Personal care treatments

Medications for Bipolar Depression: Types and Other Treatments

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes changes in a person’s mood, energy levels, concentration, and ability to carry out daily activities. Bipolar depression is the typical low mood of people with bipolar disorder. Medication can help manage symptoms, stabilize mood, and improve overall well-being.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong mental health disorder. Many people with the disease will need ongoing, long-term treatment to manage symptoms. Symptoms to understand high and low moods, known as mania and depression.

A psychiatrist will recommend medication alongside other interventional therapies to treat bipolar depression.

This article discusses medications for bipolar disorder, their side effects, and other treatment options.

Medications are usually the first-line treatment for bipolar depression. However, most treatment plans to understand a combination of medication, psychotherapy and lifestyle modifications.

A person’s symptoms and type of bipolar disorder will determine their treatment.

A person will usually receive treatment for bipolar depression at an outpatient clinic. However, a person may be admitted to hospital if their symptoms are severe and their risk of harm or self-harm is high.

Medical and mental health professionals can prescribe medications such as mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants.

Once a person’s mood stabilizes with their medication, they can begin psychotherapy to learn how to manage their condition. This occurs during the maintenance phase of treatment. Also during this period, doctors prescribe drugs to prevent a relapse.

People with bipolar depression may need more than one medication to manage their symptoms. For example, they may take a mood-stabilizing medication along with an antipsychotic or antidepressant.

Because people react to drugs differently, it can take a while for doctors to find the best drug or combination to treat each person’s symptoms. To determine the best treatment plan, doctors consider the following factors:

  • the severity of a person’s symptoms
  • any underlying health condition
  • previous or current medications
  • the safety and tolerability of the drug and other treatment options
  • a person’s treatment preference

Mood stabilizers are psychiatric drugs that help regulate mood changes in people with bipolar depression. Minerals and anticonvulsants are types of mood stabilizers.

The table below lists some common mood stabilizers and some of their possible side effects. Most drugs have a long list of potential side effects, which a person should discuss with a doctor before taking the drug.

Learn more about mood stabilizers for bipolar depression here.

Antipsychotic drugs are a class of drugs that help manage the manic phase or severe depression typical of bipolar depression.

Antipsychotics block dopamine receptors in the brain to reduce symptoms. Doctors often prescribe a class of antipsychotics called atypical or second-generation antipsychotics rather than typical or first-generation antipsychotics. This Perhaps because atypical antipsychotics cause fewer side effects.

The table below lists some atypical antipsychotics that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved for treating bipolar depression, along with their possible side effects. Most drugs have a long list of potential side effects, which a person should discuss with a doctor before taking the drug.

While there is controversial surrounding the effectiveness of antidepressants, they can help manage the symptoms of bipolar depression. Doctors generally prescribe them off-label. This means that the FDA has not approved the use of antidepressants to treat bipolar depression.

Doctors may prescribe an antidepressant along with a mood stabilizer to help reduce the chances of mania.

Different classes of antidepressants balance specific neurotransmitters in the brain to improve a person’s mood.

Types of antidepressants.

NRIS

SNRIs increase serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain by blocking serotonin and norepinephrine transporters. The table below lists examples of SNRIs and some possible side effects. Most drugs have a long list of potential side effects, which a person should discuss with a doctor before taking the drug.

SSRIs

SSRIs treat bipolar depression by preventing the body from reabsorbing serotonin neurotransmitters to increase serotonin levels in the brain. High levels of serotonin in the brain can improve a person’s mood.

The table below lists examples of SSRIs and some possible side effects. Most drugs have a long list of potential side effects, which a person should discuss with a doctor before taking the drug.

Learn more about the differences between SNRIs and SSRIs here.

TCA

Doctors usually prescribe TCAs as second-line antidepressants after SSRIs to treat and manage major depressive disorders. The table below lists some FDA-approved TCAs and some possible side effects. Most drugs have a long list of potential side effects, which a person should discuss with a doctor before taking the drug.

MAOI

MAOIs prevent the enzyme monoamine oxidase from removing the neurotransmitters from the brain, dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.

The table below lists some MAOIs and possible side effects. Most drugs have a long list of potential side effects, which a person should discuss with a doctor before taking the drug.

Benzodiazepines are fast-acting anti-anxiety medications that can provide immediate relief for people with bipolar depression. To reduce the risk of addiction and tolerance, doctors do not prescribe these drugs for long-term use.

The table below lists examples of benzodiazepines and some potential side effects. Most drugs have a long list of potential side effects, which a person should discuss with a doctor before taking the drug.

Bipolar drugs Perhaps more effective when people use them with other treatments, such as the following:

Psychotherapy

According to a 2017 set of clinical practice guidelines published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, psychotherapy can reduce the risk relapse and improve health outcomes during the acute treatment and maintenance phases of bipolar depression.

Psychotherapy involves individual interaction with a therapist. Here are some examples of approaches to psychotherapy:

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

A doctor may recommend ECT if a person’s bipolar depression is severe and unresponsive to medication and psychotherapy.

In this procedure, doctors will administer general anesthesia to a person before stimulating the brain with an electric current.

Researchers in a study 2017 assessed the impact of ECT in 522 people with bipolar disorder. Two-thirds of people had positive results. The researchers concluded that ECT is safe and effective for treating all phases of severe, drug-resistant bipolar disorder.

Lifestyle changes

Making healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent a relapse of bipolar depression. People can try the following approaches:

  • have a balanced diet
  • avoiding drugs and alcohol
  • exercise regularly
  • get enough rest
  • take medication as prescribed
  • attend medical and mental health appointments

People should continue taking their medications even after their symptoms improve.

Learn more about natural remedies for bipolar disorder here.

A person should contact a doctor if they experience worsening symptoms or side effects while taking medication for bipolar disorder.

The doctor may make occasional adjustments by changing a drug or reducing the dose to manage serious side effects. They will also monitor how a person’s symptoms improve with each adjustment.

If a person doesn’t see immediate changes after starting treatment for bipolar disorder, they don’t have to worry. It may take some time for them to start seeing significant improvements.

The National Institute of Mental Health notes that 2.8% of adults in the United States are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This translates to 5 million people. And 82.9% of those people have a severe disability.

According to UK National Health Service (NHS)without treatment, bipolar mania can last 3-6 months and depressive episodes can last 6-12 months.

The NHS also says symptoms usually improve within 3 months of treatment, which includes medication, psychotherapy and lifestyle changes.

There is currently no cure for bipolar depression. However, treatment can help a person manage the condition.

A person’s doctor will recommend a combination of medications, psychosocial interventions, and lifestyle changes for maximum effect.

People with bipolar depression should work closely with a doctor and follow their recommended treatment plan for the best results.