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What Medications Can Treat Bipolar Disorder?

Have you ever had mood swings and were met by someone saying, “you’re bipolar?” Not only is that offensive, but it is inaccurate. Bipolar disorder is a severe condition that can affect an individual’s way of life. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about bipolar disorder. 

The way it is portrayed in movies or on television is not an accurate depiction. It is a debilitating condition that can start in early childhood but may not appear until your late 40’s or 50’s. Bipolar does not discriminate between men and women, and it can be found in all races, ages, social classes, and ethnic groups. 

According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, approximately 5.7 million adults in the United States struggle with the condition. That breaks down to 2.6 percent of the adult population that is 18 or older. 

The average age of onset is 25 years old, but as mentioned above, you can develop it any time throughout life. More than two-thirds of those with bipolar disorder have one close relative with the illness or with unipolar major depression. It shows that bipolar has a heritable component. 

The same study shows that women with bipolar II disorder are significantly more likely to deal with rapid periods of cycling than men with the same condition. The other findings show that women with bipolar disorder have more depressive episodes or more mixed episodes than men.

Bipolar disorder is a leading cause of disability worldwide. The condition results in 9.2 total years of reduced life span. As many as one in five people struggling with bipolar will complete suicide. 

Fortunately, bipolar is a treatable disorder with the right therapies and medications. Those who take charge of their condition can lead a happy and healthy life. Let’s take a look into what bipolar is and how it’s treated.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is usually called manic-depressive illness. It is a brain disorder that produces unusual shifts in energy, mood, and levels of activity. It also affects someone’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.  There are four types of bipolar disorder, and all of them involve evident changes in energy, mood, and activity levels. The moods range from periods of extraordinarily elated or energized behavior to very sad or hopeless periods. The less severe manic periods are referred to as hypomanic episodes. 

The four types of bipolar go as follows:

  • Bipolar I Disorder: Defined by manic episodes that last at least seven days or manic symptoms that are so severe, someone needs immediate hospital care. Typically, depressive episodes will occur as well, which usually lasts at least two weeks. Bouts of depression with mixed features (depression and manic symptoms occurring together) are also possible.
  • Bipolar II Disorder: Bipolar II disorder is a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but are not full-blown manic episodes as we described above. 
  • Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia): Cyclothymia consists of numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms and various periods of depressive symptoms that last for at least two years. The symptoms will not meet the diagnostic requirements for a depressive episode and hypomanic episode. 
  • Other Unspecified and Specified Bipolar and Related Disorders: These are bipolar disorder symptoms that do not match the other three categories we’ve listed above.

A proper diagnosis is the only way to determine if you are struggling with bipolar disorder. You must speak with a doctor or licensed mental health professional to rule out any other conditions. You will likely be referred to a psychiatrist who is experienced in treating bipolar disorder.

What Medications Treat Bipolar Disorder?

If you are struggling with bipolar disorder, you must be treated on an ongoing basis. You must be visiting a mental health professional regularly, even if you are feeling fine. Treatment will include a combination of talk therapy and medication

Psychiatrists recommend medications as your initial treatment to control symptoms immediately. Once the symptoms are under control, you will receive maintenance treatment that reduces the risk of relapse. The treatment will also reduce your chances of minor shifts in mood that develop into depression or mania. 

There are many medications used to treat bipolar disorder, which include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and anti-anxiety drugs. Your physician may prescribe one or a combination of medicines for maximum relief. It may take up to eight weeks before you feel relief, and during this time, only one medication will be changed. It helps your doctor monitor and identify what isn’t working.

The following medications are used to treat bipolar disorder:

  • Lithium
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Antidepressants
  • SNRIs
  • SSRIs
  • Tricyclics
  • MAOIs
  • Benzodiazepines

If you feel that you may be struggling with bipolar disorder, you must seek help immediately. You can get on the road to a healthy and normal life with the right treatment.

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