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Medication Types Used To Treat Bipolar Disorder

Treating bipolar disorder is difficult and complicated. With every new medication regime we must wait a month or more to see if the medication cocktail is even working. This causes us to be frustrated and often we just give up on the waiting and go off the medications thinking that nothing will help us. There are so many types of drugs used to help us live an easier and more stable life. Here are a few types:

SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are a class of drug that serves as an antidepressant. This can be good news for those of us who fight ugly, dark depressions. It is most commonly used for depressive disorder or anxiety disorder.

MAOIs, or monoamine oxidase inhibitors, are a class of drugs that inhibit activity of one or both monoamine oxidase enzymes. Best known as powerful antidepressants these also can be used to fight of the lows of bipolar disorder. MAOIs are also therapeutic for panic disorder and social phobia.

Benzodiazapines, or benzos. are a class of psychoactive drugs whose core chemical structure is a fusion of a benzene ring and a diazepine ring. Its main use is for anxiety disorder, often a comorbid disorder for many of us living with bipolar disorder, as well as epileptic seizures, and spasms.

Lithium is the most common medication (that I know of) prescribed for our illness. It has been used to treat bipolar disorder since the 1960s. Lithium or lithium carbonate is classified as an alkaline metal. Unlike SSRIs and MAOIs, lithium is an antimanic medication. Mania is the extreme high we sometimes feel.

Lithium is also considered a mood stabilizer. I believe you should be on a mood stabilizer when taking an antidepressant as antidepressants can cause us living with bipolar to spiral into mania. Other mood stabilizers include Lamotrigine (Lamictal), Carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Epitol, Equetro, Tegretol), Divalproex sodium (Depakote), and Valproic Acid (Depakene).

Some anticonvulsant medications are recognized as mood stabilizers. These mood stabilizers treat or prevent mood episodes in bipolar disorder. Anticonvulsants work by calming hyperactivity in the brain in many ways. These drugs, like the name indicates, are used to treat epilepsy, prevent migrains, and to treat other brain disorders.

Antipsychotic medications at used as a short term treatment to control psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, or manic symptoms. These medications help regulate the functioning of the brain circuits that control thinking, mood, and perception. Atypical antipsychotics are known as second generation antipsychotics as they have been introduced in the 1990s. The earlier version, or first generation antipsychotics, are known as first generation antipsychotics.

As you can see there are a lot of classes of medications to help us. Within each class are a multitude of particular drugs, each one a little different than the rest. We can see why it must be difficult for psychiatrists to get it right, let ago on the first try. As frustrating as it may be at first, and throughout our illness really, we have to try to be patient with the process. We know these medications take a while to work and sometimes we do not think we can wait for the meds to take effects. I urge you to put a little faith in the professionals. Speak up about side effects. Hang in there. It will get better.


*I am not a doctor. Take direction from your doctor or provider regarding your medication. This is meant to serve as informative matter only.




Medication Types Used To Treat Bipolar Disorder

Elaina J. Martin

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APA Reference
Martin, E. (2019). Medication Types Used To Treat Bipolar Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Oct 2019
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