Treating Bipolar Depression

2013 Bipolar Update

Information On Treating Bipolar Disorder

Treating Bipolar Depression

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that is characterized by mood swings from mania to depression and vice versa. This is the reason that this disorder was previously referred to as manic depression. There is no available cure for bipolar disorder at this time but it is imperative to treat it as the cycling mood swings (particularly depressive episodes) can have a very detrimental effect on a person’s life. It has been found that depressive episodes are more common than manic episodes. This is why treating bipolar depression is generally of more importance than treating bipolar mania.

Treating bipolar depression is a long term affair. This is because this mental disorder is often a lifetime illness that recurs at certain frequencies. In most cases, treating bipolar depression will involve a combination of therapy and medications.

The medications that are often prescribed as a first line of defense when treating bipolar depression are anticonvulsants and mood stabilizers. The most commonly prescribed mood stabilizer is lithium while the most commonly prescribed anticonvulsant is lamotrigine which is also a mood stabilizer. In fact, lithium is the only prescribed mood stabilizer for depression that is not an anticonvulsant.

Mood stabilizers play a crucial role in treating bipolar depression as they improve behavior, mood and in turn social interaction. The mood stabilizers not only treat the mood swings but they also prevent them from happening in the first place. Quite often, a person suffering from bipolar depression will only need a mood stabilizer as medication. However, in the instances when a mood stabilizer does not work on its own, another mood stabilizer may also be prescribed. If two mood stabilizers are not sufficient, an antipsychotic drug may also be prescribed.

Antidepressants are also used in treating bipolar depression. However, these drugs are never used as a standalone treatment. This is because antidepressants as the only prescribed medication have been shown to trigger manic episodes.

When treating bipolar depression, it is very crucial to monitor the patient’s reaction to the drugs. This is because different people will react differently to the prescribed medications. It often will take some trial and error before the best combination of drugs is settled on. Anticonvulsant drugs have been shown to increase thoughts of suicide in people with bipolar disorder. Lithium also has been shown to cause a reduction in the thyroid function in some cases and this means that thyroid medication may also need to be prescribed.

Valproic acid, a mood stabilizer that is sometimes prescribed in place of lithium has been known to increase testosterone levels in females. Increased testosterone levels may lead to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in women of teenage years which causes severe symptoms such as interrupted monthly cycle, excess body hair growth and obesity.

The good news is that by treating bipolar depression with a correct combination of medication, the patient is able to live a relatively normal life as long as they stay on their prescribed medication. The problems usually arrive when a patient decides on their own they no longer need treatment and cease taking their medication.