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Bipolar disorder

Overview Symptoms Treatment Prevention
Alternative Names:

Manic depression; Bipolar affective disorder

Treatment:

Bipolar disorder is often treated with mood-stabilizing medications such as valproic acid, lithium, and carbamazepine. These are effective for treating both the manic and depressive phases, as well as preventing future symptoms.

Antidepressant drugs may be useful during the depressive phase IF the antidepressants are used with a mood stabilizer. Mood stabilizers are very important in people with bipolar disorder. Without a mood stabilizer, antidepressants may trigger mania in people with bipolar disorder. (Keep in mind that people with bipolar disorder II may be misdiagnosed with depression only because they do not experience full-fledged mania. If these patients take antidepressants without mood stabilizers, it can trigger a manic episode.)

Anti-psychotic drugs can help a person who has lost touch with reality. Anti-anxiety drugs, such as benzodiazepines, may also help. The patient may need to stay in a hospital until his or her mood has stabilized and symptoms are under control.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be used to treat bipolar disorder. ECT is a psychiatric treatment that uses an electrical current to cause a brief seizure of the central nervous system while the patient is under anesthesia. Studies have repeatedly found that ECT is the most effective treatment for depression that is not relieved with medications.

Getting enough sleep helps keep a stable mood in some patients. Psychotherapy may be a useful option during the depressive phase. Joining a support group may be particularly helpful for bipolar disorder patients and their loved ones.

Expectations (prognosis):

Mood-stabilizing medication can help control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, patients often need help and support to take medicine properly and to ensure that any episodes of mania and depression are treated as early as possible.

Some people stop taking the medication as soon as they feel better or because they want to experience the productivity and creativity associated with mania. Although these early manic states may feel good, discontinuing medication may have very negative consequences.

Suicide is a very real risk during both mania and depression. Suicidal thoughts, ideas, and gestures in people with bipolar affective disorder require immediate emergency attention.

Complications:

Stopping or improperly taking medication can lead to symptoms coming back and the following complications:

  • Alcohol and/or drug abuse may be used as a strategy to "self-medicate."
  • Personal relationships, work, and finances may suffer as a result of mood swings.
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are a very real complication of bipolar disorder.

This illness is challenging to treat. Patients and their friends and family must be aware of the risks of neglecting to treat bipolar disorder.

Calling your health care provider:

Call your health provider or an emergency number right way if:

  • You are having thoughts of death or suicide
  • You are experiencing severe symptoms of depression or mania
  • You have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and your symptoms have returned or you are having any new symptoms
Bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder
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