Can Bipolar Disorder Be Cured?

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Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that can cause dramatic mood swings. Someone with bipolar disorder may experience highs and lows, known as mania and depression respectively, that are far more pronounced than the ups and downs most people typically experience.

It is estimated that 4.4% of adults in the United States experience bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. If you or a loved one have bipolar disorder, you may wonder whether the condition can be cured or how you can find relief from the symptoms.

While bipolar disorder cannot be cured, the symptoms can be managed with therapy and medication.

This article explores the various treatment options for bipolar disorder that can help you achieve stability, including therapy, medication, light therapy, and lifestyle changes.

Can Bipolar Disorder Be Cured?

Right now, there’s no cure for bipolar disorder, but a lot of people are able to achieve stability with treatment, says Aimee Daramus, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of “Understanding Bipolar Disorder.”

"Achieving stability is possible for most people, but it can often be a long and frustrating journey of experimenting with different medications, being in supportive therapy, and redesigning your lifestyle," Dr. Daramus explains.

This process can take several months, or even years, but it is possible if you cooperate and collaborate with your healthcare providers.

Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

Below, Dr. Daramus elaborates on some of the treatment options that can help with bipolar disorder, including:

  • Therapy
  • Medication
  • Light therapy
  • Support groups

Therapy

These are some forms of therapy that can help with bipolar disorder:

  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT): This is one of the best forms of therapy for bipolar disorder—it has been designed especially for patients with this condition. It involves building a healthy support system, avoiding dysfunctional relationships as much as possible, and creating stable rhythms around sleep, work, food, medication, and other daily habits.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT can also be helpful for learning about your disorder and understanding how to cope with your thoughts and emotions about having this condition. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) are two forms of CBT that may be particularly helpful.

Therapy can help you identify the beginnings of a depressive, manic, or hypomanic episode and inform your therapist, prescriber, and support system so you can get the help you need.

Medication

These are some of the types of medication that can help with bipolar disorder:

  • Mood stabilizers, which are the most common type of medication for bipolar disorder. They're effective in preventing and managing mood episodes but have strong side effects, so it's necessary to have regular blood tests to make sure you're taking the lowest effective dose.
  • Anticonvulsants, which are actually antiseizure medications, can also be effective since they offer benefits in regulating mood.
  • Antidepressants, which can help with depressive episodes but need to be used in combination with mood stabilizers, as they can cause manic episodes if prescribed alone.
  • Antipsychotics, which can help control symptoms of mania as well as symptoms of psychosis such as hallucinations and delusions.

Some people who have bipolar disorder type 2, meaning they have depressive episodes and hypomania (but never mania), can manage without medication, but that's a very personal decision, and what's right for one person can be damaging to someone else.

Light Therapy

People with bipolar disorder are affected by seasonal factors and sunlight levels. Therefore, sunlight-spectrum lamps like those used for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can be helpful.

Support Groups

Support groups or other mental health communities can help a lot. 

Aimee Daramus, PsyD

It's important to be around other people who know what it's like, so you can feel understood.

— Aimee Daramus, PsyD

Social support can always be helpful when you're managing a mental health condition. It can often be difficult to explain what having bipolar disorder feels like to someone who does not understand it. If you try to explain it, it might become emotionally taxing for you to do so. So, it's helpful to seek out others who can empathize with you.

Coping Strategies

According to Dr. Daramus, these are some strategies that can help you cope with bipolar disorder:

  • Take your medication as prescribed: It’s important to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and take your medication regularly as prescribed. Don’t stop taking it—even if you feel fine—without talking to your healthcare provider first. Stay in touch with your healthcare provider and let them know if you’re experiencing any side effects.
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule: Lack of sleep or irregular sleeping habits can aggravate the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Maintain a regular sleep schedule and get adequate sleep every day.
  • Maintain healthy relationships: Having healthy relationships is difficult but important because dysfunctional relationships, especially among people you're living with, can be extremely destabilizing.
  • Tell loved ones how they can support you: In addition to offering emotional support, you can also ask your loved ones for other forms of help. For instance, if you feel a manic episode coming on, you can ask a trusted friend or family member to monitor your spending, so you don’t overspend. Or, if you feel a depressive episode coming on, you can ask them to check in on you regularly.
  • Find productive outlets for your energy and emotions: You will probably have boundless amounts of energy during a manic episode. Find productive outlets that you can channel this energy toward, such as work projects or hobbies you enjoy. Exercise can also be a helpful way to use some of your energy. During a depressive episode, creative activities like music, art, or craft can help you express your emotions.
  • Try meditation: Meditation and mindfulness exercises can help with the feelings of sadness, guilt, and helplessness you may experience during a depressive episode.
  • Avoid substances: Substances like alcohol, tobacco, and drugs can interfere with your medication and trigger mood episodes, so it’s important to stop using them and focus on treatment.

A Word From Verywell

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that unfortunately does not have a cure yet, so treatment requires constant commitment. We need a lot more research on the core causes of bipolar disorder before we find a permanent cure for this condition, says Dr. Daramus.

While finding the right treatment for you can take some time and effort, it’s possible to achieve some degree of stability with the right combination of medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and support.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.