My Bipolar Treatment is Not Your Bipolar Treatment – And That’s OK

May 31, 2012 Natasha Tracy

I once wrote a post called, My Bipolar Symptoms Aren't Your Symptoms: I'm More Bipolar Than You. The point of the post is that two people can experience bipolar disorder very differently. Even when two people meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder, their individual list of symptoms can be quite different. One might be expansive when manic, the other might be irritable. One might sleep too much when depressed, the other might sleep too little. And so on and so forth. Neither one of them is the “right” kind of bipolar and neither one of them is “more” bipolar, they are simply suffering from the same illness differently.

Similarly, treatments are also individual. What works for one person simply doesn’t work for another. And that’s OK.

Bipolar Treatments

Bipolar treatments consist primarily of therapy and medication. OK, two things. But, of course, within those two things you have many types. You might have therapies like:

  • Social rhythm therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy

And medications like:

  • Antipsychotics
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Pseudo-amphetamines

And a whole bunch of other therapies and medications. Not to mention electroconvulsive therapy, vagus nerve therapy, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy and others.

It’s the reason I tell people to never give up hope – because the therapies (not to mention the combinations) are endless.

But of course, a person might ask, if a therapy works then why do we need so many?

Simple: everyone’s different.

Bipolar’s Like a Box of Chocolates

Because the fact of the matter is, there are likely hundreds of variants of bipolar disorder. What we currently know through gene investigation is that there are likely hundreds of genes involved in bipolar disorder and many combinations of those that will manifest the illness. It’s no surprise then that each of these illnesses responds differently to different treatments.

[Omitted is a discussion of the disease classification of bipolar. It’ll have to wait for another day. I have a point.]

Stop Telling Me “This Will Work”

So it’s impossible to tell someone that a therapy will work for them. And it doesn’t matter if it’s cognitive behavioural therapy or lithium – I can’t promise one will or will not work for you. Because we’re all different.

In my case my doctor had pretty much given up treating me and then grabbed a drug he didn’t think would work and it turned out to completely change my life. The name of the drug? I’m not going to tell you. Because you’re not me and my single person’s experience (or, as it turns out now, many people’s experience) is not relevant. What’s relevant is what works for you.

And nothing enrages me more than someone telling me what will work for me. You know who gets to make that decision? Me. Not you. Me. I get to use my wealth of knowledge and experience and make the determination about what I think will work for me and what has and hasn’t worked for me. And the fact that something worked for you is completely irrelevant.

Fanatical Believers

And no matter how rational my argument about therapy, there will still always be people who are fanatical believers in one therapy or another. They have replaced logic with faith. And if someone wishes to do that in their own life, that’s perfectly fine, but it’s not coming anywhere near mine. Believe in what you like, but I’ll take my wealth of knowledge and experience over your single-person testimonial, thank-you-very-much.

And I’m likely to get testy when you tell me that you “know it will work” if I’d only “choose” to “try.” I don’t even know what the weather will be tomorrow and you sure the heck don’t know what’s going to work for my bipolar.

You Could Be Wrong

The point here is this: you could be wrong. I’m not saying you are wrong or that you’re wrong about your life, I’m just saying that you might be wrong about mine. Period. And I don’t know why that’s so hard for people to swallow.

My bipolar is not like your bipolar. The therapy that works for me isn’t the therapy that works for you. And that’s OK.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2012, May 31). My Bipolar Treatment is Not Your Bipolar Treatment – And That’s OK, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 1 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

June, 11 2012 at 2:45 pm

For those of you who are bashing this blog, shame on you. If you don't like what you're reading, go to a different page. This is an enlightening bit for me to read. I personally do not have bi-polar but have lived with it my whole life. My step-sister has it as well as her mother. It is not a pretty thing most of the time, but you learn, with time, how to deal with it. Get over yourselves and realize that you are only one person, just as the author of this blog is. We are all different just as "mental illnesses" or "craziness" is different from one person to the next.
Another point is that those with bi-polar do tend to blame any issues they have in life on their illness. It is part of the illness.

Natasha Tracy
June, 4 2012 at 8:54 am

That's exactly my point. That's why I said, "and a whole bunch of other therapies and treatments" because I can't possibly write them all down and take them into account.
Obviously what you're doing works for you and that's what matters.
- Natasha

Joanne Shortell
June, 4 2012 at 8:46 am

Natasha, would you consider following the advice you give in this article when you write about treatment in the future? Drugs also are not always the right treatment for everyone with bipolar disorder. There are those of us whom the drugs give a lower level of mental health rather than an improvement and those of us for who suffer more severe side effects than others to the point where they far outweigh any benefit received. Like any other treatment, drugs are not the right answer for everyone. My psychopharmacologist, who did NOT originally support my decision to use a psychiatric service dog, told me a year after I did so that it was clear based on my mental health improvements that the dog was acting as a mood stabilizer. Would this work for you? I do not know, and I'm certainly not suggesting that a psychiatric service dog is the answer for all of us. I do know that for years I was a motivated, active and compliant patient of my exceptionally well regarded psychopharmacologist and we both agreed after my last drug reaction that I was better off without drugs (and no, she wasn't my only psychiatrist, just the only one who did more good than harm). It's been years since that drug reaction and I've been healthier during those years without drugs than during the previous decade. My therapist (a nurse practitioner who prescribes psych meds for others) strongly agrees with that assessment. The dog and other non-drug methods clearly are the right treatments for me.

Nick Stuart
June, 3 2012 at 9:14 am

You are a fake.

Nick Stuart
June, 3 2012 at 5:42 am

'I’m More Bipolar Than You.'
Ha ha! Boasting again eh? What a useless joker you are! I am not gonna waste any more time on this rubbish....

Nick Stuart
June, 3 2012 at 5:31 am

From reading more of your blogs... how are you bipolar? Where are the signs and symptoms in your writing? You are making all this up for sympathy or something. Pathetic.

Nick Stuart
June, 3 2012 at 5:24 am

Good lord! Just reading a few of your blogs... you blame all you failures on your disease..'I can't help it whine whine whine' Just like a little child who says 'I didn't mean to' Time to grow up lady and take responsibility for your decisions and actions and face the facts. Bi-polar is just the middle class schizophrenia. What other excuses are you going to make for your failures. You spout fiction.

June, 1 2012 at 1:51 pm

Nicely put.

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