In most circumstances, a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle management can keep bipolar disorder under control. But sometimes, more help is needed and hospitalization may be necessary.
Hospitalization is considered an emergency option in bipolar disorder care. It becomes necessary in extreme cases where the disorder is causing someone to be an immediate threat to themselves or others. It may also be used when medications need monitoring or adjustment.
Warning signs that hospitalization may be necessary include:
- exhibitions of extreme or dangerous behavior
- extended periods of behavior associated with mood swings which place the individual or others at risk
Hospitalization can last a few days to a few weeks, or longer, depending on the individual’s circumstances.
In his book “The Bipolar Handbook: Real-Life Questions with Up-to-Date Answers,” Dr. Wes Burgess says that if you’re wondering if hospitalization is necessary, it likely means it’s time to go. He also recommends discussing hospitalization with your healthcare providers and loved ones.
If you or a loved one has bipolar disorder, it’s a good idea to research nearby hospitals. Try to gather the following information:
- the applicable services available at the hospitals
- the contact information for the hospitals and how to get there
- the names of the primary care providers for bipolar disorder
- the list of treatments you or your loved one is receiving
Hospitalization can be an option for anyone who has bipolar disorder. It depends on the circumstances, but it’s often used for those considering suicide or harming other people, or for those behaviors that can result in serious bodily injury or death of the person or others around them. These thoughts or acts are likely to occur during the depression or mania stages.
If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
- Call 911 or your local emergency number.
- Stay with the person until help arrives.
- Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
- Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
There are no direct side effects to a hospital stay, but there may still be complications. Except for extreme cases, hospitalization must be a voluntary decision. In cases where the person is a clear and immediate danger to themselves or others, involuntary hospitalization can occur.
It may be challenging to get someone admitted to a hospital, even if they wish to go. The hospital may keep them for a shorter period than you think is necessary. In either case, if the hospital isn’t giving the care that’s needed, it may be time to try another hospital.
A severe bipolar episode can cause extreme or even dangerous behavior. This can include suicide attempts or threats against others. You should take this behavior seriously and take action immediately. If the situation seems out of control or about to get out of control, you may need to call the police for assistance.
Many hospitals can handle a wide range of mental health issues. To find out more, check with your primary care provider or the hospitals themselves. Some of these resources may help.
Hospitalization is considered an option for emergency situations in treatment for bipolar disorder. Be sure to create a plan ahead of time in case hospitalization becomes necessary. If a situation becomes unmanageable or dangerous, you may need to contact the police.