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Rehab for Bipolar Disorder

October 17, 2022
Reviewed by: Rajnandini Rathod

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder in which the person experiences episodes where their mood, energy and activity level change significantly. Approximately 46 million people suffer from bipolar disorder around the globe, according to a 2017 report. There are many different treatment options for bipolar and most people recover with a combination of these.

What is Bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is categorized under mood disorders in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Mood disorders show episodes of different types of moods like hypomanic, manic, and depressive. Bipolar disorder is characterized by the presence of hypomanic, mixed or manic episodes. These episodes are alternated by depressive episodes. Let’s understand these types. 

Hypomanic episode: Mood elevation, increased energy, activity and irritability over normal levels, without any specific cause or reason for many days. Some signs are talking faster, racing thoughts or ideas, reduced sleep, elated self-esteem etc. 

Manic episode: Euphoria and increased irritability and activity from the patient’s usual levels for at least a period of one week. This is a more extreme mood state in comparison to hypomania. Signs may include low focus, impulsivity, rapid disconnected thoughts and speech etc. Manic episodes may sometimes include psychotic symptoms. 

Mixed episode: This type of episode is characterised by the presence of both manic and depressive symptoms. These symptoms could occur simultaneously or change rapidly. They may show signs of low mood, irritability, feelings of worthlessness, racing thoughts, suicidal ideation and increased talkativeness. 

Depressive episode: This episode can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on the severity. Symptoms last for at least 2 weeks. Some of the major symptoms are low mood, loss of interest and pleasure in previously enjoyed activities, low focus, feelings of worthlessness and excessive guilt. Sleep and appetite may also be affected. In severe cases, suicidal ideation and psychotic symptoms might be present.  

The severity of the episode might be different each time. The severity can also differ from person to person. While some people can get better with a combination of psychotherapies. Others would need medication and a higher level of treatment. One of the treatment options is rehab

Different treatment options for bipolar disorder

Rehab treatment for bipolar disorder

The primary goal of rehab is to rehabilitate a person. Rehab has a holistic approach and looks at any problem from many different angles. The treatment plan is personalised depending on your symptoms. The focus of treatment for bipolar is to stabilize the symptoms and reduce the severity. 

To begin, the team will speak to you in detail about your symptoms and other details like your medical history, any history of trauma and your treatment history. This information will help create a treatment plan for you. In many rehabs, you are also given the autonomy to choose what works for you and drop what does not. 

Along with regular one-on-one therapy, group therapy and appointments with the psychiatrist, you will be following a routine focused completely on your routine. Your diet and sleep will also be regulated. Many rehabs also have massage therapy, experiential therapies, nature walk and mindfulness trainer. 

Bipolar disorder is an episodic disorder. This means that there will be times when you do not have any symptoms, and then another episode might come. So an aftercare program is essential. Following up can help you brush up on what you learnt in your recovery and help you deal with future episodes. 

When should one consider rehab?

As with any other mental illness, bipolar can be very isolating for the person. It affects every aspect of their life, from their mood to relationships, from their daily functioning to their work life. Here are some signs you should consider getting treatment for bipolar in a rehab. 

Drug or alcohol use: It is not uncommon for people to resort to using drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms. While this might feel soothing at first, it is a quick downward spiral and can eventually worsen your symptoms. It also puts you at a higher risk for substance use disorders. 

Suicidal Ideation: If you have thoughts about suicide or have tried to harm yourself, it is a sign that the disorder is very severe. In this case, it is important to be in an in-patient setting where you can get medical supervision in case of emergency. 

Relationship problems: Irritability is one of the major symptoms of bipolar disorder. These episodes can be quite confusing and unpredictable for the people around you too. Along with elation, aggression is also commonly seen in the case of bipolar. This can lead to arguments or fights with people you are close to. This might start affecting your relationships. 

Daily functioning: If you are having difficulty doing things you’d normally do, like getting out of bed, getting dressed, going to work etc. and require the support of others, it would be a good time to consider residential rehabilitation. Here you will get the support you need, and the focus of treatment will be to get you back to your normal level of functioning. 

Problems at work: Mood disorders can highly impact your ability to focus and think clearly. You might also experience outbursts of emotions or difficulty even getting yourself to work. If you’ve experienced this at work, it’s a good sign to consider taking a short break for your treatment. 

Benefits of rehab

To sum up, here are some of the benefits of getting treatment in a rehab setting:

  • Medical supervision – Rehabs have a team of medical experts. A psychiatrist will be easily accessible to you during your stay there. 
  • Regular psychotherapy – Since all your focus will be on recovery, you can have sessions more regularly. For a better experience, check if the rehab is equipped to treat bipolar. 
  • Team of experts – Most rehabs have a team of psychiatrists, psychologists other support staff. They might also have an in-house chef, a massage therapist and a yoga and meditation trainer. This gives you the highest level of care. 
  • Holistic treatment – Rehabs approach treatment as a whole, including physical, medical, psychological, and spiritual aspects.
  • Safe environment – In our usual environment, there might be certain stressors that affect your condition. In rehab, you are away from there stressors and in a serene setting, usually surrounded by nature. This is a non-judgmental space where support will be available to you at all times. 


Dattani, S. (2021, August 20). Mental Health. Our World in Data.

Grande, I., Berk, M., Birmaher, B., & Vieta, E. (2016). Bipolar disorder. The Lancet, 387(10027), 1561-1572. 

World Health Organization. (2022b). ICD-11 for Mortality and Morbidity Statistics.