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
It is possible that the main title of the report Manic Depression, Bipolar is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.
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.
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:
Mood stabilizers, such as
lithium (Lithobid). Experts believe that lithium may affect certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that cause mood changes. A mood stabilizer and an
antipsychotic are recommended as the first medicines for acute manic episodes.
Anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine (such as
Equetro and Tegretol), divalproex
(Depakote), and valproate (Depakene). They are also considered mood
stabilizers. Divalproex and valproate are used to treat manic episodes. The
anticonvulsant lamotrigine (Lamictal) may be helpful for bipolar depression.
Antipsychotics, such as aripiprazole (Abilify), olanzapine (Zyprexa),
quetiapine (Seroquel), risperidone (Risperdal), and ziprasidone (Geodon). Antipsychotics improve
manic episodes. Olanzapine may be used in combination
with other medicines.
Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium). These may
be used instead of antipsychotics or as an additional medicine during a manic
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
How often you will need to take the
How the medicines may interact with other medicines you
Whether it's important to take the medicines at
the same time every day.
You'll need to check in with your doctor regularly when taking medicines for bipolar disorder.
If you are prescribed carbamazepine, lithium,
or valproate, you will need regular blood tests to monitor the
amount of medicine in your blood. Too much lithium in your bloodstream may lead
side effects. Blood tests can also help show how medicines are affecting your liver, kidneys, and thyroid gland or to measure the
number of blood cells in your body.
The use of antidepressants alone has been linked to an
increase in manic episodes. Antidepressant treatment
needs to be monitored closely to avoid causing a manic episode.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has
issued an advisory on antidepressant and anticonvulsant medicines and the risk of suicide. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines.
Instead, a person taking antidepressants should be watched for
warning signs of suicide, such as threatening to harm himself or herself and being preoccupied with death or suicide. This is especially important
at the beginning of treatment or when doses are changed.