Defining refractoriness in bipolar disorder is complex and should concern and include either every phase and pole or the disorder as a whole. The data on the treatment of refractory bipolar patients are sparse. Combination and add-on studies suggest that in acutely manic patients partial responders to lithium, valproate, or carbamazepine, a good strategy would be to add haloperidol, risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine, or aripiprazole. Adding oxcarbazepine to lithium is also a choice. There are no reliable data concerning the treatment of refractory bipolar depressives and also there is no compelling data for the maintenance treatment of refractory patients. It seems that patients stabilized on combination treatment might do worse if shifted from combination. Conclusively there are only limited and sometimes confusing data on the treatment of refractory bipolar patients. Further focused research is necessary on this group of patients.