Bipolar medication—although there is a long list of many names of the medications themselves, can be classified into three basic categories. The three most important types of medication used to control the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder are mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics.
Bipolar Disorder patients may be prescribed additional medication along with their bipolar medication, however, to help with other related symptoms, such as anxiety and insomnia.
It is not clearly understood how some of these bipolar medications work, but it is known that they affect neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals in the brain involved in the functioning of nerve cells; specifically, the ones that affect mood changes.
Because mood changes are the main characteristic of Bipolar Disorder, these particular bipolar medications—mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics—are used most frequently to control the symptoms of bipolar.The bipolar medications in the group called mood stabilizers have two main properties. For one thing, they provide relief from acute manic or depressive episodes, or prevent them from occurring in the first place. The second property of mood stabilizers is that they do not lead to increased bipolar cycling, and they don’t worsen bipolar mania or depression. These properties are a great advantage to taking mood stabilizers as a primary bipolar medication for the patient with Bipolar Disorder.The bipolar medications in the second group are called antidepressants. Antidepressants also treat the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, but they concentrate on the symptoms of depression only.
As a bipolar medication, antidepressants must be used together with a mood stabilizing medication. If antidepressants are used without a mood stabilizer, an antidepressant can push a person with Bipolar Disorder into a manic state.
The bipolar medications in the third group are called antipsychotics. Antipsychotic medications are used to control psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions. These symptoms sometimes occur in very severe bipolar manic or depressive episodes.
Antipsychotic bipolar medications can be used in two additional ways to treat Bipolar Disorder, even if no psychotic symptoms are present. One way they may be used is as sedatives, especially during the early stages of treatment of bipolar.
The other way antipsychotic bipolar medications can be used is in the treatment of insomnia and anxiety, which can sometimes co-occur with Bipolar Disorder.
Researchers also believe that the newer atypical antipsychotic medications have mood stabilizing properties, and may help control bipolar mania and depression. Antipsychotic bipolar medications are therefore often added to mood stabilizers to improve the response of patients who have never had psychotic symptoms.
Antipsychotic bipolar medications may also be used alone as mood stabilizers when patients cannot tolerate or do not respond to any of the typical mood stabilizers.