When to Give Up on Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

July 19, 2019 Natasha Tracy

It's normal to want to give up on treatment for bipolar disorder if treatment keeps failing. Believe me, I get this. I've been there. It's understandable. Failure after failure after failure is really hard to deal with and it's tempting to want to give up. But should one really give up on bipolar disorder treatment ever?

Why Would a Person Give Up on Treatment for Bipolar Disorder?

People often think you just have to want to get treatment for bipolar disorder and it will work. People think that because bipolar medication exists, it must be 100% effective. But what many people don't know is that many of us go through failed treatment after failed treatment for bipolar disorder. For most people, bipolar mania or hypomania is fairly well controlled but the depression end is often much more difficult. I have spent years in depression -- not because I'm not in treatment, and not even because treatment doesn't work but, rather, because treatment doesn't work well enough, specifically on the depression end, for me.

And after so many failures, it's totally natural to want to give up on treatment for bipolar disorder. And when I say "so many failures" I'm not talking one, two, over even 10 failures. Some people aren't successfully treated for bipolar disorder for years. Imagine hitting your head against a wall for years. The only thing you would want to do is stop. And everyone around you would get it.

Should You Give Up on Treatment for Bipolar Disorder?

But, even though I understand a person's desire to give up on the treatment of bipolar disorder, the question is, should someone actually do it?

It shouldn't surprise you to learn my answer is an emphatic no.

It's not that I think that hopes springs eternal for people -- especially for those in depression -- and it's not that I believe in karma and that good things will eventually happen to you, and it's certainly not that I think that any diety will heal your bipolar disorder or make treatment work.

Nope. I don't think any of those things.

But I do think these two things:

  1. Change is ongoing and forever.
  2. There are always new options to try.

Why You Shouldn't Give Up on Bipolar Treatment

The first thing is that change is ongoing and forever. This means that your bipolar disorder is changing all the time. This brings with it good and bad news. It can mean that effective treatments become ineffective over time. But it can also mean that your illness will subside of its own accord or that it becomes more treatable over time. Really.

And two, there are always new treatments becoming available. Just this year, for example, intranasal esketamine (similar to ketamine) became available. It's a game-changer for many. It's okay if it isn't for you as new drugs do come out every year.

My Bipolar Treatment Story

I have told this story to many people but I will mention it again here.

It took me two-plus years to find an effective treatment when I was initially diagnosed. But that treatment slowly stopped working over time. I then sought new treatment for eight years before finding something else that brought relief. And that was after failing treatments like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) that is considered a "last resort" by many. In the end, what worked was a combo of medications that I had already been on but I hadn't taken them together. I was beyond shocked.

I don't know why this combo suddenly worked, I only know that it did. What I do know is that I'm not special at all. I know that if that happened to me, it can happen to you too. And while I know that hitting your head against a wall every day hurts like hell, when that wall finally moves and you walk into the sunlight, all that time will have been worth it.

I know it's hard to believe me when things are bleak and painful. I don't blame you. What I recommend is that you just take it day by day. Don't think about the other failed treatments. Think about today. Think about what you can do, however tiny, to make today better.

And if you're feeling hopeless and you're feeling like giving up, please talk to your doctor, your therapist and anyone else who can help you. Be upfront. Tell your doctor that you feel like giving up. Maybe that will spur a new conversation. Ask him or her for a referral to someone new. Investigate something new. Look into a new way of thinking.

But most importantly, hang on. Don't give up. It's understandable that you want to, so recognize that, honored that, and then keep going. You can do this.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2019, July 19). When to Give Up on Treatment for Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

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