Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Bipolar Disorder Health Center

Select An Article

Treating Bipolar Depression

Font Size
A
A
A

Treatment for bipolardepression has come a long way from the days (not so long ago) when patients were given sedatives and medications with numerous side effects. Today, mood stabilizing drugs are a mainstay treatment for bipolar disorder. Doctors may prescribe lithium, an antimanic drug, or an antipsychotic drug -- or a combination of both -- in order to alleviate symptoms of depression without triggering a manic episode.

While depression episodes are far more common than manias and have a tremendous effect on the lives of patients, there are only a few established treatments for bipolardepression.

Recommended Related to Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder was formerly called manic depression. It is a form of major affective disorder, or mood disorder, defined by manic or hypomanic episodes (changes from one's normal mood accompanied by high energy states). Bipolar disorder is a serious condition, for instance, mania can cause sleeplessness, sometimes for days, along with hallucinations, psychosis, grandiose delusions, or paranoid rage. In addition, depressive episodes can be more devastating and harder to treat than for people...

Read the Bipolar Disorder article > >

What's the standard treatment for bipolar depression?

Lithium and the anticonvulsants lamotrigine and valproate are mood stabilizers that are sometimes used "off label" as treatments for bipolar depression, although none of these has been established as an FDA-approved first-line treatment for bipolar depression. For many years, psychiatrists have traditionally added an antidepressant to a mood stabilizer if a mood stabilizer alone is ineffective; however, research shows that antidepressants are often not effective for bipolar depression.

A mood-stabilizing medication works on improving social interactions, mood, and behavior and is recommended for both treatment and prevention of bipolar mood states that swing from the lows of depression to the highs of hypomania or mania. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), lithium, lamotrigine, valproate, carbamazepine, and most atypical antipsychotic medications are approved by the FDA for treating one (or more) phases of bipolar disorder.

In some patients with bipolar disorder, a mood stabilizer may be all that's needed to modulate the depressed mood. However, in bipolar patients who do not respond to one mood stabilizer, another mood stabilizer or an atypical antipsychotic is sometimes added to the treatment regimen.

Are antidepressants used to treat bipolar depression?

While antidepressants are effective treatment for people with major depressive (unipolar) disorder, antidepressants they are not always as effective for bipolar depression, and generally should not be given alone (monotherapy) in people with bipolar I disorder. When antidepressants are given alone to someone with bipolar disorder, there's a risk the drug might ignite a manic episode in some patients. Knowing this, most doctors may avoid using antidepressants as monotherapy for bipolar depression.

1 | 2 | 3
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

lunar eclipse
Signs of mania and depression.
Pills on blank prescription paper
Learn about this popular bipolar disorder medication.
 
serious looking young woman
Assess your symptoms.
teen girl in bad mood
How is each one different?
 
Feeling Ups and Downs
ASSESSMENT
Bipolar or Schizo
Article
 
Foods to Avoid
Article
Man being scolded by his shadow
Article
 
lunar eclipse
Slideshow
depressed man
Article
 
young women not speaking
Article
man talking with therapist
Article