Treatment & Prevention

Medical Care

There are many medications for treating bipolar disorder, so a psychiatrist, who is best qualified to identify which drugs work best for a specific patient, should oversee treatment.

Bipolar disorder is treated with three main classes of medication: mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants.

Finding the right bipolar medication regimen can be challenging. For most people with bipolar disorder, two or more medications are used in combination to address the varied symptoms. Find information here about coping with side effects and tips for sticking to your treatment plan.

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If you have bipolar disorder, you may need to take medication indefinitely and possibly for the rest of your life.

Tricyclic antidepressants work by increasing activity of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine, which scientists believe play a role in brain circuits that regulate mood. However, these drugs sometimes increase the risk of mania.

Antipsychotic medications are used as a short-term treatment for bipolar disorder to control psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, or mania symptoms.

Anticonvulsants work by calming hyperactivity in the brain. They're often prescribed for people who have rapid cycling -- four or more episodes of mania and depression in a year.

Calcium channel blockers are typically used to treat high blood pressure or heart problems. Some have also been studied to treat mania or depression in bipolar disorder.

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Benzodiazepines are not a "core" treatment for mania, but they can rapidly help control certain symptoms -- such as restlessness, agitation, or insomnia -- until mood-stabilizing drugs can take effect.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are an extremely potent class of antidepressants that treat depression by preventing the breakdown of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain.

Lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid) is one of the most widely used and studied medications for treating bipolar disorder.

While depression episodes are far more common than manias and have a tremendous effect on the lives of patients, there are only a few established treatments for bipolar depression.

If you have mania, you’ll probably need to take medicine to bring it quickly under control.

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Few studies have been done on bipolar disorder and pregnancy, so not enough is known about the risks of untreated bipolar disorder or the risks and benefits of medications during pregnancy.

Psychotherapy, or "talk" therapy, is an important part of treatment for bipolar disorder.

Electroconvulsive therapy, also known as ECT or electroshock therapy, is a short-term treatment for severe manic or depressive episodes.

Avoiding Complications

If you have bipolar disorder, you may have a higher chance of committing suicide. Watch out for the warning signs and reach out to your family, friends, or health professionals for help.

People often talk about suicide before they attempt it, so pay close attention to what they are saying and take them seriously.

Self-injury, often including cutting, self-mutilation, or self-harm, is an attempt to cope with overpowering negative emotions.

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