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What medications might help my teen with bipolar disorder?

Once your teen receives a diagnosis, your doctor may suggest some medications. Lithium, known as a "mood stabilizer," can prevent manic symptoms in children ages 12 and older. It also acts as an antidepressant and lessens suicidal inclinations. Since these findings resulted from studies with adults, the effects are not guaranteed in those under 18. In fact, some researchers claim that the FDA may not even approve lithium today if it had to review the case studies.

Risperidone (Risperdal) and aripiprazol (Abilify), and Olanzapine (Zyprexa), Quetiapine (Seroquel) and Ziprasidone (Geodone) are classified as "atypical" (or second generation) anti-psychotics. The word "atypical" refers only to the fact that these medicines came after researchers developed the first medicines (like lithium) to treat mood. Doctors sometimes prescribe risperidone short term to help reduce manic symptoms. 

Valproic acid, lamotrigine (Lamictal) or divalproex sodium (Depakote), known as "anticonvulsants," have proven to help stabilize moods. In fact, they have proven effective in treating moods that do not respond to the medications mentioned above. Initially developed to treat seizures, some anti-convulsants have proven more effective in children than lithium. 

Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil) and Sertraline (Zoloft), all "antidepressant medications" are used both for depression and for bipolar disorder. When doctors prescribe one of these in cases of bipolar, it's likely the recipient takes a mood stabilizer or anti-convulsant as well to control the manias. A bipolar child only on an antidepressant risks switching to mania and/or developing "rapid cycling symptoms." Rapid cycling symptoms are defined as having four or more episodes of major depression, mania or mixed symptoms over the course of one year.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.