Can A Bipolar Person Live Without Medication? | What You Should Know About Successful Treatments

If you have bipolar disorder, medication may be a vital component of your recovery process. While there is no immediate cure to the condition, the appropriate medication can reduce mood episodes and other symptoms. With the right medicine, the success rate for bipolar treatment in the United States is 80%.

Mental health professionals might prescribe mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics, among other things. However, what best works for a patient will ultimately depend on their specific needs.

Due to the growing popularity of home remedies and alternative medicine, you might be wondering if people with bipolar disorder can survive without medication. In this guide, you’ll learn the standard treatment for bipolar disorder, the consequences of going off medication, and how best to sustain your recovery.

What Medications Are Used To Treat Bipolar Disorder?

Doctors typically prescribe at least two different types of medication for people with bipolar disorder. A mixed treatment plan alleviates symptoms of depression while providing mood stability and preventing a manic episode.

Below are common treatments you’re most likely to receive for bipolar disorder:

  • Mood Stabilizers: Medicines such as Carbatrol, Depakote, Lamictal, and Depakene help prevent mood swings and subdue manic highs and lows. They can also improve social interactions/interpersonal relationships and correct unwanted behaviors.
  • Antipsychotics: Some people with bipolar disorder experience mild hallucinations. Treatments such as Seroquel, Zyprexa, and Prozac can reduce delusions and correct the severe mood changes that cause them.
  • Antidepressants: Though antidepressants such as Seroquel and Symbyax effectively treat bipolar depression, patients should never use them alone. One of the risks of monotherapy is that it could trigger an extreme mood change or manic episode. In most cases, the side effects of only taking an antidepressant outweigh its benefits.
  • Anti-Anxiety Medication: An adult diagnosed with bipolar disorder is also likely to experience anxiety. Anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines can help mitigate the occurrence of binge eating, poor sleep, hygiene, and moods, and agitation. Central nervous system (CNS) depressants can also help slow brain activity, though they can become addictive and result in sluggishness.

What Happens When A Bipolar Person Doesn’t Take Their Medication?

Mood stabilizers are a long-term treatment that you should not stop taking without your doctor’s advice. Your doctor will likely recommend that you remain on your mood stabilizers for at least two years to reduce the risk of relapse.

Going off your treatment prematurely can also result in the following side effects:

  • Mania and depression
  • Irregular moods and irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as nightmares, agitation, and panic
  • Nausea, including other stomach and gut problems
  • Headaches and dizziness

When coming off your medications, always speak with your doctor first – never stop cold turkey. Some professionals will wean you into a “maintenance dose” over a four to six-week period, depending on how you respond to the reduction.

If you are considering stopping multiple treatments, healthcare professionals will likely wean you off one medication at a time.

Why Do Some People Go Off Their Medication?

Adults who experience severe bipolar disorder will likely have to remain medicated their whole life. However, it’s common for people to go off course with their medications or even stop them entirely. Below are a few common reasons a patient might come off their treatment plan.


Sometimes, people with bipolar disorder experience anosognosia, or the inability to perceive reality, while on mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, or other related drugs. People with mood disorders experience frequent changes in their frontal lobe, which can hinder the ability to perceive new information. When such confusion occurs, a person’s health might deteriorate.

One telltale sign that you or someone you know is suffering from anosognosia is constant confusion and a lack of awareness. Consider whether you were experiencing these symptoms even before your diagnosis and take note of other side effects.

Side Effects

Nearly all people will experience side effects when taking a new medication. However, the severity of these effects will vary, especially if you suffer from other health problems. A person just getting started on bipolar medication will likely experience side effects like:

  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Constant fatigue and sluggishness
  • Acne and rashes
  • Muscle spasms

In most cases, these side effects are bearable and will typically stop after a few weeks. But when medication creates significant discomfort, some people quit their treatments without consulting a mental health professional – we highly recommend against this.

Substance Abuse

The majority of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder also suffer from substance abuse, typically to self-medicate. However, increasing drug consumption or alcohol intake while taking mood stabilizers or antidepressants can worsen symptoms.

Your doctor might prescribe a benzodiazepine to prevent these symptoms. Keep in mind that these prescription drugs can also become addictive.


Some people lack a daily routine and often forget to take their prescribed medication. Going on and off bipolar medication can be dangerous and exacerbate side effects.

Ultimately, even people who no longer experience erratic moods and psychosis are better off following their medication protocol. Doing so can reduce the chances of developing cardiovascular disease, increase serotonin levels, and make daily life more productive.

How To Stay On Bipolar Medication

The key to a successful program is experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. It also helps to manage your symptoms correctly, so you can eventually reduce the amount of medication you take. Below are a few self-management strategies that can help you retain a healthy routine.

Create A Schedule

If you’re frequently missing doses because of a busy schedule, creating daily reminders can help you stay on top of your medication. If you have trouble setting reminders, enlist the help of a friend or family member who can account for your daily schedule.

Make your routine habitual by taking your medication as soon as you get up or right before bedtime. Use a pillbox or similar type of organizer when taking your pills.

Track Your Progress

Knowing how your medication affects your moods can help you understand how they work and remind you why you need them. Take note of your immediate triggers and how your medicine helps – or doesn’t. The more information you can provide your doctor, the better they can adjust your treatment.

Consider Alternative Options

While often necessary, medication isn’t the only method of treating bipolar disorder. Consider enrolling in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you correct unwanted behavior and replacing bad habits with more positive ones. Social rhythm therapy is another remedy you’ll want to consider if you struggle to maintain interpersonal relationships.

Make The Right Lifestyle Changes

Making the appropriate lifestyle changes not only mitigates manic episodes and reduces the chances of experiencing an unwanted side effect – it also improves your quality of life.

For example, a regular meal plan rich in omega-3 fatty acids can enhance your health and mood. Even little things such as using a meditation app or mood tracking technologies to keep up with your progress can help keep you motivated.

You should also develop a healthy routine that works with your schedule and preferences. This might include daily exercise or conversations with a loved one.

The Bottom Line

No two people experience bipolar disorder in the same way. However, most (if not all) patients can benefit from taking medication. Prescription drugs are essential to recovery. By taking your pills as prescribed and incorporating healthy habits into your routine, you can live a perfectly functional life.

If you or someone you know has bipolar disorder, reach out to our experts at Transformations Treatment Center by message, email, or phone. We provide health information and treatment strategies, so that your diagnosis doesn’t hinder your daily activities.

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