In most circumstances, a combination of medication, psychotherapy and lifestyle management can keep bipolar disorder manageable, but there are occasions when more help is going to be needed than what the normal treatment regimen can provide. This is where hospitalization may become necessary.

How Does It Fit In

Hospitalization is considered an emergency option in bipolar care. It becomes necessary in situations in extreme cases where the disorder is causing someone to be an immediate threat to themselves or others. It may also be used when medication needs monitoring or adjustment.

How Does It Work

Warning signs that hospitalization may be necessary include exhibitions of extreme or dangerous behavior, and extended periods of behavior associated with the bipolar person's mood swings.

Dr. Wes Burgess, in his book The Bipolar Handbook, also states that if you are wondering if you need the hospital it is probably a good indication it is time to go. He also recommends consulting with your care providers and loved ones and discussing hospitalization with them.

The primary goal of hospitalization in bipolar treatment is getting the patient through the immediate crisis and can last up to a couple of weeks, or, in some cases, longer.

It is a good idea to be prepared for the possibility of a hospital stay. Good things to know include:

  • what applicable services are available at the hospitals in your area
  • how to contact these hospitals for those services
  • how to get there
  • who the primary care providers for the bipolar disorder are
  • having a list of what treatments you (if you are bipolar) or your loved one is receiving.

Who Can Be Hospitalized

This could, at some point, be an option for anyone who has bipolar disorder. It depends on the circumstances. Hospitalization is often used for those considering suicide, or harming other people. This can be true during either the depression or mania stages.

Side Effects

There are no direct side effects to a hospital stay, but there can still be complications:

  • Except in very extreme cases, a visit to the hospital must be a voluntary decision on the part of the patient, and so is submitting to treatment while there.
  • It may be a challenge to get someone admitted to the hospital, even if the person wishes to go. The hospital may also only keep someone for shorter periods than the patient, or you as the loved one, think is necessary. In either case, if it appears the hospital is not giving the care that is needed try another hospital.
  • A severe bipolar episode can cause extreme or even dangerous behavior, including suicide attempts or threats against others. This behavior must be taken seriously and addressed immediately. If it seems the situation is out of control or about to get out of control, it may be necessary to call the police for assistance.


Many hospitals have the ability to handle a wide range of mental health issues. To find out more, check with your primary care provider or the hospitals themselves.


Hospitalization is considered an option for emergency situations in bipolar treatment such as a negative reaction to medication, or extreme or threatening behavior on the part of the bipolar person.

It is a good idea to have a plan in place ahead of time in the event that hospitalization becomes necessary.

If a situation becomes unmanageable or dangerous, it may be necessary to contact the police.

What The Expert Says

“Hospitalization is indicated if bipolar disease is out of control and would be best managed at a higher level of care,” said Dr, Soroya Bacchus, a psychiatrist who practices in California. “Psychiatric units provide a supportive milieu (soft, supportive environment, low-stress etc.), and also allow daily psychiatric interventions until the acute episode is managed. This means they are stabilized and can be managed at a lower level of care. Hospitalization is also indicated for patients who become a danger to themselves, others, or gravely disabled.”