For people with bipolar disorder, managing symptoms can be difficult. A number of treatment options exist for sufferers, including many different types of medication. Some medication types will work better in some people than in others, and many people try a few different medications before finding one that works for them.
Side effects can occur with the use of some medications, so it’s important to talk to a doctor about possible effects and about effects that you experience while taking medications.
Bipolar Medication Effects
Medications for the illness aim to manage both short-term and long-term symptoms, including:
- change in sleep habits
- changes in weight, appetite or eating habits
- concentration and decision-making problems
- fatigue and constant tiredness
- feelings of sadness, worthlessness, hopelessness, restlessness and guilt
- loss of interest in previous activities
- thoughts about death or suicide.
Other goals of medication include:
- controlling any depression or mania
- reducing side effects of other types of treatment
- reducing the frequency of mood shifts.
Bipolar Medication Types
Depending on the symptoms of the condition and a number of other factors, a medical professional may prescribe medication for a bipolar disorder sufferer. The most common medications include:
- Antidepressants: To treat the depression associated with the disease, antidepressants are often prescribed. Most often, antidepressants are used as treatment in conjunction with mood stabilizers to prevent a switch to mania.
- Anti-Psychotics: These medications can be used alone or with other treatments but aim to improve symptoms of mania in patients. Sufferers with severe agitation or anxiety may also be prescribed anti-psychotics.
- Anti-Seizure Medication: Anti-seizure medications are often given to patients as mood regulators.
- Mood Stabilizers: Mood stabilizers help patients go longer between episode occurrences and may delay or relieve the highs and lows of mania and depression.
- Sleeping Pills: Many sufferers have trouble sleeping or are highly nervous. Sleeping pills may help in this area.
These medications are sometimes used in conjunction with other treatments, such as psychotherapy or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
Bipolar Medication Tips
When taking any type of medication for bipolar disorder, it is important to take medicine on time and continuously. Even if symptoms are not present, medications should be taken as directed at the same frequency.
Some people find it helpful to use labeled pillboxes to remember to take their medications, while others find that calendars or lists can be the most helpful. In many cases, setting an alarm on a clock or cell phone is necessary to remember to take medicine.
Reasons to Keep Taking Bipolar Medication
Many people decide to stop taking medication for a variety of reasons. Some people feel that they don’t want to be dependent on medication, but this condition is a lifelong illness, just as are diabetes and other medical conditions. Because this illness is related to the mind, many people view it as a character flaw or a weakness, but this is not the case.
For those experiencing side effects with medication, talk to a medical professional about options, such as switching medication or taking an extra medication for the side effects. Side effects may also be temporary, so continuing the treatment and simply waiting for side effects to subside may be the best option.
Also, many people stop taking medication because they feel it is not helping, but a number of medications need time to begin working, so don’t give up right away.
Bipolar.com (2007). Medicines. Retrieved July 17, 2007, from the Bipolar.com Web site: http://www.bipolar.com/treatment_options/medicines.html.
Mayo Clinic (2007). Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved July 17, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bipolar-disorder/DS00356/DSECTION=8.