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Bipolar Disorder - Medications

Medicines, when taken as prescribed, can help control bipolar mood swings. Your doctor will vary the amounts and combinations of your medicines according to your symptoms, which type of bipolar disorder you have, and how you respond to the medicines.

About 1 out of 3 people will be completely free of symptoms of bipolar disorder by taking mood stabilizer medicine, such as carbamazepine or lithium, for life.5

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Mixed episodes in bipolar disorder are a form of mental illness. In most forms of bipolar disorder, moods alternate between elevated and depressed over time. A person with mixed episodes experiences both mood "poles" -- mania and depression -- simultaneously or in rapid sequence.  Technically, mixed episodes are described only in people with bipolar I disorder (not bipolar II disorder), although this distinction is expected to change as the psychiatric diagnostic classification system is currently...

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Taking medicines during pregnancy for bipolar disorder may increase the risk of birth defects. If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor. You may need to keep taking medicine if your bipolar disorder is severe. Your doctor can help weigh the risks of treatment against the risk of harm to your pregnancy.

Medicine choices

Several medicines are used to treat bipolar disorder. It may take time to find the treatment that works best for you. The most common medicines used are:

Medicines and your lifestyle

When you and your doctor are discussing your medicines, think about whether your lifestyle allows you to take medicines on time every day. A medicine you only take once a day may work best for you if you have a hard time remembering to take your medicines.

During your doctor's appointment, ask about:

  • The side effects of each medicine.
  • How often you will need to take the medicines.
  • How the medicines may interact with other medicines you are taking.
  • Whether it's important to take the medicines at the same time every day.
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