Managing Bipolar Disorder: The Most Effective Drugs and Treatments

Mood stabilizers are medicines that help control the ups & downs of bipolar disorder & are the cornerstone of treatment both for mania & depression.

Managing Bipolar Disorder: The Most Effective Drugs and Treatments

Mood stabilizers are the cornerstone of treatment for bipolar disorder, both for mania and depression. Lithium is the oldest and most well-known mood stabilizer and is very effective in treating mania. Quetiapine (Seroquel, Seroquel XR) is used for the short-term treatment of bipolar depression. Olanzapine (Zyprexa) with fluoxetine (Prozac) is another option.

If your family doctor or psychiatrist recommends that you stop taking the medication for bipolar disorder, the dose should be reduced gradually for at least 4 weeks and up to 3 months if you are taking an antipsychotic or lithium. If you have to stop taking lithium for any reason, talk to your family doctor about taking an antipsychotic or valproate instead. In the UK, lithium is the main medication used to treat bipolar disorder. It is usually prescribed for at least 6 months.

If you are prescribed lithium, stick to the prescribed dose and do not stop taking it suddenly, unless directed to do so by your doctor. For lithium to be effective, the dosage must be correct. If it's not right, you can suffer side effects, such as diarrhea and getting sick. Tell your doctor immediately if you have side effects while taking lithium. You'll need to have regular blood tests at least every 3 months while you're taking lithium.

This is to make sure your lithium levels aren't too high or too low. Your kidney and thyroid function will also need to be checked every 2 to 3 months if your lithium dose is adjusted, and every 12 months in all other cases. While taking lithium, avoid the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, unless prescribed by your family doctor. In the UK, lithium and the antipsychotic drug aripiprazole are currently the only drugs officially approved for use in adolescents with bipolar disorder. A single anticonvulsant medication can be used, or they can be used in combination with lithium when bipolar disorder does not respond to lithium on its own. Valproate is generally not prescribed for women of childbearing potential because there is a risk of physical defects in babies, such as spina bifida, heart defects, and cleft lip.

Learn more about the risks of valproate medications during pregnancy In women, your family doctor may decide to use valproate if there is no other alternative or if you have been evaluated and are unlikely to respond to other treatments. Carbamazepine is usually only prescribed on the advice of an expert in bipolar disorder. For starters, the dose will be low and then gradually increase. Blood tests will be done to check your liver and kidney function when you start taking carbamazepine and again after 6 months. If you are prescribed lamotrigine, you will usually be started on a low dose, which will gradually increase. See your family doctor right away if you are taking lamotrigine and have a rash.

You will need to have an annual health checkup, but other tests are usually not needed. If your symptoms don't improve, you may also be offered lithium and valproate. You may be prescribed a combination of lithium and valproate if you experience rapid cycles, in which you change rapidly from high to low levels without a normal period in between. If this doesn't help, you may be offered lithium alone or a combination of lithium, valproate, and lamotrigine. Treatment for bipolar depression has come a long way in a short time. Not so long ago, patients were given sedatives and medications with numerous side effects.

Today, mood-stabilizing drugs are a fundamental treatment for bipolar disorder. Doctors may prescribe lithium, an antimanic medication, an antipsychotic medication, or a combination of both to relieve symptoms of depression without triggering a manic episode. In some patients with bipolar disorder, a mood stabilizer may be all that is needed to modulate depressed mood. Healthy lifestyle changes, self-help strategies, and exploring therapy are also important to coping with the symptoms of bipolar disorder and helping you live a full and productive life. It is recommended for both the treatment and prevention of bipolar moods ranging from the lows of depression to the highs of hypomania or mania. Comparisons of Tolerability and Sensitivity of Quetiapine-XR in the Acute Treatment of Schizophrenia, Bipolar Mania, Bipolar Depression, Major Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. To make the situation even less clear, at least one anticonvulsant, lamotrigine, lacks antimanic properties and although it is a suitable antidepressant agent in bipolar depression it is not as effective in treating major depressive disorder. Most of the time doctors start treating bipolar disorder by prescribing a mood-stabilizing medication such as lithium.

Olanzapine has been shown to have acute antidepressant effects in bipolar disorder either alone or in combination with fluoxetine. However in bipolar patients who do not respond to a mood stabilizer another mood stabilizer or an atypical antipsychotic is sometimes added to the treatment regimen. If you have bipolar disorder you can learn to recognize the warning signs of an impending episode of mania or depression. Suicide is the leading cause of premature death among people with bipolar disorder and 15-17% of people take their own lives because of negative symptoms from an untreated illness. If you become pregnant while taking a medication that has been prescribed for you for bipolar disorder it is important that you do not stop taking it until you have discussed it with your doctor.

What Are The Benefits Of Mood Stabilizers?

A mood-stabilizing medication works to regulate extreme highs (mania) and lows (depression) associated with bipolar disorder by restoring balance in brain chemistry. Mood stabilizers can help reduce symptoms such as irritability, racing thoughts or speech patterns that can lead to impulsive behavior or poor decision making during manic episodes.

What Are The Side Effects Of Mood Stabilizers?

The most common side effects associated with mood stabilizers include nausea/vomiting/diarrhea/constipation; weight gain; drowsiness; dizziness; dry mouth; blurred vision; tremor; headache; increased thirst; increased urination; muscle weakness; rash; hair loss; changes in libido; difficulty concentrating; memory problems; confusion; agitation; restlessness; insomnia; fatigue; depression; anxiety; suicidal thoughts/behavior; increased risk of diabetes/high cholesterol/high blood pressure/heart attack/stroke/liver damage/kidney damage/bone loss/osteoporosis/birth defects.


Bipolar disorder can be effectively managed with medications such as mood stabilizers like Lithium or anticonvulsants like Valproate or Lamotrigine combined with psychotherapy and lifestyle changes like regular exercise and healthy eating habits.

It's important that people living with this condition take their medications as prescribed by their doctor as well as monitor their mental health closely so they can recognize any warning signs that could indicate an impending episode.

Cassandra Laudat
Cassandra Laudat

Friendly zombie enthusiast. Subtly charming pop culture trailblazer. Professional zombie buff. Amateur social media evangelist. Friendly food fan.