Medications to Treat Bipolar Disorder

Reviewed Oct 19, 2017

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Summary

  • Mood stabilizers are most often prescribed.
  • Sometimes antipsychotics or antidepressants are used.
  • Medication must be taken exactly as prescribed.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong disease which calls for long-term treatment. This involves both therapy and medication. A person with the illness will have periods of depression and mania. There will also be times of “normal” moods. It is important to keep taking the meds at all times to control symptoms and to avoid relapse. It is typically given by a psychiatrist. Most often, treatment begins with the use of mood stabilizers. At times antipsychotics and antidepressants are also used.

Mood stabilizers

Lithium is the most common drug prescribed for a person with a bipolar diagnosis. It is useful for treating mania and depression. It may cause thyroid and kidney problems. People who are prescribed this medication should have their doctor monitor their conditions for negative side effects.

Depakote® (valproate) is sometimes used in place of lithium, and can be just as useful. It is an anticonvulsant that is also used for treating seizures. However, it might be linked to an increased risk of polycystic ovarian syndrome and congenital defects in fetuses, which may make it unsuitable for young women. 

Tegretol® (carbamazepine) is an anticonvulsive used in treatment of bipolar diagnosis. It helps moderate withdrawal symptoms. Other anticonvulsants, including Lamictal®, may be used. It appears to work better for bipolar depression.

With any of these three mood stabilizers (lithium, valproate, and carbamazepine), your doctor can check blood levels of the medication and should do so periodically.

Mood stabilizing antipsychotics

Severe cases of a bipolar diagnosis sometimes call for antipsychotics. They are mostly helpful in controlling acute manic or mixed episodes.

Zyprexa® is useful for treating severe mania. It can be injected to give fast relief of symptoms. Side effects include weight gain and may increase the chance of heart disease and diabetes.

Abilify® and Seroquel® are alternatives to Zyprexa®, and are less likely to give the same such side effects. Latuda® has shown efficacy in bipolar depression. Saphris® has also shown results in bipolar disorder. They are both useful in treating mild or severe cases of acute mania. Other antipsychotics sometimes taken include Risperdal® and Geodon®.

Antidepressants

Antidepressants are used to treat the depressive episodes that a person with this condition might experience, but they may not be right for everyone. They should not be taken alone, as they can increase the chance of mania or rapid cycling. They also may make low moods worse and increase the risk of suicidal behavior. This seems to be especially true for teens and young adults. For these reasons, mood stabilizers are also most often given for people with this illness. Lithium also has some antidepressant properties.

Some common antidepressants include Paxil®, Prozac®, Wellbutrin®, and Zoloft®. Recent research is changing the use of antidepressants in bipolar disorder, so talk about their use with your prescribing doctor. Bring your daily chart with you so your doctor can determine what medication or combination of medications is right for you. The FDA has also approved a pill that combines Prozac® and Zyprexa® called Symbyax® for bipolar depression.

Warnings

All drugs used in treating this condition will have some side effects. Talk to your doctor about the risks. Many of them are not severe and go away quickly. Severe side effects, including thoughts of killing oneself or physical changes, should be reported right away. Do not take any other medicine without first talking with your doctor. That includes many herbal remedies which may interact with your medication. Special attention should be given to teens and young adults, or anyone who is pregnant or nursing. Tell your doctor if you are actively trying to become pregnant.

Medication compliance

The medicine must be taken exactly as prescribed. This will help you get the best results. Do not stop taking it without talking with your doctor. Serious problems can result from stopping it or taking it incorrectly. If you feel the treatment is not working, talk to your doctor about it. He can change the dosage or switch medicine if needed. You and your doctor may need to try many types of drugs until you find the right one for you. Even if you start feeling better, you must keep on taking the medicine. Steady treatment will be the most helpful. Many of these drugs need ongoing lab monitoring to prevent side effects and monitor how well it works.

Resources

The Balanced Mind Foundation
www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=bmpn_landing

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
www.dbsalliance.org

National Institute of Mental Health Medications Booklet
www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/mental-health-medications/complete-index.shtml

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
www.fda.gov/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to talk with a trained counselor.

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/complete-index.shtml; National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000926.htm; American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition
Reviewed by Cynthia Scott, MD, Physician Advisor, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Mood stabilizers are most often prescribed.
  • Sometimes antipsychotics or antidepressants are used.
  • Medication must be taken exactly as prescribed.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong disease which calls for long-term treatment. This involves both therapy and medication. A person with the illness will have periods of depression and mania. There will also be times of “normal” moods. It is important to keep taking the meds at all times to control symptoms and to avoid relapse. It is typically given by a psychiatrist. Most often, treatment begins with the use of mood stabilizers. At times antipsychotics and antidepressants are also used.

Mood stabilizers

Lithium is the most common drug prescribed for a person with a bipolar diagnosis. It is useful for treating mania and depression. It may cause thyroid and kidney problems. People who are prescribed this medication should have their doctor monitor their conditions for negative side effects.

Depakote® (valproate) is sometimes used in place of lithium, and can be just as useful. It is an anticonvulsant that is also used for treating seizures. However, it might be linked to an increased risk of polycystic ovarian syndrome and congenital defects in fetuses, which may make it unsuitable for young women. 

Tegretol® (carbamazepine) is an anticonvulsive used in treatment of bipolar diagnosis. It helps moderate withdrawal symptoms. Other anticonvulsants, including Lamictal®, may be used. It appears to work better for bipolar depression.

With any of these three mood stabilizers (lithium, valproate, and carbamazepine), your doctor can check blood levels of the medication and should do so periodically.

Mood stabilizing antipsychotics

Severe cases of a bipolar diagnosis sometimes call for antipsychotics. They are mostly helpful in controlling acute manic or mixed episodes.

Zyprexa® is useful for treating severe mania. It can be injected to give fast relief of symptoms. Side effects include weight gain and may increase the chance of heart disease and diabetes.

Abilify® and Seroquel® are alternatives to Zyprexa®, and are less likely to give the same such side effects. Latuda® has shown efficacy in bipolar depression. Saphris® has also shown results in bipolar disorder. They are both useful in treating mild or severe cases of acute mania. Other antipsychotics sometimes taken include Risperdal® and Geodon®.

Antidepressants

Antidepressants are used to treat the depressive episodes that a person with this condition might experience, but they may not be right for everyone. They should not be taken alone, as they can increase the chance of mania or rapid cycling. They also may make low moods worse and increase the risk of suicidal behavior. This seems to be especially true for teens and young adults. For these reasons, mood stabilizers are also most often given for people with this illness. Lithium also has some antidepressant properties.

Some common antidepressants include Paxil®, Prozac®, Wellbutrin®, and Zoloft®. Recent research is changing the use of antidepressants in bipolar disorder, so talk about their use with your prescribing doctor. Bring your daily chart with you so your doctor can determine what medication or combination of medications is right for you. The FDA has also approved a pill that combines Prozac® and Zyprexa® called Symbyax® for bipolar depression.

Warnings

All drugs used in treating this condition will have some side effects. Talk to your doctor about the risks. Many of them are not severe and go away quickly. Severe side effects, including thoughts of killing oneself or physical changes, should be reported right away. Do not take any other medicine without first talking with your doctor. That includes many herbal remedies which may interact with your medication. Special attention should be given to teens and young adults, or anyone who is pregnant or nursing. Tell your doctor if you are actively trying to become pregnant.

Medication compliance

The medicine must be taken exactly as prescribed. This will help you get the best results. Do not stop taking it without talking with your doctor. Serious problems can result from stopping it or taking it incorrectly. If you feel the treatment is not working, talk to your doctor about it. He can change the dosage or switch medicine if needed. You and your doctor may need to try many types of drugs until you find the right one for you. Even if you start feeling better, you must keep on taking the medicine. Steady treatment will be the most helpful. Many of these drugs need ongoing lab monitoring to prevent side effects and monitor how well it works.

Resources

The Balanced Mind Foundation
www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=bmpn_landing

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
www.dbsalliance.org

National Institute of Mental Health Medications Booklet
www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/mental-health-medications/complete-index.shtml

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
www.fda.gov/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to talk with a trained counselor.

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/complete-index.shtml; National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000926.htm; American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition
Reviewed by Cynthia Scott, MD, Physician Advisor, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Mood stabilizers are most often prescribed.
  • Sometimes antipsychotics or antidepressants are used.
  • Medication must be taken exactly as prescribed.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong disease which calls for long-term treatment. This involves both therapy and medication. A person with the illness will have periods of depression and mania. There will also be times of “normal” moods. It is important to keep taking the meds at all times to control symptoms and to avoid relapse. It is typically given by a psychiatrist. Most often, treatment begins with the use of mood stabilizers. At times antipsychotics and antidepressants are also used.

Mood stabilizers

Lithium is the most common drug prescribed for a person with a bipolar diagnosis. It is useful for treating mania and depression. It may cause thyroid and kidney problems. People who are prescribed this medication should have their doctor monitor their conditions for negative side effects.

Depakote® (valproate) is sometimes used in place of lithium, and can be just as useful. It is an anticonvulsant that is also used for treating seizures. However, it might be linked to an increased risk of polycystic ovarian syndrome and congenital defects in fetuses, which may make it unsuitable for young women. 

Tegretol® (carbamazepine) is an anticonvulsive used in treatment of bipolar diagnosis. It helps moderate withdrawal symptoms. Other anticonvulsants, including Lamictal®, may be used. It appears to work better for bipolar depression.

With any of these three mood stabilizers (lithium, valproate, and carbamazepine), your doctor can check blood levels of the medication and should do so periodically.

Mood stabilizing antipsychotics

Severe cases of a bipolar diagnosis sometimes call for antipsychotics. They are mostly helpful in controlling acute manic or mixed episodes.

Zyprexa® is useful for treating severe mania. It can be injected to give fast relief of symptoms. Side effects include weight gain and may increase the chance of heart disease and diabetes.

Abilify® and Seroquel® are alternatives to Zyprexa®, and are less likely to give the same such side effects. Latuda® has shown efficacy in bipolar depression. Saphris® has also shown results in bipolar disorder. They are both useful in treating mild or severe cases of acute mania. Other antipsychotics sometimes taken include Risperdal® and Geodon®.

Antidepressants

Antidepressants are used to treat the depressive episodes that a person with this condition might experience, but they may not be right for everyone. They should not be taken alone, as they can increase the chance of mania or rapid cycling. They also may make low moods worse and increase the risk of suicidal behavior. This seems to be especially true for teens and young adults. For these reasons, mood stabilizers are also most often given for people with this illness. Lithium also has some antidepressant properties.

Some common antidepressants include Paxil®, Prozac®, Wellbutrin®, and Zoloft®. Recent research is changing the use of antidepressants in bipolar disorder, so talk about their use with your prescribing doctor. Bring your daily chart with you so your doctor can determine what medication or combination of medications is right for you. The FDA has also approved a pill that combines Prozac® and Zyprexa® called Symbyax® for bipolar depression.

Warnings

All drugs used in treating this condition will have some side effects. Talk to your doctor about the risks. Many of them are not severe and go away quickly. Severe side effects, including thoughts of killing oneself or physical changes, should be reported right away. Do not take any other medicine without first talking with your doctor. That includes many herbal remedies which may interact with your medication. Special attention should be given to teens and young adults, or anyone who is pregnant or nursing. Tell your doctor if you are actively trying to become pregnant.

Medication compliance

The medicine must be taken exactly as prescribed. This will help you get the best results. Do not stop taking it without talking with your doctor. Serious problems can result from stopping it or taking it incorrectly. If you feel the treatment is not working, talk to your doctor about it. He can change the dosage or switch medicine if needed. You and your doctor may need to try many types of drugs until you find the right one for you. Even if you start feeling better, you must keep on taking the medicine. Steady treatment will be the most helpful. Many of these drugs need ongoing lab monitoring to prevent side effects and monitor how well it works.

Resources

The Balanced Mind Foundation
www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=bmpn_landing

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
www.dbsalliance.org

National Institute of Mental Health Medications Booklet
www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/mental-health-medications/complete-index.shtml

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
www.fda.gov/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to talk with a trained counselor.

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/complete-index.shtml; National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000926.htm; American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition
Reviewed by Cynthia Scott, MD, Physician Advisor, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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