The most effective treatment for bipolar disorder is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Most people take more than one drug, like a mood-stabilizing drug and an antipsychotic, benzodiazepine, or antidepressant. However, it's important that treatment be ongoing -- even after you feel better -- to keep mood symptoms under control.
One note of caution: The FDA has determined that antidepressant medications can increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents with depression and other mental health disorders. If you have questions or concerns, discuss them with your health care provider.
Karen Renken was just 14, but she knew something was terribly wrong. "I
was a straight-A student, and suddenly I started failing in school," says
Renken, now 45, of Long Island, N.Y.
At high school, she would go from enjoying a seemingly normal mood to
throwing a tantrum in the hallway. Her teenage response to normal requests,
such as her mother's plea to pick up after herself, was dramatic. She would,
she says, "shriek like a maniac."
Renken was sent to a psychiatrist, who prescribed an antidepressant,...
After remission from an acute episode of bipolar disorder, a person is at an especially high risk for relapse for about six months. Thus, continuation and of maintenance ongoing therapy is often recommended.
Anyone who has experienced two to three episodes of bipolar disorder is considered a long-term -- if not lifetime -- patient with bipolar disorder. That person should have maintenance therapy. Once your doctor has helped stabilize the moods of the acute phase of the disorder (either a manic or depressive episode), drug therapy is continued indefinitely -- sometimes at lower doses.
Remember this: Even if you have been without bipolar symptoms for several months, do not stop taking your medications. Your doctor may lower your doses, but discontinuation of medications will put you at risk for recurrence of bipolar symptoms.