Bipolar Disorder: Care Instructions

Skip Navigation


Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood changes. You can go from times of very high energy (manic episodes) to times of depression. These moods may cause problems with your work, school, family life, friendships, and how well you function.

This condition is also called manic-depression.

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but it can be helped with medicines. Counseling may also help. It is important to take your medicines exactly as prescribed, even when you feel well. You may need lifelong treatment.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Do not stop or change a medicine without talking to your doctor first. You and your doctor may need to try different combinations of medicines to find what works for you.
  • Take your medicines on schedule to keep your moods even. When you feel good, you may think that you do not need your medicines. But it is important to keep taking them.
  • Go to your counseling sessions. Call and talk with your counselor if you can't go to a session or if you don't think the sessions are helping. Do not just stop going.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of activity on most days of the week. For many people, walking is a good choice. You also may want to do other things, such as running, swimming, or cycling.
  • Get enough sleep. Keep your room dark and quiet. Try to go to bed at the same time every night.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins.
  • Try to lower your stress. Manage your time, build a strong support system, and lead a healthy lifestyle. To lower your stress, try physical activity, slow deep breathing, or a massage.
  • Do not use alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs.
  • Learn the early signs of your mood changes. You can then take steps to help yourself feel better.
  • Ask for help from friends and family when you need it. You may need help with daily chores when you are depressed. When you are manic, you may need support to control your high energy levels.

What should you do if someone in your family has bipolar disorder?

  • Learn about the condition and signs it's getting worse.
  • Remind your family member you love them.
  • Make a plan with all family members about how to take care of your loved one when symptoms are severe.
  • Remind yourself it will take time for changes to occur.
  • Try not to blame yourself for the condition.
  • Know your legal rights and the legal rights of your family member. Support groups or counselors can help with this information.
  • Take care of yourself. Keep up with your interests, such as career, hobbies, and friends. Use exercise, positive self-talk, deep breathing, and other relaxing exercises to help lower your stress.
  • Give yourself time to grieve. You may need to deal with emotions such as anger, fear, and frustration.
  • If you are having a hard time with your feelings or with your relationship with your family member, talk with a counselor.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.
  • Someone who has bipolar disorder displays dangerous behavior, and you think the person might hurt themself or someone else.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

  • Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Go to for more information or to chat online.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You hear voices.
  • Someone you know has bipolar disorder and talks about suicide. If a suicide threat seems real, with a specific plan and a way to carry it out, stay with the person, or ask someone you trust to stay with the person, until you can get help.
  • Someone you know has bipolar disorder and:
    • Starts to give away possessions.
    • Is using drugs or drinking alcohol heavily.
    • Talks or writes about death, including writing suicide notes or talking about guns, knives, or pills.
    • Talks or writes about hurting someone else.
    • Starts to spend a lot of time alone.
    • Acts very aggressively or suddenly appears calm.
    • Talks about beliefs that are not based in reality (delusions).

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You cannot go to your counseling sessions.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter K052 in the search box to learn more about "Bipolar Disorder: Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.