Medication for Bipolar Affective Disorder
There are three main types of drugs used to treat Bipolar affective disorder; the type prescribed will depend upon the symptoms and type of bipolar diagnosed.
Of these Lithium, a metallic element discovered to affect mood disorders in 1949, is considered to be the gold standard.
5 ways Lithium helps treat Bipolar:
- It raises levels of feel good chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, which help alleviate depression
- It affects the way that brain cells communicate with each other, in particular the messages involved in cell resilience and regeneration.
- It increases certain hormones in the brain and one in particular called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which help repair damaged areas which impacts on the symptoms of bipolar
- It helps correct the brain circuit that links the part of the brain that deals with raw emotions (the amygdalae) to the part of the brain that regulates these strong emotional impulses (the prefrontal cortex)
- It affects the way certain proteins in our brains act; these proteins are there to make our brain cells more resilient to stress and thus the proteins can help keep moods level
Side Effects of Lithium:
10% of people taking Lithium will experience:
- Stomach upset
- Metallic taste in mouth
- Increased thirst and urination
- Skin problems
- Appetite changes
Less than 1% of people taking Lithium will experience:
- Visual disturbance
- Skin rashes
- Water retention
- Fits or seizures (seek emergency help immediately)
Taking Lithium for Bipolar affective disorder:
If you are prescribed Lithium for Bipolar your consultant will advise you on the dosage you should take. It is thought 40% of people prescribed the drug do not take it as prescribed and this can have a large impact on the efficacy of the drug as well as the side effects.
You will be closely monitored to check that the drug is working and to review the impact on your body and mental health. It is vitally important that you discuss any changes to the dosage of your drug with your consultant before making changes.
Antidepressants prescribed for Bipolar Affective Disorder:
Antidepressants can be useful in helping deal with the depressive state often associated with bipolar, which can be long lasting and chronic.
Sometimes antidepressants can be prescribed with a mood stabiliser as well because it has been found that if used on their own antidepressants can negatively affect the mood of the patient.
Antipsychotics prescribed for Bipolar Affective Disorder:
Antipsychotic drugs can be used to deal with delusions or hallucinations which can be experienced in severe depressive or manic states.
They can also be used as a sedative to help deal with insomnia, anxiety and agitation and can increase the effect of mood stabilizing drugs. NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) suggests four types of antipsychotic should be prescribed; your clinician may try you on one and move you to another if it does not seem to work for you.
At Clinical Partners we know how scary it can be when you or someone in your family is showing the symptoms of an illness like Bipolar. We can help guide you through the process of getting a diagnosis and treatment plan, including follow ups.
To talk to someone today about seeking treatment for Bipolar Affective Disorder please call 0203 326 9160. You do not need a GP referral and we can usually arrange an assessment within a few days.