of America. Our therapists use evidence-based treatment options for bipolar disorder to help you or your loved one create a plan to improve bipolar disorder symptoms and manage mood swings. Treatment options offered include:

  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Relational Therapy
  • EMDR
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Trauma-Focused Therapy
  • Mindfulness-Based Interventions

Our therapists collaborate with each client to choose an approach to treatment based on your individual needs and goals and create a custom treatment plan with you. Treatment options for bipolar disorder may include individual counseling, medication, and neurofeedback.

Bipolar disorder treatment may also integrate self-care and wellness activities such as cold exposure, heat exposure, mindfulness, and physical activity. Individuals who commit to bipolar disorder treatment learn how to manage their symptoms and associated mood swings.

Find Counseling for Bipolar Disorder Treatment in Phoenix, Arizona

Bipolar disorder symptoms can become dangerous if left untreated. At Mental Health Center of America, we provide specialized bipolar disorder treatment shown to improve symptoms and mood swings. We are proud to be a top provider of Arizona mental health services and have counselors in Phoenix ready to help you improve your bipolar disorder symptoms today.

If you or your loved one struggle with any symptoms of bipolar disorder, we encourage you to discuss these concerns with ​a ​mental health professional. Schedule your appointment today to start your healing journey.

Take The First Step

Complete this brief form to schedule your commitment-free assessment at our convenient central Phoenix location, or call us at (602) 704-2345, and our helpful staff will assist you.