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Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depressive Illness

Treatments for Bipolar DisorderTypes Of Medication

There are three important types of medication used to treat bipolar disorder: mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotic drugs.

Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers provide relief from extreme manic or depressive episodes. One of the oldest and most commonly used mood stabilizers is a naturally occuring element called lithium. Lithium works especially well for people who experience pure manic episodes. When it is taken with other medication, it is also effective against depression. However, the trouble with lithium is that too much can be toxic and too little can prove ineffective.

To make sure your dosage is not harmful you will need to have regular blood tests. The quantity of lithium you can take also depends on the side effects it produces. These may include gastrointestinal problems, weight gain, tremors, and fatigue. Luckily, there are other medications that you can take to diminish these and other side effects.

Another mood stabilizer that works well for many different kinds of manic episodes is Depakote, which is made from a substance called valproic acid.

Other medications that have not yet been approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) are also being used to treat manic depression. One of the most successful of these is Tegretol. Others include Lamictal, which has been especially useful against depression; Neurontin, which reduces anxiety; and Topomax, which works well against mania. Studies have shown that one out of three people with bipolar disorder will experience no symptoms at all if they take mood stabilizers on a regular basis.

Though these medications may be taken on their own, they are most often combined with each other or with other medications. But since all these medications have side effects, they need to be carefully monitored. For example, recent studies have indicated that mood stabilizers containing valproic acid may cause hormonal problems in girls if dosages are not carefully controlled.


Antidepressants are used to treat the depressive phases of bipolar disorder. They are almost always prescribed with mood stabilizers because on their own they can push you into a manic state. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants include Prozac, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Effexor, and Paxil. If one drug produces uncomfortable side effects, ask your doctor to prescribe another.

Antipsychotic Drugs

If you experience very extreme mania or depression, with symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions, your doctor will probably prescribe an antipsychotic drug. Aside from calming your anxieties, antipsychotic drugs can also function as mood stabilizers.

Medication Cocktails

Treating manic depression is very complicated because what works for one person might not work for another. Also, some drugs might become less effective over time or produce side effects that are difficult to live with. The best results often come from combinations of medications. These combinations are known as med (for medication) cocktails, or simply meds. Though med cocktails can be successful, you might still experience occasional episodes of mania or depression. Furthermore, it can take weeks or even months before some drugs take full effect.

Medication is usually taken daily at specific times and in specific doses. It is extremely important to always take your medication as prescribed. Some people become lazy and begin skipping doses. Others stop taking meds because they go for a long time without experiencing their symptoms or because, in the midst of a manic episode, they feel invincible or distracted.

For whatever reason, if you suddenly stop taking strong medications—or take them at the wrong time or in the wrong quantities—you can hurt yourself. Not taking meds as directed can be dangerous or even life threatening. Not only can it trigger worse episodes of mania or depression, it can also have a serious negative impact on your delicately balanced nervous system.

For the same reasons, you should never mix your medication with any other drugs or with alcohol. Even before taking pills for a headache, vitamins, or a natural remedy, you should always check with your doctor first.

Being responsible with your medication will not only help your treatment, it will boost your self-confidence, too. You will be controlling your disease instead of letting it control you.

Start by making a schedule of when to take your medication. It is also helpful if you keep a journal or mood chart to track how you are feeling from day to day. If you notice any change at all, you should contact your doctor immediately. Remember that only you know how your drugs are making you feel and what side effects they are producing.

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Science EncyclopediaBipolar Disorder and Manic Depressive IllnessBipolar Disorder and Manic Depressive Illness - Treatments for Bipolar Disorder - Professional Help, Types Of Medication, Psychotherapy, Education, Taking Care Of Yourself