"My medications just aren't working", is a common complaint voiced by many people who are dealing with Bipolar Disorder. And there are two main reasons why you may be feeling this same way.


One, your medications, or the dosages of those medications, may be wrong for you. Or, two, you may not have given your medications enough time to actually start working.


First, you need to understand that Bipolar Disorder is a difficult disorder to treat. There are numerous medications, combinations of medications, and dosages to choose from. And, what works great for one person may not work at all for another person.


Although it will be difficult, you will need to keep your belief in finding the right treatment strong, and to use that belief to carry you through until you find the treatment that works best for you.  Just be patient, and don’t give up.


Many people with Bipolar Disorder get tired of trying one medication after another only to go through disappointment after disappointment when they don't work. However, I am here to tell you that eventually your persistence WILL pay off. And when the day comes that you find the right medications, the wait will have been worth it.


So what do you do in the meantime? First and foremost, DO NOT GIVE UP! If you are taking your medications and you are still experiencing symptoms of your disorder, call your doctor and let him know.  Close communication with your doctor during the trial and error phase of finding the right medication for you is the best way to ensure success.  Your doctor is not a mind reader—he only knows what you tell him.


The worst thing you could do in this situation is stop taking your medications. Even if they aren’t working, stopping them will only invite more problems into your life.  If you must stop your medications, you must do it under a doctor’s care.  Stopping them at once, or too quickly, can be very dangerous to you and your health.


So, begin by writing down all of the symptoms you are still experiencing. Then share that list with your doctor. Your doctor may need to increase or decrease your dosage. He may even need to prescribe an entirely different medication.  In any case, you must trust your doctor to regulate your medications, and resist the temptation to self-medicate.


Please keep in mind that this trial and error process may go on for a little while, but with each new medication or dosage change you try, you are one step closer to finding your winning treatment.


Which leads us to the second reason—you may not have given your medication enough time to work. Bipolar treatment medications, like all medications, require a period of time to build up in your system and reach therapeutic levels.


If you stop or give up on a medication before it has had time to work, you will be cheating yourself and those around you. While the waiting can be tough, it is a natural circumstance of taking medications.


After starting a new medication, or beginning a dosage change, ask your doctor for an estimate of how long it will take for the medications to start working. Notice that I said ESTIMATION. This is important because people are different and medications work differently in different people.


While it may only take two weeks for a certain medication to work for one individual, it may take four to six weeks for it to work for you. Be patient and take steps to keep  yourself from getting discouraged.


There are, of course, things you can do to make this waiting time a little easier. Before deciding to stop your medications, try the following techniques and give your medications time to work:


• Talk to your doctor. Make sure that you understand exactly what the medication is supposed to do and how long it will take for it to do it. This way you will understand what is supposed to happen and when, so that you will not become discouraged too early.


• Write down your symptoms and feelings. Start logging your feelings in a notebook. Try to do this at the same time each day; for example, before bed each night. Sometimes, when you are in the middle of something, it is hard to see the entire picture clearly. By writing down your feelings and symptoms, you will actually be able to see when small improvements occur. Once you can see these changes, your dedication to your new medications will be strengthened.


• Ask a loved one to write down their thoughts on your behavior and symptoms. Sometimes, when you are the one suffering, it is hard to notice the improvements. That is why it is a good idea to ask a loved one whom you trust to notice for you. When they spot a noticeable improvement, have them share the news with you.


• Keep your mind busy. Waiting for anything can be tough, but waiting for a medication to kick in is extremely difficult. Help yourself out by starting a new project or hobby. When you begin to dwell on the medication, turn your thoughts to the project to help ease the frustration that may come from waiting.


To help you keep track of your symptoms, please fill out the following worksheet. You can also use the information you collect on this worksheet to help you communicate with your doctor/therapist.




Symptom Checklist





Not at all


















































Can't sleep






No appetite






Excessive worry






Irritable or angry






Suicidal thoughts






Racing thoughts






Extreme mood swings