According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), bipolar disorder affects more than 5.7 million adults (about 3 percent of the population) in the United States each year. The typical age of onset is the late teens or early 20s, and a history of depression is common in people diagnosed with bipolar.

Men and women are affected by bipolar disorder in equal numbers. In women, the first episode is typically manic, while men typically experience a depressive episode first.

Hospitalization for Bipolar Disorder

Hospitalization is required for severe episodes of mania and depression to protect patients from injuring themselves or others. According to the NIMH, bipolar I disorder is characterized in part by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care.

Studies reported by the NIMH show that people with bipolar disorder who are treated with medication and intensive psychotherapy—30 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy over 9 months, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, or family-focused therapy—had fewer relapses and lower hospitalization rates, and were better able to stick with their treatment plans than patients treated with collaborative care (e.g., three sessions of psychoeducation over 6 weeks).

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is used primarily as an acute treatment for hospitalized patients who are suicidal, psychotic, or dangerous to others. It is effective in nearly 75 percent of patients who undergo this treatment. Receiving ECT during pregnancy is considered safe.

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Jan 2001

Last Modified: 02 Sep 2015