5 Treatments for People with Bipolar Disorder & Depression
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Clinically Reviewed 
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Depression is a symptom of bipolar disorder that can make you feel like you are living on an unpredictable and uncontrollable emotional roller coaster. This condition affects around 4.4% of adults in the United States. What sets bipolar-related depression symptoms apart from regular depression is that people with bipolar disorder also experience manic or hypomanic episodes.


Symptoms of bipolar depression 


When you’re dealing with bipolar-related depression, you may feel intense sadness for long stretches of time. You may experience symptoms like:


  • Persistent sadness — You may feel like you have a rain cloud of doom following you around. You may feel like you will never overcome the hopelessness and despair.


  • Loss of interest — Bipolar depression can make things you used to love doing feel like chores. It’s common to lose interest or pleasure in activities you enjoy.


  • Drastic changes in appetite — You may feel like eating is a chore and have no interest in eating food, leading to weight loss. It may also be possible that you find comfort in eating lots of food and experience unexpected weight gain. Both losing interest and finding comfort in food may be caused by:


  • Stress and anxiety that often accompany bipolar-related depression
  • Sleep disturbances that affect hunger and satiety (the feeling of fullness)
  • Alterations in the way bipolar-related depression perceives or experiences hunger


  • Sleep troubles — Bipolar depression can lead to trouble sleeping. You may find yourself not sleeping at all, sleeping way too much or a combination of the two. 


  • Fatigue or loss of energy — You may feel lethargic and dragging through the day even after you had a night of restful sleep.


  • Self-worth struggles — It can be very common to struggle with feelings of worthlessness, self-blame or excessive guilt. You feel like you can’t break free from the loop of internal negativity. 


  • Brain fog — You may find yourself fighting brain fog (clinically known as cognitive difficulties). Cognitive difficulties associated with bipolar-related depression include: 


  • Having a hard time concentrating
  • Experiencing difficulty making decisions
  • Having trouble remembering details.
  • Experiencing a loss of sex drive (libido)
  • Slowing of your movement or speech 


  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors — If you experience intrusive thoughts about suicide, call or text 988, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, for immediate support.


Treatment options for bipolar depression


Managing bipolar depression typically involves a multifaceted treatments approach. Such an approach should work to address all your bipolar symptoms and work to achieve mood stability.  


Seeking treatment and support for any mental health condition is a brave and important step toward healing and recovery. It takes courage to acknowledge that you may need help and to take action to improve your mental health. Remember, you are not alone, and there are professionals and resources available to support you on your journey.


Treatment options for bipolar depression can include:


  • Mood stabilizers — Mood stabilizers can be like the anchor that helps keep your mood steady in the storm of bipolar depression. They can help prevent the wild emotional shifts between high and low. 


  • Antidepressants — When you’re in the trenches fighting bipolar depression, antidepressants can help you reclaim ground by gently nudging your brain chemistry back into place. The appropriateness of using antidepressants alone or in combination with other medications should be determined by a healthcare professional. Their decision will be based on your symptoms and medical history. 


  • Anticonvulsants — Anticonvulsants can help stabilize your mood and prevent mood shifts. They help regulate the neurotransmitter activity in your brain and help keep everything on an even keel. 


  • Antipsychotics — Sometimes in the depths of depression, you can experience psychotic episodes. To help keep these in check, your health care provider may prescribe antipsychotic medications to help tame symptoms like hallucinations, delusions or agitation. They can work hand in hand with mood stabilizers for long-term management.


  • Psychotherapy — At Lightfully, we use process-based therapy as our clinical model. Process-based therapy (PBT) takes the key components of evidence-based therapies to create a customized treatment plan as unique as you are. PBT starts with looking at the four core processes (emotion, thoughts, relationships and behaviors) that make up mental health disorders and identifying how your bipolar depression has you struggling with them. Once these struggles have been identified, your therapist can draw from numerous data-driven treatments, like cognitive behavioral therapy, that are effective at helping to treat bipolar depression. 


Levels of care for bipolar depression can offer a range of treatment intensities that are tailored to needs and symptoms of each person with bipolar disorder. Levels of care can include:


  • Residential Treatment Residential Treatment is ideal for individuals with bipolar disorder who require intensive, 24/7 support and a structured environment. This level of care offers a wide range of services, including medication management, individual therapy, group therapy, and life skills training. It can be particularly beneficial for those experiencing severe symptoms or difficulties managing their condition in a less structured setting. Residential Treatment can provide you with round-the-clock care in a structured environment. You’ll have access to everything from medication management to group therapy. It can help you regain your footing again in a safe and supportive environment. 


  • Partial Hospitalization Program — Partial Hospitalization Programs, or Day Treatment Programs, are a step down from residential treatment and are designed for individuals who need a higher level of support than traditional outpatient therapy but don’t require overnight stays. They provide intensive treatment during the day, including therapy, medication management, and skill-building groups, while allowing individuals to return home in the evenings. PHPs can be helpful for individuals transitioning from residential treatment or for those who need more support than traditional outpatient therapy can provide. 


  • Intensive Outpatient Program Intensive Outpatient Programs offer intensive treatment during the day, typically consisting of therapy sessions and group programming, while allowing individuals to return home each night. They’re suitable for individuals who require more support than traditional outpatient therapy but don’t need the level of care provided in residential treatment or PHP settings. IOPs can be an effective option for individuals who are stable enough to live at home but still need structured treatment to manage their bipolar depression. 


Discover effective treatment for your bipolar depression at Lightfully


At Lightfully, our mission is to provide our clients with personalized and high-quality mental health care. We have experience working with a variety of mental health disorders, including bipolar depression. 


Lightfully offers a spectrum of  levels of care so we can meet you where you are. We also offer a Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program to provide you access to a flexible mental health treatment program that can accommodate your unique needs and schedule. We understand that you are more than your bipolar depression symptoms and will design a holistic treatment plan to provide you with care that can lead you to lasting improvement. 


Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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