What antipsychotic medications are used for bipolar disorder?

There are 2 kinds of antipsychotics: older antipsychotics (often called "typical" or conventional antipsychotics ) and newer antipsychotics (often called atypical antipsychotics).

One serious problem with the older antipsychotics is the risk of a permanent movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia (TD). Older antipsychotic medicines may also cause muscle stiffness, restlessness, and tremors. The newer "atypical" antipsychotics have a much lower risk of causing TD (roughly 1% per year) and movement and muscle side effects. Because of this, the newer atypical antipsychotics are usually the first choice in any of the situations when an antipsychotic is needed.

Five atypical antipsychotics are currently available:
  • olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • risperidone (Risperdal)
  • clozapine (Clozaril)
  • aripiprazole (Abilify)
Research has shown that these atypical antipsychotics have mood stabilizing properties. Common side effects of the atypical antipsychotics include drowsiness and weight gain. Although it is very effective, clozapine is not a first choice medication because it can cause a rare and serious blood side effect, requiring weekly or biweekly blood tests.

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