Medicines, when taken regularly as
prescribed, can help control bipolar mood swings. Although your family doctor
can prescribe medicines to treat
bipolar disorder, you will probably be referred to a
psychiatrist, who is trained specifically to treat
Mood stabilizers, such as lithium, are usually
prescribed first to treat mania and to prevent the return of both manic and
depressive episodes. You may need to take a mood stabilizer for several years,
or even for the rest of your life, to manage the illness. Your doctor may
prescribe additional medicines, typically antipsychotics, to better control your
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance web site provides timely information on depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, and explains how doctors screen for these conditions. This web site provides information for the newly diagnosed, as well as recovery steps, and ways to help a loved one with depression and bipolar disorder.
Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation
The Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (CABF)...
Your doctor will vary the amounts and combinations of
your medicines according to your symptoms, which
type of bipolar disorder you have (bipolar I or II, rapid-cycling, or bipolar
with mixed symptoms), and how you respond to the medicines.
Several medicines are used to treat bipolar disorder. It
may take time and several attempts at using different medicines to find the
treatment that works best for you. The most common medicines used to treat
bipolar disorder are:
Mood stabilizers, such as
lithium carbonate (for example, Eskalith and
Lithobid). Experts believe lithium may affect certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that cause mood changes. But how
the medicine works is not completely understood. A mood stabilizer and an
antipsychotic are recommended as the first medicines for acute manic episodes.
Anticonvulsants, such as valproate (Depakene Syrup), divalproex
(Depakote), and carbamazepine (Tegretol and Equetro), are also considered mood
stabilizers. Valproate and divalproex are used to treat manic episodes. The
anticonvulsant lamotrigine (Lamictal) was approved for the long-term
maintenance treatment of bipolar I disorder and may be helpful for depression.
Anticonvulsants can be helpful in hard-to-treat bipolar episodes.
such as fluoxetine (for example, Prozac), are used very carefully to treat
depression, because they can trigger a
manic episode. Experts now recommend that
antidepressants only be used for short periods of time during severe episodes
of depression and that they be combined with mood stabilizers.10
If you are prescribed lithium carbonate,
valproate, or carbamazepine, you will need regular blood tests to monitor the
amount of medicine in your blood. Too much lithium in your bloodstream may lead
high lithium carbonate side effects. Your doctor may
want you to have blood tests while you are on medicine, to check whether the
medicine is affecting your liver, kidneys, and thyroid gland or to measure the
number of blood cells in your body.