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Complete List of Bipolar Medications: Types, Uses, Side-Effects

The list of bipolar disorder medications is long and complex, but it's important to understand your options when it comes to treating this condition. The majority of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder take some form of medication to manage their symptoms. There is, however, a surviving stigma around psychiatric medicines, and many people are dangerously misinformed. Here, you can discover the official list of bipolar disorder medications as well as their common side-effects.

List of Bipolar Disorder Medications and What They’re Used For

Bipolar disorder medications are used to treat the symptoms of mania, hypomania, and depression that occur in people with bipolar, a brain disorder affecting 2.8% of the adult population. Bipolar disorder cannot be cured, but there are several medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) to help patients manage their symptoms.

Mood stabilizers

First up on the list of medications for bipolar is mood stabilizers. Mood stabilizers help balance brain chemicals to prevent mania, hypomania and major depressive episodes in people with bipolar disorder. Anti-convulsant medications used to treat seizures are often prescribed as mood stabilizers, particularly for patients who experience mixed states (depression and mania/hypomania at the same time) or rapid cycling bipolar disorder.

Mood stabilizers commonly used to treat bipolar disorder include:

Antipsychotics

According to the FDA, antipsychotic medications (including newer drugs labeled atypical antipsychotics) are often the first line of treatment in severely manic patients to control symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. Several medications of this type have also proven long-term effectiveness in preventing episodes of mania and depression. Patients with bipolar disorder may be prescribed antipsychotic medications alone or alongside another mood stabilizer.

Common bipolar medications in this category include:

Antidepressant-antipsychotics

Antidepressant-antipsychotics (Symbyax) combine the antidepressant fluoxetine and the antipsychotic olanzapine. This medication works as both an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer.

Antidepressants

Although antidepressants are not commonly used in the treatment of bipolar disorder, they are sometimes prescribed alongside a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic for the management of depressive symptoms in bipolar.

Some antidepressants can trigger manic episodes in patients with bipolar disorder, and they also increase a patient’s risk of cardiac problems when combined with antipsychotics, which is why they are mostly avoided. However, if you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, your doctor will examine your symptoms and weigh the side-effects with your symptoms to determine the best course of treatment.  

Common Bipolar Medications: What Are the Side-Effects?

Bipolar disorder medications can have several side-effects. Some of them may be serious, so it’s important to know when to seek medical attention.

Here is a list of common bipolar medications and their side-effects.

Side-effects of mood stabilizers

The side-effects of mood stabilizer medications can range from mild to severe. If you experience any of these side-effects, you should seek medical attention immediately.

  • Itching and skin rashes
  • Frequent urination and excessive thirst
  • Tremor
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Blackouts
  • Irregular or pounding heartbeat
  • Changes in vision
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of coordination
  • Swelling in the eyes, face, lips, throat, tongue, hands, feet, ankles and/or lower legs.

See also "Side-Effects of Mood Stabilizers and How to Manage Them".

Side-effects of antipsychotic medications

Antipsychotics can have many side-effects and risks. According to the FDA, common side-effects of antipsychotic medications include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting and/or nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Blurred vision
  • Seizures
  • Uncontrollable movements, such as tremors or ticks
  • Reduced white blood cells, which fight infections
  • Low blood pressure

The risk of developing certain side-effects such as weight gain, restlessness, and uncontrollable movements is higher with atypical antipsychotics. For this reason, patients taking these medications will be monitored closely by their doctor.

Long-term use of antipsychotic medications can also lead to a condition called tardive dyskinesia (TD), which presents as involuntary muscle spasms, typically around the mouth. If you think you have TD, you should talk to your doctor before stopping your medication.

Side-effects of antidepressants and antidepressant-antipsychotics

Side-effects from antidepressants are relatively common, but some are more severe than others. The most reported side-effects listed by the FDA include:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleepiness
  • Sexual problems, including erectile dysfunction and reduced libido
  • Weight gain

Less common side-effects include:

  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Panic attacks
  • Trouble sleeping
  • New or worsening depression or anxiety
  • Feeling agitated or restless
  • Irritability
  • Anger or aggressiveness
  • Mania displayed through an extreme increase in talking and activity
  • Any other dramatic changes in mood or behavior.

Side-effects of olanzapine and fluoxetine antidepressant-antipsychotics (Symbyax) include dizziness, drowsiness, increased appetite, trouble sleeping, swelling in the hands and feet, constipation, diarrhea, and dry mouth.

Common bipolar medication side-effects should still be reported to your doctor. There is a whole list of bipolar disorder medications, and if one does not work well for you, or you experience an adverse reaction, your doctor may suggest adjusting your dose or trying you on a new drug.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, May 20). Complete List of Bipolar Medications: Types, Uses, Side-Effects, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-medications/complete-list-of-bipolar-medications-types-uses-side-effects

Last Updated: June 2, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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