Bipolar Depression (cont.)

The following are signs of a lithium overdose. Call your doctor immediately or go to the nearest emergency room if you experience:


Depakote is an antiseizure drug that is also effective for controlling mania. It is thought to be helpful as part of a treatment plan for people with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. The drug has some side effects, can cause inflammation of the liver, and can decrease the amount of platelets (blood cells needed for blood to clot) that the body makes, so your doctor will monitor levels of Depakote as well as liver function and platelet counts.

Common side effects of Depakote include:

Other antiseizure drugs often used to treat bipolar disorder include Tegretol and Lamictal. Neurontin, Trileptal, and Topamax are also antiseizure drugs used for experimentally for bipolar disorder.

Most people with bipolar disorder take more than one medication. Along with the mood stabilizer—either lithium or an anticonvulsant, they may take a medication for agitation, anxiety, insomnia or depression.

Many antidepressants can be used with mood stabilizing drugs to manage the depression of bipolar disorder, although current research suggests that mood-stabilizing drugs and some atypical antipsychotics may be the most effective drug therapies. If used alone, an antidepressant can sometimes push a person with the condition into a manic state. In children, adolescents, and young adults, antidepressants can also cause or worsen suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

What Can I Expect After Treatment?

For most people, a good treatment program for bipolar disorder can stabilize moods and provide effective symptom relief. Treatment that is continual has proven more effective in preventing relapses and controlling cycling. Those who also have a substance abuse problem may need more specialized treatment.

Can Bipolar Disorder Be Prevented?

There is no known method to prevent bipolar disorder. Because its exact cause has not yet been determined, it is especially important to know its symptoms and seek early intervention. Some people who experience bipolar disorder may become suicidal. By knowing how to recognize these symptoms, there is a better chance for effective treatment and finding coping methods that may prevent long periods of illness, extended hospital stays, and suicide.

Suicide Warning Signs

  • Many depressive symptoms (changes in eating, sleeping, activities)
  • Social isolation
  • Talk of suicide, hopelessness, or helplessness
  • Increased acting-out behaviors (sexual/behavioral)
  • Increased risk-taking behaviors
  • Frequent accidents
  • Substance abuse
  • Focus on morbid and negative themes
  • Talk about death and dying
  • Increased crying or reduced emotional expression
  • Giving away possessions

WebMD Medical Reference


National Institute of Mental Health.

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on June 21, 2012

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Last Editorial Review: 6/21/2012

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