Evidence-Based Practices for Bipolar Disorder

Most people occasionally experience mood swings. For individuals that have bipolar disorder blistering highs and severe depressions can impair their lives and even lead to suicide. People who suffer from bipolar disorder need support and effective treatment to manage their moods. Evidence-based practices ensure quality treatments through empirical validation.


In his 2009 book “Clinical Psychopharmacology Made Ridiculously Simple,” Dr. Preston, Psy.D., endorses lithium as the most reputable medication for long-term mood stabilization. Patients treated with lithium show a significant decrease in suicide rates (a seven-fold reduction). Despite challenges involved (constant monitoring and blood tests), lithium treatment continues playing essential roles in treating acute mood episodes and preventing relapse.


Containing mood-stabilizing properties but generally having more significant side effects than lithium (including causing birth defects), anticonvulsants may also alleviate manic and depressive symptoms. Other side effects include nausea, fine hand tremor, weight gain and menstrual irregularities. With better-tolerated side effects, most doctors prescribe lithium or antipsychotics before resorting to anticonvulsants.


All possessing potent anti-manic effects, antipsychotics–particularly newer antipsychotics such as olanzapine, risperidone and quetiapine–may alleviate manic symptoms in bipolar patients. Although, used alone, lithium, anticonvulsants or antipsychotics may provide sufficient relief, most patients will need a medication combination. In fact, in 2009, Dr. Preston, Psy.D., showed that ninety percent of successfully treated bipolar patients require polypharmacy.


In general, information plays a crucial role in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Psychoeducation helps patients adjust and come to terms with their chronic illness. As stigma is reduced medication compliance often improves. In 2004, Dr. Eduard Vieta of Barcelona University Hospital Clinic conducted a literature review and concluded that psychoeducation proves a valuable empirically-validated adjunct to medication and effective at relapse prevention.

About this Author

A former corporate health coach, Charles Yin has counseling experience in obesity management, and chronic mental illness. He graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in psychology from Carleton College. Yin completed one year of doctoral studies at Azusa Pacific University (APU) and is currently an MFT trainee at APU.