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Bipolar Disorder Health Center

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Tricyclic Antidepressants for Bipolar Disorder

Older tricyclic antidepressants used for treating bipolar disorder may be more likely to trigger a manic episode or rapid cycling than other depression drugs. They also tend to have more side effects than newer generation antidepressants, and can be especially dangerous in overdose. However, they are occasionally still used when other antidepressants are not effective, or when certain other conditions (such as migraine or neuropathic pain disorders) are also present. Like all antidepressants, experts recommend against taking a tricyclic medication without a mood stabilizer (such as lithium or divalproex) to minimize the chance of inducing mania symptoms.

Tricyclic antidepressants include:

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Balancing Act: A Mother and Her Sons Cope with Bipolar Disorder

Fran Szabo, 61, of Bethlehem, Pa., is one of those moms who speak glowingly about her kids without sounding like she’s trying to one-up other mothers. All three are successful in their careers and personal lives. But the road to this happiness, Fran acknowledges, was bumpy for her, husband Paul, and sons Thad, 36, Vance, 32, and Ross, 29. Ross and Thad were both diagnosed with bipolar disorder so severe they required psychiatric hospitalizations. For years after that, Thad was estranged from the...

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Tricyclic antidepressants work by increasing levels of the mood chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. However, because they may sometimes increase the risk of mania or rapid cycling -- as well as heart problems if you take heart medication -- these drugs are less often recommended for bipolar disorder.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on October 18, 2014

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