Bipolar medication can help prevent relapses and reduce symptoms of mania or depression. They work by targeting brain chemicals that are important in controlling mood and behaviour. They may also help with anxiety, irritability and weight gain. They can be given on their own, or with other treatments.
Mood stabilizers (anticonvulsants) and antipsychotics are the most common medications used to treat bipolar disorder. These drugs are used to control the symptoms of mania and depression, especially when other medications do not work as well.
They can also reduce the risk of suicide.
Your GP or mental health professional can prescribe mood stabilizers such as lithium, valproate and atypical antipsychotics. They’ll also check your doses and tell you about any side effects.
They’ll also give you advice about how to keep your doses as low as possible. This includes not taking more than the recommended dose, changing the way you take them and not stopping them suddenly.
These medications can affect the way you work and react to stress, so it’s important to take them with a balanced diet and plenty of fluids. They also can affect your liver’s ability to work, so you should have regular blood tests to check that it is working properly.
You might want to talk to your doctor about the best time of day to take them or whether you can double up if you have a lot of trouble remembering to do this. Some of them can cause sleep problems so it’s important to ensure you get a good night’s sleep before taking them.
Medications for other conditions can affect how well your bipolar medication works, so it’s important to tell your doctor what other medications you are taking. They may have to change your dose or try a different medication.
It’s also important to note that some medicines can have harmful effects on your baby if you become pregnant while you’re taking them. These include valproate and divalproex sodium.
Your GP or mental health specialist can tell you what medicines are safe to take during pregnancy. It’s best to discuss this with your partner and midwife. They’ll also be able to advise you about breast feeding, so that you can decide what’s right for you and your baby.
They’ll also check your blood pressure and heart rate regularly. If you experience a sudden change in your pulse, you should contact your doctor immediately.
The dose of your medicine should be based on the type and severity of your condition. They may suggest a change to a different medication or even a higher dose.
This is important for both you and your baby, so it’s a good idea to let your GP or mental health specialist know as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. It can help to draw up a plan for treatment with your partner, midwife and GP.
They can recommend a range of treatments for you and your family, including psychological therapy, education and support groups. You might also be referred to a day treatment programme.