This article is from the Bipolar Disorder FAQ, by firstname.lastname@example.org (Barry Campbell) with numerous contributions by others.
Now, on to a more general discussion of the meds. Thanks to Millie Niss
(email@example.com) for researching and writing the following
There are three types of medications commonly used in treating Bipolar
-- mood stabilizers
-- antidepressants, and
Other medications may be given to help you sleep or to treat anxiety
and/or panic attacks if you have them.
Because many people need a combination of two or three drugs to get
stable, it can take quite some time to find the right medications
(and the right dosages of each.) This is usually on the order of magnitude of
weeks or months... but it's been known to take *years* to find the exact
combination and dosages that work.
If the first medication you get does not help, it *does not mean* you
are untreatable! Work with your doctor and make sure that he or she
is listening to you, and don't give up!
Some drugs can potentially cause relatively severe side-effects.
Don't hesitate to complain to your doctor and insist on lowering dosages
or trying a new drug if the side-effects are intolerable.
In particular, mood stabilizers and antipsychotics in high doses can make
you very tired and slowed down and "zombie-like."
Don't accept this as a "necessary" condition of getting well!
Sometimes, as with any drug, you will have to choose between total
elimination of symptoms and a tolerable level of side-effects; the
key thing is to *communicate* with your doctor about what you're
experiencing, and make sure that you know all your options.
(That being said, many people do quite well on lithium, or lithium plus
We're listing potential side-effects below, as we discuss each drug.
Our objective here is not to frighten, but to inform and share experiences.
Everyone is different; some people will take these meds and experience
no side effects; some people will experience side effects that aren't
*Communicate* with your doctor, your pharmacist, and the other members
of your health-care team about what's going on with you and your meds.