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    Benzodiazepines and Bipolar Disorder

    In bipolar disorder, benzodiazepines help rapidly control certain manic symptoms until mood-stabilizing drugs can take effect. They are usually taken for a brief time, up to two weeks or so, with other mood-stabilizing drugs. They may also help restore normal sleep patterns in people with bipolar disorder.

    What It Is: Benzodiazepines slow the central nervous system. In doing so, they can help treat mania, anxiety, panic disorder, insomnia, and seizures.

    Benzodiazepines prescribed for bipolar disorder include (among others):

    What to Expect: The drugs act quickly and bring on a sense of calmness. They can sometimes cause lightheadedness, slurred speech, or unsteadiness.

    Risks and Side Effects: Benzodiazepines can be habit-forming and may cause physical dependence. They are also dangerous (or possibly even fatal) if combined with alcohol, and therefore people taking a benzodiazepine should not drink any alcohol.

    Other side effects of benzodiazepines include:

    Consult your doctor if you still take benzodiazepines to see if you still need them. If you have been taking the drugs for a long time, you may suffer withdrawal symptoms if you stop them suddenly. Talk with your doctor about how to taper off the drug.

    Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) for Bipolar Disorder

    Electroconvulsive therapy, also known as electroshock therapy or ECT, is used as an acute treatment for hospitalized patients who are suicidal, psychotic, or dangerous to others. It is effective in nearly 75% of patients who undergo it.

    What It Is: In electroconvulsive therapy, a small electric current is sent through the scalp to the brain. It is used to treat people who are suffering from severe depression or other mental illness. ECT is one of the fastest ways to relieve symptoms in people who suffer from mania or severe depression. ECT is generally used as a last resort when the illness does not respond to medicine or psychotherapy. It is also used when patients pose a severe threat to themselves or others and it is dangerous to wait until drugs take effect.

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