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Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar disorder is a long-term chemical imbalance that causes rapid changes in mood and behavior. High moods are called mania. Low moods are called depression. Sometimes you will feel manic and sometimes you will feel depressed. You can have mania and depression at the same time. This is called a mixed bipolar state.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


The periods of mania and depression may last for weeks or months. Without treatment, your bipolar disorder could get worse. Your illness could make it hard to work and get along with others. It may also affect your eating and sleeping.


What caregivers will I work with while being treated for bipolar disorder?

  • Psychiatrist: This is a medical doctor who works in mental health. The psychiatrist is in charge of ordering your medicine. You may work closely with this doctor and other caregivers.
  • Therapist: This is a caregiver that works closely with you while you are being treated. This person may be a doctor, psychologist, nurse, mental health counselor, or social worker.

What meetings might I need to attend?

  • Family meetings: Your caregivers will meet with you and your family. You will talk about how to cope with your illness.
  • Group therapy: A series of meetings that you attend with other patients and staff. During these meetings, patients and staff talk together about ways to cope with illness.
  • Individual therapy: A time for you to meet alone with your therapist. During this time you and your therapist may talk about how to cope with your illness.
  • Intensive outpatient program: This is when you come to the hospital or clinic for 1 to 3 hours of treatment. This program is usually 2 to 5 times a week for a short period of time.
  • Partial care program: This is when you come to the hospital unit every day during the day or evening. After you are treated each day, you can return home. You may need a partial care program after you have been treated in the hospital. Caregivers may also suggest this program instead of having you stay in the hospital.

What other treatments may be included in my treatment plan?

  • Quiet room: This is an empty room used for patients who need to have time out in a safe place. You may be put here if caregivers are concerned you may hurt yourself or others.
  • Restraints: There are 2 types of restraints that may be used while you are in the hospital. They will only be used if caregivers feel you are in danger of hurting yourself or others. Physical restraints may be put on your wrists or ankles and tied to something else. These are usually cloth or leather bands. Other things will always be tried before using physical restraints, such as going into a quiet room or seclusion. Caregivers may use chemical restraints instead. This is medicine used to help you gain control of your actions and help you relax. Restraints should never be used to punish you.
  • Seclusion: This is when you need to be locked in a safe room because you are out of control. The door is locked because you might want to leave the room. Caregivers will closely watch you while you are in seclusion. You may come out of seclusion when caregivers feel you will not hurt yourself or others.
  • Time out: This is time spent away from other people. This is usually needed when you are not able to control your behavior. You may be put in time out if your behavior is affecting others. Time out may be in your room or another room.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy: This is also called ECT. It may be used for patients with life threatening depression that medicine or therapy has not helped. With ECT, a small amount of electric shock is sent through the brain. Before ECT treatment, you may get medicine to help you relax. After treatment, you may have trouble remembering things for a short time.

What else should I know about being treated for bipolar disorder?

  • 72-hour hold: This is when you are put in the hospital for 72 hours without your permission. The police or a caregiver may decide to put you in the hospital. This may only be done if others are concerned that you may hurt yourself or someone else. It may also be done if caregivers or police do not think you can safely care for yourself.
  • Clothes: You may wear your own clothes while you are in the hospital.
  • Inpatient unit: This is the place where you will stay while in the hospital. It usually has bedrooms and a living area. Sometimes the doors of this unit are locked.
  • Meals: You will eat your meals on the unit or in the cafeteria with other patients.
  • Personal belongings: When you are admitted to the unit, caregivers may search your belongings. Any belongings brought to you during your stay may also be searched. This search is done to keep you and the staff safe.
  • Release of information form: This is a legal paper that lets caregivers share information with those listed on this form. You will need to sign this form before any information will be released to persons outside the hospital.
  • Right to privacy: Information that you share with your caregivers will be kept private among hospital caregivers. They will not share information with others without your permission.
  • Sharps: You will not be allowed to keep any sharp items with you. Sharp items include scissors, nail files, razors, or glass. Ask a caregiver if you need to use one of these items.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Bipolar Disorder (Inpatient Care)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes

Mayo Clinic Reference