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What is bipolar disorder and how does Talkiatry treat it?

What is bipolar disorder and how does Talkiatry treat it?

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depressive disorder or manic depression, is a mental health condition that changes a person's mood, sleep, energy, behavior, and ability to function.

Reviewed by:
Austin Lin, MD
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July 12, 2021
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Key takeaways

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depressive disorder or manic depression, is a mental health condition that changes a person's mood, sleep, energy, behavior, and ability to function. Individuals with bipolar disorder typically experience intense emotional states for days or weeks at a time.

Some people with bipolar disorder can function and maintain a healthy professional and personal lifestyle, experiencing few or no episodes throughout the year. However, if left untreated, symptoms can worsen over time and affect daily activities. In severe cases, it can bring on suicidal thoughts and actions. When this occurs, seeking psychiatric care is essential.

Of note, frequent mood swings that last for several hours are not suggestive of bipolar disorder but can be commonly mistaken by the general public as symptoms of bipolar disorder. These can be related to other mental health problems, such as trauma.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder

About 2.8% of the U.S. population is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Although symptoms and their severity can vary, roughly 83% of those cases are classified as severe. Bipolar disorder can cause manic or depressive episodes as well as prolonged periods without symptoms. Less often, a person can also experience both extremes simultaneously or in rapid sequence. 

Our psychiatrists diagnose bipolar disorder according to the symptoms, behaviors, and conditions listed and defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5)

Common symptoms of mania can include the following:

  • Unusual feelings of uplift, jumpiness, or irritability
  • A sense of increased activity, agitation, or energy
  • A decreased need for sleep
  • A sense of well-being and self-confidence that exceeds reality (euphoria)
  • Talkativeness that seems out of character
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Poor decision making - using credit cards excessively, taking sexual risks, and making poor investments

Contrarily, here are the common symptoms of depression: 

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or tears (in children and teens, depressed mood may appear as irritability)
  • Lack of interest or enjoyment in most, if not all, activities
  • Significant weight loss while not dieting, weight gain, or a decrease or increase in appetite
  • Oversleeping or insomnia
  • An inability to concentrate or slowed behavior
  • Deficiency of energy or fatigue
  • An excessive or inappropriate sense of guilt or worthlessness
  • Lack of focus or concentration, or indecisiveness

There is a possibility that symptoms will cause unpredictable changes in mood and behavior and significant distress and difficulty in life. Many symptoms of bipolar disorder can overlap with other diagnoses, such as anxiety, ADHD, or schizophrenia. The proper treatment plan can only be determined by a medical professional after an official diagnosis.

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Types of bipolar disorder

There are three categories of bipolar disorder: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder. 

  1. Bipolar I is a mental disorder that involves one or more episodes of mania. The majority of individuals with bipolar I will experience both mania and depression, but depressive episodes are not required to be diagnosed with this disorder. To be diagnosed with bipolar I, an individual must experience manic episodes lasting for at least seven days or are so severe they require hospitalization.
  1. Bipolar II tends to result in periods of major depression and hypomania (a milder form of mania) that shift back and forth. Mania is not involved in bipolar II. The diagnosis of bipolar II disorder requires a person to have suffered at least one hypomanic episode and one major depressive episode during their lifetime.
  1. Cyclothymia, or Cyclothymic Disorder, is a condition in which people suffer from long-term hypomania and mild depression. There are times when people with cyclothymia have normal moods, but they usually last less than eight weeks. Yet, these highs and lows do not qualify as either major depression or mania.

Patients can experience symptoms differently, and as time progresses, symptoms can change. Therefore, a bipolar disorder treatment plan is essential for managing mood disturbances and other bipolar symptoms. 

Treatment for bipolar disorder

At Talkiatry, bipolar disorder is treated primarily with therapy and medication management. There is a specific treatment for every type of bipolar disorder, including bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia. However, this is not a condition that can be cured, so treatment will need to be ongoing.

Medication management

Most individuals with bipolar disorder need medication to keep their symptoms under control. Long-term use of the medicine can reduce the frequency and severity of bipolar mood episodes and sometimes even prevent them from happening at all. Based on the symptoms you are experiencing, our psychiatrists will prescribe the medication and dosage you need to treat bipolar disorder. 

In most cases, our psychiatrists treat bipolar disorder with mood stabilizers and second-generation antipsychotics. Additionally, bipolar disorder's depressive episodes can be treated using both an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer to prevent episodes of mania.


Psychotherapy, or "talk therapy," can be an essential part of the treatment plan for people with bipolar disorder. Psychotherapy helps a person identify and change troubling behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. People with bipolar disorder (and their families) can also obtain support, education, and guidance through various forms of therapy with our psychiatrists. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychoeducation are just two types of therapy that may be used in treating these conditions.

Treatment must be ongoing – even after you feel better – to keep mood symptoms under control.

Next step with Talkiatry

Talkiatry provides outpatient mental healthcare services, including diagnosis, psychotherapy, and medication management to people with bipolar disorder. During each of these treatment options, we cater to your individual needs and requests. 

At Talkiatry, we provide you with accessible and affordable mental health-management solutions focused on helping you feel better, faster. We also offer flexible telemedicine and in-office appointment options to match our therapeutic and modern approach to psychiatric care.

Don't hesitate to consult a medical professional if you believe you have bipolar disorder. To receive a preliminary diagnosis, we highly recommend you complete our free and easy online assessment. We will then match you with one of our psychiatrists, who can guide you through managing and treating your bipolar disorder. 

Take the assessment today to get started.

Talkiatry is a mental health practice, and our clinicians review everything we write. However, articles are never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may need mental health help, talk to a psychiatrist. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

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Frequently asked questions

Does Talkiatry take my insurance?

We're in network with major insurers, including:

  • Aetna
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Cigna
  • Humana
  • Medicare
  • Oscar
  • United Healthcare
  • Optum
  • Compsych

Even if your insurer isn't on the list, we might still accept it. Use the insurance eligibility checker in our online assessment to learn more.

Can I get an estimate of my visit cost?

The best way to get a detailed estimate of your cost is to contact your insurance company directly, since your cost will depend on the details of your insurance.  

For some, it’s just a co-pay. If you have an unmet deductible it could be more.  

Call the number on your insurance card and ask about your plan’s coverage for outpatient psychiatric services.

How does Talkiatry compare to face-to-face treatment?

For most patients, Talkiatry treatment is just as effective as in-person psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), and much more convenient. That said, we don’t currently provide treatment for schizophrenia, primary eating disorder treatment, or Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

What kind of treatment does Talkiatry provide?

At Talkiatry, we specialize in psychiatry, meaning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Your psychiatrist will meet with you virtually on a schedule you set together, devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences, and work with you to adjust your plan as you meet your goals.

If your treatment plan includes medication, your psychiatrist will prescribe and manage it. If needed, your psychiatrist can also refer you to a Talkiatry therapist.

What's the difference between a therapist and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialized training in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or similar, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.  

Other signs that you should see a psychiatrist include:  

  • Your primary care doctor or another doctor thinks you may benefit from the services of a psychiatrist and provides a referral    
  • You are interested in taking medication to treat a mental health condition  
  • Your symptoms are severe enough to regularly interfere with your everyday life

The term “therapist” can apply to a range of professionals including social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts. Working with a therapist generally involves regular talk therapy sessions where you discuss your feelings, problem-solving strategies, and coping mechanisms to help with your condition.

Who can prescribe medication?

All our psychiatrists (and all psychiatrists in general) are medical doctors with additional training in mental health. They can prescribe any medication they think can help their patients. In order to find out which medications might be appropriate, they need to conduct a full evaluation. At Talkiatry, first visits are generally scheduled for 60 minutes or more to give your psychiatrist time to learn about you, work on a treatment plan, and discuss any medications that might be included.

Austin Lin, MD

Dr. Austin Lin is a double board-certified adult and addiction psychiatrist who has been in practice for over 9 years. At the center of Dr. Lin’s clinical approach is a strong emphasis on establishing trust and using a collaborative approach to help patients develop an individualized and cohesive plan so that they are able to achieve their goals.

Dr. Lin's practice focuses on medication management. Typically, he offers this in conjunction with supportive therapy, motivational interviewing, and/or cognitive behavioral therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. Occasionally, Dr. Lin may recommend that additional therapy is needed and ask that you bring a therapist into your care team in order to provide the best outcome.

Dr. Lin received his medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He went on to complete his residency in psychiatry at Harvard South Shore, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, where he served as Chief Resident and earned his 360° Professionalism award. He then had additional training in Addiction Psychiatry through his fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. After completing training, Dr. Lin has worked as an Addiction Psychiatrist and Director of Adult Services in the Trauma and Resilience Center (TRC) at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He specialized in treating patients with a history of depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use disorders.

Dr. Lin has held an academic appointment at UTHealth, and he has spent his professional career supervising and teaching medical students and psychiatry residents.

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