Bipolar disorder is a mental illness in which people may experience manic symptoms of elevated or irritable mood and elevated energy and/or depressive symptoms of down or sad mood. With proper treatment, many patients are able to prevent episodes of mania or depression.
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Care at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
Our team - consisting of psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, social workers, and nurses - has extensive experience in diagnosing, evaluating and treating patients with bipolar disorder, and are firmly committed to improving the care and quality of life for their patients. We offer inpatient, partial (day) hospital, and outpatient services. Our strong commitment to research means that we have the latest tools and techniques available.
Evaluation and Treatment
When a patient comes for a visit, the psychiatrist will take a careful and detailed history of past episodes and situations and will evaluate any physical conditions that may be contributing to problems with mood. It’s important to rule out other conditions that can cause symptoms similar to bipolar disorder.
The psychiatrist will diagnose bipolar disorder based on official criteria from the American Psychiatric Association. Criteria include the presence of manic symptoms, how frequently the episodes occur, and how long the episodes last.
Additionally, we use validated tools to assist in diagnostic evaluation, and measure the outcome of treatment with standardized instruments. This allows our team to track improvement over time, and make more informed decisions about when treatments need to be adjusted.
Bipolar disorder is a recurrent disease that can be unpredictable. The major goals of treatment are to:
- Treat and reduce the severity of acute episodes of mania or depression
- Reduce the frequency of episodes
- Avoid cycling from one phase to another
- Help the patient function as well as possible between episodes
Bipolar disorder is generally treated with mood stabilizing medications. Many of these drugs are used in combination with each another.
- Lithium: Lithium is the main medication used for bipolar disorder, and is usually the first drug prescribed.
- Certain types of glutamate-reducing medications: These can include valproic acid (Depakene), divalproex sodium (Depakote), and lamotrigine (Lamictal).
- Certain types of dopamine-blocking medications: including risperidone, quetiapine, ziprasidone, aripiprazole, lurasidone, or clozapine.
- Certain types of antidepressants that affect the serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine systems: In some cases, these may be prescribed for depressive episodes. However, in some patients, antidepressants can also trigger mania.
Treatment may also include evidence-based psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, interpersonal social rhythm therapy, or dialectical behavioral therapy in individual or group settings.
We also offer neuromodulation evaluation and treatment, including electroconvulsive therapy, which can be a life-saving treatment if medications are not effective.
In general, treatment choice depends on the degree and type of bipolar disorder and other conditions the patient may have. At Penn State Health, patients are fully involved in the treatment decision-making process.
Groups involved in treating bipolar disorder include:
Penn State Medical Group - Psychiatry
22 Northeast Dr., Entrance B
Hershey, PA 17033
Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday: 7:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Tuesday: 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Friday: 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute (PPI) Adult Outpatient Services
2501 N 3rd St.
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Phone: 866-746-2496 or 717-782-6493
Groups, Classes & Support
Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other parents and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.
Research & Clinical Trials
The Department of Psychiatry is committed to clinical research and deepening our understanding of quality mental health care. See current clinical trials.