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Bipolar Disorder: Natural Relief Beyond Meds

The Royal College of Psychiatrists finds that nearly 1% of the adult population experience symptoms of bipolar disorder at some point in their life. As per the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), around 2.8% of people in the US suffer from bipolar disorder. Out of these, around 83% of cases are severe. The typical age of onset is 25 years. [ Read the Article ]

Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health condition impacting millions worldwide. While medication plays a crucial role in management, many individuals seek natural and therapeutic approaches to complement their treatment plans. This article explores various strategies beyond medication that can be helpful in managing bipolar disorder.

Can Bipolar Disorder Be Managed Without Medication?

It's been reported that more than 60% of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder stop taking their medications at some point. This is often due to the unpleasant side effects those drugs cause, drugs such as the mood stabilizer lithium and antipsychotic olanzapine. These side effects include dizziness, diarrhea, slowed down movements, and considerable weight gain.

Added to this, the success rate of medication-only regimes deployed in bipolar disorder is low. Luckily, there are a lot of other complementary strategies or alternatives available to manage bipolar disorder, such as:
  • Psychotherapy
  • Lifestyle modifications
  • Alternative therapies
how to fix bipolar disorder without meds

Ways to Manage Bipolar Disorder Without Meds


Psychotherapy is one of the more effective ways of treating bipolar disorder without medication.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps tackle the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

A 2017 meta-analysis showed that “CBT is effective in decreasing the relapse rate and improving depressive symptoms, mania severity, and psychosocial functioning.”

CBT helps you to identify harmful thinking patterns and behaviors and to substitute them with more positive ones.

Family therapy can help family members to learn how to communicate effectively and calmly, and also reduce overall stresses in relationships. Psychotherapy can also provide valuable psychoeducation for problem-solving, building resilience, and developing self-care habits.

Art Therapy for Bipolar Disorder

Art therapy has emerged as an innovative and effective approach to complement traditional treatments and support individuals in coping with their emotions and experiences.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that harnesses the power of creativity to address emotional challenges, psychological conflicts, and mental health issues. Through various artistic mediums such as drawing, painting, sculpting, and collage-making, individuals can express their thoughts and feelings in a non-verbal and imaginative way. This process allows them to gain insights into their inner world, facilitating emotional release and personal growth.

How Art Therapy Benefits Bipolar Disorder

1. Emotional Expression and Regulation

For individuals with bipolar disorder, managing intense emotions can be overwhelming. Art therapy provides a safe and supportive space to express these emotions without judgment. The act of creating art helps individuals process their feelings, leading to emotional regulation and a greater sense of control over their inner turmoil.

2. Self-Exploration and Insight

Art therapy encourages individuals to explore their subconscious thoughts and feelings through artistic expression. This process can lead to valuable insights into the roots of their emotional struggles, allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their condition.

3. Stress Reduction

Engaging in artistic activities triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers. The creative process itself can be meditative and calming, reducing stress and anxiety levels in individuals with bipolar disorder.

4. Enhancing Coping Mechanisms

Through art therapy, individuals can develop healthier coping mechanisms for dealing with mood swings and triggers associated with bipolar disorder. This newfound resilience can significantly improve their ability to navigate challenging situations in their daily lives.

Implementing Art Therapy

When incorporating art therapy into the treatment of bipolar disorder, it is essential to collaborate with a qualified art therapist who possesses expertise in mental health and understands the unique challenges individuals with bipolar disorder face. The art therapist will tailor the therapeutic process to the individual's specific needs, utilizing various art modalities and techniques to optimize the therapeutic outcomes.

During art therapy sessions, the art therapist may encourage the use of specific materials or engage in guided art exercises designed to address emotional regulation, self-exploration, or stress reduction. The process may involve the exploration of colors, textures, and symbols, as well as the creation of visual narratives that depict personal experiences and aspirations.

Art Therapy Activities for Bipolar Disorder

Here are some art therapy activities that can be helpful for people with bipolar disorder:
  • Collage: Collage is a great way to express emotions in a non-verbal way. You can use magazine images, newspaper clippings, or even pieces of fabric to create a collage that represents your feelings.
  • Coloring: Coloring can be a relaxing and therapeutic activity. It can help you to focus on the present moment and to let go of negative thoughts. There are many different coloring books available, including books specifically designed for people with bipolar disorder.
  • Drawing: Drawing can be a way to express your inner thoughts and feelings. You can draw anything you like, from abstract shapes to realistic portraits.
  • Painting: Painting can be a way to release your creativity and express your emotions in a colorful way. You can use different types of paint, such as acrylics, watercolors, or oils.
  • Writing: Writing can be a way to process your thoughts and feelings. You can write in a journal, write poetry, or even write short stories.
  • Photography: Photography can be a way to capture your emotions and document your journey with bipolar disorder. You can take photos of anything that you find meaningful, such as nature, people, or even your artwork.
These are just a few examples of art therapy activities that can be helpful for people with bipolar disorder. The best way to find out what works for you is to experiment with different art media and techniques. Be patient and allow yourself time to explore your emotions through art. And most importantly, have fun!

Art therapy can be a helpful addition to your treatment plan for bipolar disorder. If you are interested in trying art therapy, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. They can help you find a qualified art therapist and discuss whether art therapy is right for you.

Lifestyle Modifications

There are some simple lifestyle modifications that you can make, which will go a long way in bringing your bipolar symptoms under control and improving the overall quality of your life.

Sleep Well

Bipolar disorder could upset your sleep quality and rhythm. For instance, when you are undergoing the manic phase, you tend to hardly sleep at all, feeling refreshed even after a few hours of sleep, while during low moods you may end up sleeping long hours. But, without good sleep, your mood can worsen. Hence, to get proper sleep, you need to practice good sleep hygiene -
  • Go to bed and get up at regular hours
  • Make sure the room is comfortable
  • Avoid screen time and any stressful activities before bedtime
  • Do not eat a large meal close to bedtime
  • Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol intake, particularly at night, close to bedtime
If the above measures do not lead to good sleeping patterns, then consult your physician.

Have a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is an important component of lifestyle modifications that are helpful in bipolar disorder.

Studies show that people with bipolar disorder are at an increased risk of being overweight and obese. In addition, they were found to be at higher risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and diminished bone density. A healthy diet and regular eating habits can set right these problems.

A healthy diet means:
  • Eat at regular intervals of time
  • Ensure your diet is well-balanced, with variety, and includes plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean meats, cold-water fish, eggs, low-fat dairy, soy products, and nuts and seeds.
  • Avoid the “Western” style diet, which is rich in red meats, saturated fats and trans fats, and simple carbohydrates.
  • Avoid high-carbohydrate diets, which can crash your moods.
  • Limit your fat and sugar intake.
  • Avoid mood-damaging foods, such as chocolate, caffeine, and processed foods.
  • Space your meals out throughout the day, so that your blood sugar never dips too low.
  • Prepare and stick to a meal plan for the week
  • Incorporate new recipes in your diet to ensure you stick to your diet regime more easily.

Moderate and regular exercise helps in balancing mood and also prevents obesity. Research shows that exercise can help you improve your low moods.

Reviews showed that exercise is “a viable and effective strategy to deal with the depressive phase of bipolar disorder” and “was associated with improved health measures, including depressive symptoms, functioning, and quality of life.” [ Read the article ]

Aerobic exercises such as running, dancing, swimming, or climbing, all activities that keep both arms and legs active, are very effective at improving depression symptoms. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Ten minutes here and there can also be just as effective. Walking is a very good choice for people at all fitness levels.

Avoid Addictions

People having bipolar disorder are at higher risk for getting involved in addictive behaviors. A study shows that 56% of people with bipolar disorder were addicted to alcohol or drugs at some point.

Certain brain circuits propel you to pursue rewarding experiences by giving you a high each time you do so. One study suggests that these circuits are more activated in people with bipolar disorder. This could be the driving factor behind their indulging in risky behavior, where you focus on the short-term rewards, overlooking the inherent long-term risks.

Drugs such as ecstasy, amphetamines, and cocaine can trigger mania, while tranquilizers and alcohol can trigger depression. Even moderate social drinking can derail your emotional balance. Substance use also disturbs your sleep and may cause dangerous interactions with your medications.

To avoid getting addicted:
  • Become more aware of tendencies to engage in risky behaviors
  • Seek help if you already have a problem in this regard
  • Seek the support of friends and loved ones for making healthy decisions. For instance, friends who are clued into your risky behaviors might persuade you to go see a movie instead of going to a bar or casino on your night out.
Manage Stress

Stress can trigger episodes of mania and depression in people suffering from bipolar disorder. Hence, keeping stress under control is vital.

Avoid stress by knowing your limits, both at home and at school or work. Do not take on more than you can handle and take time off if you feel overwhelmed. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can be very effective in reducing stress.

Mindfulness practices like meditation involve focusing on the present moment without judgment. Studies suggest that mindfulness can be effective in managing bipolar disorder by:
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Improving emotional regulation
  • Enhancing self-awareness
Simple Mindfulness Practices

There are many mindfulness exercises you can incorporate into your daily routine. Here are a few examples:
  • Mindful Breathing: Sit comfortably and focus on your breath. Notice the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your body. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
  • Body Scan: Lie down comfortably and focus on different parts of your body, one at a time. Notice any physical sensations without judgment.
  • Mindful Walking: As you walk, pay attention to the sensations of your feet touching the ground, the feeling of the breeze on your skin, and the sights and sounds around you.
  Find here a detailed article on → Simple Mindfulness Practices

Don’t Isolate Yourself

Isolation and loneliness can cause depression. Hence, maintain regular contact with supportive friends and family members. Reaching out to others is not a sign of weakness. You must have people you can count on to help you through rough times.

Join a Bipolar Disorder Support Group

Spending time with people who are experiencing similar symptoms and problems as you can be very therapeutic. This is because they know what you are going through and can honestly say they have “been there”. You can also benefit from their shared experiences and use the advice coming from the group members.

Managing a Manic Episode

While it may not be possible to prevent a manic episode, you can handle it better by paying attention to any impending signs of a change in mood. Following are the tips to help you with this:
  • Consult a doctor, if the manic episode occurs for the first time, or if you have discontinued treatment, or if treatment is not working.
  • Keep up regular appointments with your doctor for proper adjustment in doses of medications from time to time.
  • Stick to a healthy sleeping pattern and avoid unnecessary stress as far as possible.
  • Eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Track your feelings and moods.
  • Share with people around your symptoms and seek their support.

Other Alternative Therapies

Some people suffering from bipolar disorder resort to herbs and supplements to find relief from their symptoms. Always consult your doctor before starting any alternative treatment. This is because some alternative therapies can adversely interact with other drugs, and they can have serious side effects.

The FDA does not regulate herbal products and supplements. So, exercise caution and buy only from standard and reputed outlets. Otherwise, you may not know exactly what you are buying.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids extracted from fish oil can help in bipolar disorder. There is evidence that bipolar disorder is less prevalent in countries where people consume a lot of fish. People with depression also tend to have lower blood levels of omega-3.

It is best to consume omega-3 fatty acids in their natural form. You can increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating cold-water fish such as salmon, halibut, sardines, soybeans, flaxseeds, canola oil, pumpkin seeds, and nuts such as walnuts.


Magnesium has been postulated to play a role in regulating mood and makes some medications work more effectively. Hence, some doctors recommend magnesium supplements. You could get your daily dose of magnesium by taking a multivitamin-multimineral supplement daily.


Vitamins like folic acid and vitamin C might help in mood regulation in bipolar disorder. However, the evidence for this is weak. More studies are needed to confirm their benefits for bipolar disorder. Note that green leafy vegetables have a high content of folic acid, and citrus fruits are high in vitamin C.


Bipolar disorder is a complex condition, but there is hope for managing it effectively. While medication plays a crucial role in many treatment plans, there are various complementary strategies that can significantly improve quality of life. Remember, consulting with a doctor or qualified mental health professional is vital to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your specific needs. By incorporating these approaches alongside medication (if recommended by your doctor), you can manage bipolar disorder and live a fulfilling life.


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