Bipolar Disorder Medication

What is Bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that includes extreme mood changes. People with bipolar disorder can have episodes in which they feel overly happy and other episodes where they feel sad or depressed.

Bipolar disorder medications

The treatment of bipolar disorder may include a combination of medical and talk therapy. The psychiatrist may recommend medications as an initial treatment to control the symptoms of bipolar disorder quickly.

Doctors can prescribe their patients one or a combination of medicines for the maximum effect. It usually takes eight weeks to see the full effects of each medication. You will receive a maintenance treatment once your symptoms are under control. Maintenance treatment helps in reducing the chance of minor shifts in mood changes.

Various types of medicines help in the treatment of bipolar disorder. These medicines include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and drugs that relieve anxiety.

Medicines that help to treat bipolar disorder are as follows:


Lithium is a mood-stabilizing drug that helps treat mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. FDA has approved lithium as a prescription medication for use in bipolar disorder. It helps in controlling the symptoms of acute mania.

Lithium is also effective in preventing the reoccurrence of episodes of mania and depression.

The side effects of lithium may include weight gain, fatigue, diarrhea, dizziness, muscle weakness, and heart rhythm change. This medicine can also affect your thyroid and kidneys. People should go for periodic blood tests to monitor their thyroid and kidney health.


Anticonvulsants are mood-stabilizers that help to treat or prevent mood changes or shifts in bipolar disorder. It helps in calming down the hyperactivity in the brain in various ways. Some anticonvulsant drugs include:

  • divalproex sodium (Depakote)
  • lamotrigine (Lamictal)
  • valproic acid (Depakene)

Doctors often prescribe anticonvulsants to people who have four or more mania and depression episodes in a year.

The common side effects of anticonvulsants include weight gain, drowsiness, fatigue, rash, nausea, and inability to sit still. These drugs can also cause severe liver problems.

The Valproic acid present in anticonvulsants can cause birth defects, and Lamictal can cause a rash that can be dangerous.


Antipsychotic drugs help to control psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, or mania symptoms. These drugs work by regulating the functioning of brain circuits that control thinking, mood and perception. Some common antipsychotic drugs include:

  • aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • risperidone (Risperdal)
  • lurasidone (Latuda)
  • asenapine (Saphris)

The side effects include blurred vision, dry mouth, drowsiness, weight gain, decreased libido, and muscle spasms.

Antipsychotic drugs may cause some involuntary facial or body movements. These drugs may also affect memory and attention.

Some antipsychotic drugs can significant weight gain, high cholesterol levels and may increase the risk of diabetes.


Antidepressants help in the treatment of depression and mood disorders. They help manage depression in bipolar disorder but can sometimes trigger manic episodes.  To reduce the risk of causing manic episodes, doctors usually prescribe it along with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic.

Antidepressants include serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and tricyclics.


  • fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR, Pexeva)
  • sertraline (Zoloft)


  • desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
  • duloxetine (Cymbalta, Yentreve)
  • venlafaxine (Effexor)


  • phenelzine (Nardil)
  • tranylcypromine (Parnate)


  • amitriptyline
  • desipramine (Norpramin)
  • imipramine (Tofranil, Tofranil-PM)
  • nortriptyline (Pamelor)

Some of the symptoms of antidepressants include weight gain, increased appetite, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, dry mouth, blurred vision, nausea, and constipation.

Antidepressants can also change personality in some rare cases where people may feel a loss of emotions. If this happens, you may need to lower your dose or switch to a different antidepressant.


Benzodiazepines are a group of drugs known as nervous system depressants. It helps in the treatment of anxiety and sleep disorders. This drug works by raising the level of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. It produces a sedative effect that works to relieve anxiety.

Benzodiazepines include:

The side effects of benzodiazepines include drowsiness, reduced muscle coordination, problems with balance and memory, depression, increased anxiety, dizziness, and confusion.

People should never use Benzodiazepines for more than two weeks because it can cause addiction.


Symbyax is a combination of two drugs, including olanzapine and fluoxetine. Olanzapine is an antipsychotic drug, and fluoxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).

Symbyax helps treat a specific type of mood disorder, such as depression associated with bipolar disorder. It has the properties of both an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer.

Side effects of Symbyax include increased appetite, weight gain, sexual problems, dry mouth, fatigue, drowsiness, and dizziness.

Medications during pregnancy

Medicines such as lithium and valproic acid can increase the risk of birth defects in an unborn baby. Some medications may also reduce the effectiveness of birth control drugs.

Talk to your doctor before breastfeeding because some medications may not be safe for your child.

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