CBT Effective with Bipolar Symptoms: New Study


For people struggling with symptoms of bipolar disorder, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may prove helpful.

A recent study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, looks at the impact of CBT on people’s management of bipolar symptoms. The research concludes that CBT significantly improves an individual’s level of recovery.

“Recovery enables people to feel able to take a lead in managing their own health, engage in activities which are personally meaningful and see recovery itself as a long term and potentially fluctuating process,” said Professor Steven Jones, leader of the study.

Managing Bipolar Symptoms

Those with bipolar disorder experience mental states that alternate between depression and mania. Depression, as most people know, is characterized by sadness, fatigue, loss of interest, and feelings of hopelessness, or worthlessness. Mania is an extremely energetic state requiring little sleep. It leads to impaired judgment, risky or impulsive behavior, and an exaggerated or grandiose sense of self worth.

The difficulty in managing mania lies in the disconnect between the expansiveness manic people feel and the soundness of their choices. Manic individuals feel charged-up, powerful, and often invulnerable. Whether that energy is goal directed or scattered, their actions do not reflect their human limitations. The consequences can be dire, such as job loss, relationship loss, injury, and homelessness.

The Effect of CBT

The research study, done within the British healthcare system, compared two groups of individuals.

  1. One study group consisted of people recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. They received an average of 14 hours of recovery-focused CBT plus the usual bipolar treatment protocol of medication, and support from a doctor, psychiatrist, or community mental health workers.
  2. The second group received the typical treatment regimen of medication and support from a doctor, psychiatrist, or community mental health workers, but did not have CBT.

Those participants who received the CBT had higher levels of recovery, and the gains continued for up to 12 months after the therapy stopped. Practically speaking, these individuals recovered more control over their lives instead of their lives being controlled by the bipolar symptoms.

Cognitive behavioral therapy works by making people aware of how they think about life’s events, and the influence their thinking habits have on well-being. It also teaches effective ways of processing (thinking about) daily experiences, skills for coping with stress, and for managing relationships.

Source: Lancaster University
Photo credit: Joe Houghton - flickr


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