Medications for Bipolar Disorders

2013 Bipolar Update

Medications for Bipolar Disorders

Bipolar disorder, also referred to as manic depression at its extreme, is one of the mood disorders. It is characterized by extreme mood swings which veer from extreme happiness (mania) to extreme depression. It is for this reason that this disorder was commonly referred to as manic depression. It is crucial to get treatment for this disorder as the symptoms of the disease disrupt the life of the sufferer as well as their loved ones. There are mild to serious forms of bipolar disorders but they all need treatment as they get worse with time without it.

Treatment for bipolar disorder is usually a combination of options. This is because one option is usually not enough to restore normalcy in a patient’s life. One of the treatment methods is medication, which is the base of the treatment methods. Medications for bipolar disorders are of different types and categories.

Medications for bipolar disorders include antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood stabilizers. Medications may be taken for the rest of a person’s life and in such a case are called maintenance medications or therapy. Many individuals don’t like this option, which is not very logical. If they where told they had a heart problem and would need to take medication for an unlimited period so as not to have a heart attack they would surely do it.

The most commonly used mood stabilizer for bipolar disorder is lithium. It is one of the medications for bipolar disorder that is used to treat both depressive and manic episodes. It is also very commonly used as a maintenance medication as it works more slowly than other mood stabilizers. However, lithium has a number of side effects such as weight gain, nausea, vomiting, tremors, urinary problems, excessive thirst, hypothyroidism and poor coordination. However, read possible side effects of any medication and you will also find a long list. These side effects happen a very small percentage of the time.

The side effects of lithium are the reason why anticonvulsants are sometimes used as mood stabilizers. Anticonvulsants commonly used as medications for bipolar disorders include carbamazepine (Tegretol), topiramate (Topamax), valproate/divalproex (Depakote, Depakene), gabapentin (Neurontin), topiramate (Topamax) and lamotrigine (Lamictal). The different types of medications have different side effects but common ones include drowsiness, dizziness and upset stomach that may cause nausea or vomiting.

Depression symptoms in bipolar disorder are treated by antidepressants. However antidepressants are never used on their own as they may trigger a manic episode or make the disorder worse. Antidepressants are taken with mood stabilizers or antipsychotics to avoid an adverse reaction. Common antidepressant medications for bipolar disorders include sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil) and fluoxetine (Prozac).

Antipsychotics are the third group of medications for bipolar disorders. The atypical psychotics are used to take quick control of an acute manic episode. They are also used as maintenance medications and are used in conjunction with other drugs. The common antipsychotics used include ziprasidone (Geodon), olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal) and clozapine (Clorazil). Some of the side effects of this class of drugs include weight gain, sexual dysfunction, hyperglycemia or diabetes and heart arrhythmias.

Benzodiazepines are still another group of medications for bipolar disorders. These are prescribed as an additional drug to be used in conjunction with mood stabilizers. They are prescribed because they improve sleep and ease tension.

Complementary treatments for bipolar disorders include psychotherapy and lifestyle management.

Though having to take medications for bipolar disorders is not what most people would want, the treatments will vastly improve the quality of living for all involved and there is no reason not to make the decision to begin treatment and stay with it for however long necessary.