Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes dramatic mood changes. These changes range from high (mania) to low (depression). They can affect day-to-day activities, including the ability to hold a job.

Bipolar disorder isn’t curable, but there are steps you can take to manage it. Management often involves a combination of various approaches, such as:

  • medications like mood stabilizers or antipsychotics
  • talk therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • family-focused therapy
  • brain stimulation techniques like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  • lifestyle changes

A well-rounded treatment plan can be expensive. Mental health care costs range from about $4,500 to more than $21,000 per year, depending on the type of bipolar disorder you have.

About 17% of American adults with mental illness don’t have health insurance. Even with good insurance coverage, the out-of-pocket costs to treat bipolar disorder can add up. The psychiatrist appointments needed to prescribe and manage medication add to the cost of mental health care.

Here are a few tips and programs to lower health care costs related to managing bipolar disorder.

If you do have health insurance, it probably includes mental health coverage.

The law requires most employer-sponsored health insurance and Affordable Care Act plans to cover mental health services just as they cover medical care. Your insurer can’t charge you higher copays for psychiatrist or psychologist appointments than it does for medical doctor appointments.

Check your plan’s benefits to find out whether it includes mental health coverage and specifically bipolar disorder. If you still aren’t sure, you can check with your company’s human resources department or call your insurance company directly.

Even if your therapy visits and medications are covered, you may be responsible for a copay, deductible, or both. And your insurance plan might only cover a certain number of therapy sessions.

Some mental health professionals might not take your insurance. It helps to ask ahead of time what portion of the payment you’ll be responsible for, so you won’t get stuck with an unexpected bill.

To search for a healthcare professional who accepts your insurance, visit these resources:

The cost of mental health care can vary depending on the professional you choose.

With some insurance plans, you’ll pay less for an in-network doctor. Some healthcare professionals offer a sliding scale where they price their services based on what you can afford. They may also offer other kinds of financial assistance.

The SAMHSA search tool lets you search for mental health professionals who offer sliding-scale payments or other financial assistance.

These are a few other places to find reduced-cost therapy:

If you don’t have health insurance and you can’t afford to pay out of pocket for mental health care, you might try a low cost or free community health center.

These programs are often funded by grants from the U.S. Government or staffed by volunteers. They provide care, regardless of your ability to pay.

You can search these organizations to find a clinic in your area:

Many colleges and universities have clinics staffed by psychology students in training. These programs offer the benefits of saving money and helping to train the next generation of psychiatrists and psychologists.

Though you will receive care from a student, they’ll be supervised by experienced mental health professionals.

Teletherapy involves therapy sessions conducted through video calls, email, online chats, or telephone.

Teletherapy can be a more affordable option if you don’t have health insurance. If you do have insurance, some plans now cover the cost of teletherapy at the same rate as in-person sessions.

In-person therapy usually costs between $65 and $250 per hour. Online therapy companies like Talkspace and BetterHelp charge less ­— about $60 to $90 per session.

Remote therapy also saves you from having to pay for childcare as well as travel to and from the mental health professional’s office to attend each session.

In group therapy, one therapist works with a small number of people rather than one-on-one.

Research findings comparing individual therapy to group therapy for bipolar disorder are mixed. Some studies show individual therapy is better, others find group therapy is better, and still others show that the two therapies are equally effective.

In general, group therapy costs less than individual therapy. Insurance should cover the cost.

If you can’t afford out-of-pocket medical costs or you don’t have health insurance, a few nonprofit organizations can help you pay for bipolar disorder treatment, including the:

You can also apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These government programs provide a monthly income to people with severe mental health conditions.

Some companies offer an employee assistance program (EAP). This voluntary program provides free or low cost assessments, counseling, referrals, and other mental health services to employees.

EAP services may be offered onsite at your company or in your community. To learn more about what your company offers, contact your human resources department.

Prescription discount cards could save you up to 85% off the cost of brand-name and generic prescriptions. How much you actually save depends on your medication and pharmacy. One caveat is that you have to use these cards instead of your insurance.

You can print out a prescription discount card from the company’s website or use a mobile app. Some cards include medications that are delivered to your home.

Here are a few examples of prescription discount cards:

Mental illness is the third most common reason for hospitalization in the United States. You might need treatment in a hospital if you’re having hallucinations or delusions or if you’re thinking about hurting yourself.

A hospital stay for bipolar disorder can cost more than $1,200 per day.

Staying on the treatment plan your doctor prescribed can help you avoid a costly hospital stay. Certain bipolar disorder treatments help prevent the complications that lead to hospitalization. A 2021 study showed that taking the mood stabilizer lurasidone reduces the need for hospital stays compared to other bipolar medications.

Watch for warning signs that you might be headed for a crisis. For example, not sleeping could be a sign of hypomania. A medication adjustment might help prevent severe symptoms that could send you to the hospital.

Caring for bipolar disorder can be expensive, especially if you don’t have health insurance.

Many programs are available to help you afford the therapy and medication you need to manage your condition. Staying on the treatment your doctor prescribed can also reduce costs by helping you avoid hospital visits.