This answer will focus the medication treatment of bipolar disorder. I focus on management in my other answers.
Bipolar disorder medication treatment depends on your diagnosis. The majority of people with bipolar have either Bipolar I (one) or Bipolar II (two). They each have a different medication treatment path.
Bipolar I and Bipolar II share the same symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADD symptoms and psychosis, etc.
The main difference is the mania.
- Bipolar I has full blown mania. This mania can involve psychosis.
- Bipolar II has a milder mania called hypomania with no psychosis.
There are four main medication categories used to treat bipolar disorder.
- Mood stabilizers
If you have Bipolar I with full blown mania, your drug regime will focus on preventing mania. This means taking a mood stabilizer and/or an anti-psychotic. If there is psychosis with the mania, an anti-psychotic is essential.
If you have Bipolar II, the hypomania is milder, but still a very serious mood swing that has to be caught early so that you don’t make destructive decisions. It’s not essential that a person with Bipolar II always be on an anti-manic mood stabilizer, but it can help if the mood swings are regular.
Once the mania is discussed and addressed, depression treatment is added. The main problem with bipolar depression treatment is that the anti-depressants used for unipolar depression can cause mania for those with bipolar. Thus, anti-depressants can only be used with a mood stabilizer or anti-psychotic. (I should note that if a person is in a depressive mood swing, the depression will naturally be treated before a mania regime is decided.)
One popular drug used for bipolar depression in Bipolar I and II is the mood stabilizer Lamotrigine. It helps the depression without causing mania. It can also reduce rapid cycling, irritation, anger, anxiety and mild mania. Lithium can be used as well, though it can take a long time to work. Anti-psychotic companies are now advertising that their drugs can boost anti-depressant effectiveness. The jury is out on that one regarding bipolar depression.
Anti-anxiety drugs are used as needed for a variety of symptoms. The main being anxiety of course, but I use mine for sleep. Addiction can be a problem here, so be careful.
Wow. Now you can see why bipolar disorder is one of the most difficult illnesses to treat.