Mental health disorders

Bipolar disorder

(Manic depression)

About Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness. People who have it go through unusual mood changes. They go from very happy, "up," and active to very sad and hopeless, "down," and inactive, and then back again. They often have normal moods in between. The up feeling is called mania. The down feeling is depression.

The causes of bipolar disorder aren't always clear. It runs in families. Abnormal brain structure and function may also play a role.

Bipolar disorder often starts in a person's late teen or early adult years. But children and adults can have bipolar disorder too. The illness usually lasts a lifetime.

If you think you may have it, tell your health care provider. A medical checkup can rule out other illnesses that might cause your mood changes.

If not treated, bipolar disorder can lead to damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. However, there are effective treatments to control symptoms: medicine and talk therapy. A combination usually works best.

NIH: National Institute of Mental Health

Symptoms of Bipolar disorder
  • Mood changes
  • Mania: Feeling "up", happy, active, or irritable
  • Depression: Feeling "down", sad, inactive, and hopeless

Top Medications for Bipolar disorder according to our users

Button Group. All currently active

All Medications for Bipolar disorder

  • Antipsychotic > Atypical

    • Abilify
      (Aripiprazole)
      Prescription only

      Abilify (Aripiprazole) is good for treating psychosis and mania, and can help with depression. Less likely to cause side effects than any other antipsychotic, but has a risk of suicidal thoughts for people age 24 and younger.Will Abilify work for you?

      • Available dosage forms:
      • Pill
      • Dissolving tablet
      • Liquid
      • Injection
    • Risperdal
      (Risperidone)
      Prescription only

      Risperdal (Risperidone) is good for treating psychosis, mania, and irritability. Among newer antipsychotic medicines, more likely to cause side effects, especially weight gain and hormone problems.

      • Available dosage forms:
      • Pill
      • Dissolving tablet
      • Liquid
      • Injection
    • Zyprexa
      (Olanzapine)
      Prescription only

      Zyprexa (Olanzapine) is good for treating psychosis, mania, and agitation. More likely to cause weight gain and sleepiness than other antipsychotics.

      • Available dosage forms:
      • Pill
      • Dissolving tablet
      • Injection
    • Invega
      (Paliperidone)
      Prescription only

      Invega (Paliperidone) is good for treating psychosis and improving mood. It's more likely to cause hormone problems than other antipsychotics.

      • Available dosage forms:
      • Extended release
      • Injection
    • Seroquel
      (Quetiapine)
      Prescription only

      Seroquel (Quetiapine) is good for treating psychosis and mania. Fewer side effects than most antipsychotics, but might be less effective for people over age 40 with schizophrenia.Will Seroquel work for you?

      • Available dosage forms:
      • Pill
      • Extended release
  • Antipsychotic > 2nd generation

    • Geodon
      (Ziprasidone)
      Prescription only

      Geodon (Ziprasidone) treats bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and causes fewer side effects than similar medicines. It’s not a good choice if you have heart problems.

      Was it worth it?
      • Available dosage forms:
      • Pill
      • Injection
    • Latuda
      (Lurasidone)
      Prescription only

      Latuda (Lurasidone) is good for treating schizophrenia and depression related to bipolar disorder. It's less likely to cause weight gain, cholesterol, blood sugar, and heart rhythm problems.

      • Available dosage forms:
      • Pill

Anticonvulsant

  • Depacon (Valproate, Valproic Acid, Or Divalproex) is good long-term prevention for epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and migraines, but can cause weight gain.

    • Available dosage forms:
    • Pill
    • Extended release
    • Extended release capsule
    • Sprinkle
    • Liquid
  • Lamictal
    (Lamotrigine)
    Prescription only

    Lamictal (Lamotrigine) is most useful for treating severe seizure disorders, and for bipolar disorder with more depression symptoms than manic symptoms. Just be careful to increase your dose slowly to avoid skin rash.Will Lamictal work for you?

    • Available dosage forms:
    • Pill
    • Extended release
    • Chewable tablet
    • Dissolving tablet
  • Tegretol
    (Carbamazepine)
    Prescription only

    Tegretol (Carbamazepine) is useful for preventing seizures and relieving certain types of nerve pain, but interacts with many drugs.

    • Available dosage forms:
    • Pill
    • Extended release
    • Chewable tablet
    • Oral suspension
  • Keppra
    (Levetiracetam)
    Prescription only

    Keppra (Levetiracetam) is effective for preventing seizures in people with epilepsy. Compared to other anti-seizure medications, it has few drug interactions and you don’t need to get your levels checked.

    Was it worth it?
    • Available dosage forms:
    • Pill
    • Extended release
    • Liquid

Mood stabilizer

  • Lithium
    Prescription only

    Lithobid (Lithium) is the most effective long-term treatment for bipolar disorder, but it comes with a lot of side effects, so it can be difficult to take.

    • Available dosage forms:
    • Pill
    • Extended release
    • Oral solution
  • Antidepressant > Norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor

    • Wellbutrin
      (Bupropion)
      Prescription only

      Wellbutrin (Bupropion) is good for treating depression and has fewer sexual side effects than other antidepressants, but you need to be okay with avoiding alcohol.Will Wellbutrin work for you?

      • Available dosage forms:
      • Pill
      • Extended release

Medication side effects for Bipolar disorder

These are some of the most common side effects from clinical trials for anxiety.

  • Seroquel: 4%
  • Lamictal: 16%
0 of 100

At this end, no one is expected to have anxiety

100 of 100

At this end, almost everyone is expected to have anxiety

Tips, success stories, and coping strategies for Bipolar disorder

What tip would you give someone like me who was just diagnosed?
  • You will probably have to try many different kinds of meds, and different doses and combinations. It is very important to keep trying until you find one that works, and then always take it! Do not stop your meds unless you doctor says so!
  • Medication is important for managing specific symptoms of bipolar. However, therapy and lifestyle changes are the foundation- they help in getting your life back on track and maintaining stability through all the ups, downs & triggers.
  • Remember there are two distinct types of bipolar disorder, Bipolar I and Bipolar II. How they're treated is completely different and really should be categorized into different places on this website.
  • Also, meds are not a cure all so learning healthy coping mechanisms is important to your overall wellbeing.
  • Life post diagnosis is frustrating. Be patient with your MD and communicate openly. Give your medications time. Be prepared for failed attempts. Be compliant with your MD's instructions. Lastly, join a support group, such as DBSA.
  • Try to be patient while they are tweaking ur meds.
  • i take two meds n im good w it havent had a manic episode at all.
What’s your best coping strategy?
  • I'd say my top 3 (in order) are meds, sleep (adequate length and regular times) and exercise (cardio hard enough to sweat, for 20 min at least 3x a week).
  • Identifying the right strategies for the right situation, time and place. Also, having a mental and written inventory of a diversity of coping strategies. General policy- writing everything down and tracking my mood!
  • I use a low dose of lithium, 450 mg per day. This has helped to stabilize my bipolar II for years. The level is low enough so that I don't have to have blood tests more than once a year and also I only see my doctor once a year.
  • A good therapist
  • Meditation and nutrition
  • Meditation
  • I joined a support group, DBSA and try to go regularly.
Besides medications, what else has worked for you?
  • Dbt- learning more about distress tolerance and emotional regulation; mindfulness; grounding strategies( revolutionary!); one person I can trust to discuss what is actually going on; my kitty; group therapy; CBT; learning everything i can
  • Eating a healthy whole foods diet
  • Mindfulness & Meditation
  • ECT
  • Reaching out to friends, psychotherapy and CBT, and support group such as DBSA
  • Talking with a therapist
  • Exercise, meditation (try yoga!), talking with a therapist, getting a dog - but only get a dog if you love them, are willing to care for them, and have the financial ability to do so.