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Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition in which the affected person experiences extreme variations in mood, activity levels, energy, and mental focus, which affects the ability to carry out tasks of daily living. Bipolar disorder was previously called manic-depressive illness because it is characterized by clear changes in mood and energy, ranging from periods of extreme elation and high energy (manic episodes) to periods of hopelessness, sadness, and indifference (depressive episodes). A less severe form of manic episodes is labeled hypomania.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness. The episodes of mania and depression can return from time to time with intervening periods in which the person is symptom-free. Some people may have lingering symptoms between episodes of mania and depression. Long-term treatment with medications and psychotherapy can help many people, even those with severe forms of bipolar disorder, live fulfilling lives.

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

During a manic episode, a person with bipolar disorder may:

  • Feel elated, highly energetic, wired, or jumpy
  • Feel irritable or touchy
  • Have loss of appetite
  • Have reduced need for sleep
  • Talk fast and jump from topic to topic
  • Experience racing thoughts
  • Try to do many things at once
  • Take unnecessary risks or show poor judgment
  • Feel important or powerful

During a depressive episode, a person with bipolar disorder may:

  • Feel sad, hopeless, worried, or restless
  • Have increased appetite and weight gain
  • Lose interest in most activities
  • Sleep too much or have trouble falling asleep
  • Speak slowly and be forgetful
  • Have trouble completing tasks that require mental focus
  • Have difficulty doing even simple tasks
  • Have decreased sex drive

Medications for Bipolar Disorder

For people with bipolar disorder, medications play an important role in bringing the mania and depression under control and preventing relapse once the mood has stabilized. It is worth noting that medications for bipolar disorder often need to be continued lifelong even when the symptoms are under control because stopping the treatment can lead to a relapse. If you feel like you no longer need treatment for bipolar disorder, always talk to a healthcare provider before stopping your medications – your doctor can help you do this safely. Several different types of medications are used to treat bipolar disorder, some of which are described below:

  • Mood stabilizers like valproic acid (Depakene), divalproex sodium (Depakote), carbamazepine (Tegretol), lamotrigine (Lamictal), and lithium are used to control the mood swings associated with manic or hypomanic episodes.
  • Antipsychotics like olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), risperidone (Risperdal), and aripiprazole (Abilify) are sometimes prescribed along with mood stabilizers in bipolar patients with persistent symptoms.
  • Antidepressants are used to manage depressive episodes in people with bipolar disorder. An antidepressant can trigger a manic episode and it is therefore usually prescribed with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic.
  • Anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines may be prescribed for short-term treatment of anxiety and sleep problems.
  • Combination medications like Symbyax contain fluoxetine (an antidepressant) and olanzapine (an antipsychotic).

Over-the-Counter Medications for Bipolar Disorder

The medications used to treat bipolar disorder are prescription drugs and cannot be purchased over-the-counter. Some natural herbal remedies are available over-the-counter that are believed to improve mood, such as St. John’s Wort, omega-3 fatty acids, S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe), and Rhodiola Rosea.

It is worth noting that the effectiveness of these herbal remedies is not supported by strong scientific evidence. Therefore, OTC mood stabilizers should never be used as a substitute for prescription medications for bipolar disorder. If you are taking any OTC remedies to improve your mood, always inform your healthcare providers about them, because some OTC products can interfere with prescription bipolar treatments.

Common Side Effects of Bipolar Medications

Mood stabilizers can cause side effects like itching, rash, drowsiness, dizziness, shakiness, fatigue, vision changes, nausea, vomiting, weight gain, pounding or irregular heartbeat, increased thirst, and increased urination.

Potential side effects of antipsychotic medications include weight gain, drowsiness, dizziness, restlessness, blurred vision, dry mouth, constipation, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, tics and tremors (uncontrolled movements), and sexual dysfunction.  

Antidepressants can cause dry mouth, blurred vision, dizziness, headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, stomachache, insomnia, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction in men, and agitation.

Common side effects of anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines) include drowsiness, dizziness, headache, confusion, nightmares, slurred speech, blurred vision, fatigue, and lethargy.

Common Questions

How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?

There is no specific blood test or brain scan to diagnose bipolar disorder. Physicians diagnose the condition based on a patient’s medical history, including the pattern and severity of manic and depressive episodes. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a manual that offers guidelines for physicians to diagnose the different types of bipolar disorder.

What is the difference between bipolar disorder and depression?

The main difference between major clinical depression and bipolar disorder is the presence of manic episodes. People with bipolar disorder experience periods of depression, but they also experience periods of mania. The word bipolar refers to the two poles of the emotional spectrum – the lows (depression) and the highs (mania).

Can I get a discount on bipolar disorder medications with BuzzRx?

Yes, you can get discounts on some medicines—including medications used to treat bipolar disorder—as long as you have a signed prescription from your doctor.

References:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355961

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-medication-guide.htm

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antidepressants/side-effects/

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/index.shtml

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684331/

https://www.reidhealth.org/blog/natural-mood-stabilizers-what-are-some-healthy-ways-to-enhance-your-mood

Common Bipolar Disorder. Health Medications

    Bipolar Disorder.

    Get the latest information on common prescription and over-the-counter bipolar disorder drugs.

    Medically reviewed by:
    Andres Maldonado, M.D. / Feb 24, 2021

    Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition in which the affected person experiences extreme variations in mood, activity levels, energy, and mental focus, which affects the ability to carry out tasks of daily living. Bipolar disorder was previously called manic-depressive illness because it is characterized by clear changes in mood and energy, ranging from periods of extreme elation and high energy (manic episodes) to periods of hopelessness, sadness, and indifference (depressive episodes). A less severe form of manic episodes is labeled hypomania.

    Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness. The episodes of mania and depression can return from time to time with intervening periods in which the person is symptom-free. Some people may have lingering symptoms between episodes of mania and depression. Long-term treatment with medications and psychotherapy can help many people, even those with severe forms of bipolar disorder, live fulfilling lives.

    Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

    During a manic episode, a person with bipolar disorder may:

    • Feel elated, highly energetic, wired, or jumpy
    • Feel irritable or touchy
    • Have loss of appetite
    • Have reduced need for sleep
    • Talk fast and jump from topic to topic
    • Experience racing thoughts
    • Try to do many things at once
    • Take unnecessary risks or show poor judgment
    • Feel important or powerful

    During a depressive episode, a person with bipolar disorder may:

    • Feel sad, hopeless, worried, or restless
    • Have increased appetite and weight gain
    • Lose interest in most activities
    • Sleep too much or have trouble falling asleep
    • Speak slowly and be forgetful
    • Have trouble completing tasks that require mental focus
    • Have difficulty doing even simple tasks
    • Have decreased sex drive

    Medications for Bipolar Disorder

    For people with bipolar disorder, medications play an important role in bringing the mania and depression under control and preventing relapse once the mood has stabilized. It is worth noting that medications for bipolar disorder often need to be continued lifelong even when the symptoms are under control because stopping the treatment can lead to a relapse. If you feel like you no longer need treatment for bipolar disorder, always talk to a healthcare provider before stopping your medications – your doctor can help you do this safely. Several different types of medications are used to treat bipolar disorder, some of which are described below:

    • Mood stabilizers like valproic acid (Depakene), divalproex sodium (Depakote), carbamazepine (Tegretol), lamotrigine (Lamictal), and lithium are used to control the mood swings associated with manic or hypomanic episodes.
    • Antipsychotics like olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), risperidone (Risperdal), and aripiprazole (Abilify) are sometimes prescribed along with mood stabilizers in bipolar patients with persistent symptoms.
    • Antidepressants are used to manage depressive episodes in people with bipolar disorder. An antidepressant can trigger a manic episode and it is therefore usually prescribed with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic.
    • Anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines may be prescribed for short-term treatment of anxiety and sleep problems.
    • Combination medications like Symbyax contain fluoxetine (an antidepressant) and olanzapine (an antipsychotic).

    Over-the-Counter Medications for Bipolar Disorder

    The medications used to treat bipolar disorder are prescription drugs and cannot be purchased over-the-counter. Some natural herbal remedies are available over-the-counter that are believed to improve mood, such as St. John’s Wort, omega-3 fatty acids, S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe), and Rhodiola Rosea.

    It is worth noting that the effectiveness of these herbal remedies is not supported by strong scientific evidence. Therefore, OTC mood stabilizers should never be used as a substitute for prescription medications for bipolar disorder. If you are taking any OTC remedies to improve your mood, always inform your healthcare providers about them, because some OTC products can interfere with prescription bipolar treatments.

    Common Side Effects of Bipolar Medications

    Mood stabilizers can cause side effects like itching, rash, drowsiness, dizziness, shakiness, fatigue, vision changes, nausea, vomiting, weight gain, pounding or irregular heartbeat, increased thirst, and increased urination.

    Potential side effects of antipsychotic medications include weight gain, drowsiness, dizziness, restlessness, blurred vision, dry mouth, constipation, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, tics and tremors (uncontrolled movements), and sexual dysfunction.  

    Antidepressants can cause dry mouth, blurred vision, dizziness, headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, stomachache, insomnia, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction in men, and agitation.

    Common side effects of anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines) include drowsiness, dizziness, headache, confusion, nightmares, slurred speech, blurred vision, fatigue, and lethargy.

    Common Questions

    How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?

    There is no specific blood test or brain scan to diagnose bipolar disorder. Physicians diagnose the condition based on a patient’s medical history, including the pattern and severity of manic and depressive episodes. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a manual that offers guidelines for physicians to diagnose the different types of bipolar disorder.

    What is the difference between bipolar disorder and depression?

    The main difference between major clinical depression and bipolar disorder is the presence of manic episodes. People with bipolar disorder experience periods of depression, but they also experience periods of mania. The word bipolar refers to the two poles of the emotional spectrum – the lows (depression) and the highs (mania).

    Can I get a discount on bipolar disorder medications with BuzzRx?

    Yes, you can get discounts on some medicines—including medications used to treat bipolar disorder—as long as you have a signed prescription from your doctor.

    References:

    https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355961

    https://www.helpguide.org/articles/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-medication-guide.htm

    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antidepressants/side-effects/

    https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/index.shtml

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684331/

    https://www.reidhealth.org/blog/natural-mood-stabilizers-what-are-some-healthy-ways-to-enhance-your-mood

    Common Bipolar Disorder. Health Medications

      Hexagon
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      Depakote

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