Symptoms of bipolar disorder may prevent those affected from recognizing that they have an illness. Family, friends, and primary care physicians should provide encouragement and referrals for treatment.

Psychological treatment can help the person and his/her family cope with the life management problems created by bipolar disorder. Medical treatment is usually needed to control mood swings with medication. To ensure proper treatment and personal safety, commitment to a hospital may be necessary for a person in a severe episode.

Hospital commitment, which is placing a person in the hospital against their will, is sometimes necessary with bipolar disorder because of the effects of manic episodes. While the person is "high" he/she is not rational, and may engage in activities that are a threat to themselves or others.

The person cannot understand the need for hospitalization because of the disturbance that occurs to his/her judgment. Suicidal thoughts, remarks, or behaviors should always be given immediate attention by a qualified professional. It is not true that if a person talks about suicide, they will not kill themselves. Self-destructive thoughts are sometimes acted out indirectly.

For example, a person may drive excessively fast, or take drugs, or start confrontations with others, as a way to harm himself/herself. With appropriate treatment, the suicidal thoughts and behavior can be controlled and eliminated.

Bipolar disorder is a lifetime illness. To keep his/her mood stable, ongoing treatment is needed, even when the person is feeling better. It may take time to discover the best treatment regimen for an individual.

It is very important for both the person with bipolar disorder, and his/her family, to work with a psychologist and physician to develop the most appropriate treatment plan. In addition to treatment, mutual support self-help groups can benefit patients and their families.
National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (NDMDA) and National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) sponsor such groups.