Medicating Bipolar to a Manageable Level

November 29, 2021 Natasha Tracy

Bipolar is usually medicated to a manageable level. In other words, people with bipolar disorder who are on medication are not "back to normal," rather, they still exhibit some bipolar traits but at a manageable amount. This is completely different from what I was told for years after diagnosis, and it's also different from what people see in the media. People seem to think that a pill will make the person back to who they were before the bipolar disorder. I'm sorry to say, this just isn't true for the vast majority of us. 

Misunderstandings of Medicating Bipolar

People seem to think one of two things when it comes to medicating bipolar. They either think that there are no treatments that will work for bipolar and we'll always be hugely unstable, or people think that popping a pill will correct bipolar entirely. Both of these things are completely wrong. As we know, medicating bipolar is possible and is effective -- even if it's not 100 percent effective.

Medicating Bipolar Is Hard

What people need to understand is that it's not easy to treat bipolar disorder. Even when a person takes medication and attends therapy, and invokes lifestyle changes, bipolar disorder is still a very hard disorder to treat. Looking at medication alone, the difficulty is clear. There has been no medication specifically for bipolar disorder save one -- lithium -- which has been around for decades. We know that lithium effectively treats the symptoms of bipolar disorder for some, but not for all. 

When lithium doesn't work for a person, they are then stuck with repurposed drugs: anticonvulsants and antipsychotics, mostly. It has been determined that many in those categories, while not designed for bipolar disorder, do work to treat bipolar disorder for many.

But it gets more complicated than that. It's rarely the case that a person is on only one medication. Many people require several drugs at the same time to achieve the best result. According to a chart review, upon hospital admission, people with bipolar took on average 3.3 psychotropic medications and 5.94 medications in total.1

And even with all of these medications, the best result is not typically a "pre-bipolar" state.

What Does Medicating Bipolar Do?

So, if medicating bipolar doesn't bring you back to a pre-bipolar state, then why do it? That's simple: it will keep you alive. It will keep you going. It will give you a life. Medicating bipolar makes bipolar manageable; it doesn't make it disappear.

I mention this so we all can take a moment and recognize how hard medicating bipolar is and, even with all the help in the world, how hard people with bipolar have to work. Medications work, they do; they just aren't perfect. We aren't at a place in medical history where we understand enough about the brain to really treat bipolar in the most effective way. That means the person with bipolar has to pick up the slack. Not being medicated isn't an option for 99 percent of people -- most of us would die or blow up our lives without medication. But being medicated still isn't the easy option -- it tends to just be the only option. 

So, my medication brings my bipolar symptoms down to a manageable level. Does that mean I'm still sick every day? It does. But it also means I'm alive. It also means I have a life. That's what medicating bipolar does. 


  1. Weinstock, :L. et al., "Medication Burden in Bipolar Disorder: A Chart Review of Patients at Psychiatric Hospital Admission." Psychiatry Research, April 2014.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, November 29). Medicating Bipolar to a Manageable Level, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 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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