Treatment of bipolar disorder takes many forms, and as with any illness, what works for one may not work for another.  Medication tends to be in the form of a mood stabiliser, sometimes prescribed along with an anti-depressant.

It should be stressed that many people who are bipolar do not respond to anti-depressants when they are prescribed in isolation. However, often people will be prescribed a mood stabiliser along with an anti-depressant, which sometimes yields better results.  If a person has experienced psychosis then they may also be prescribed  anti-psychotic medication.

Mood Stabilisers

The most widely prescribed treatment for bipolar disorder is a mood stabiliser.  Most commonly prescribed is Lithium, which is sometimes called Lithium Carbonate or Lithium Citrate.  Other names are:

  • Camcolit
  • Liskonum
  • Priadel
  • Litarex
  • Li-liquid

Lithium is a compound similar to that of sodium or potassium.  For many people Lithium is a very effective medication. However,  too much Lithium in your blood can cause side effects, therefore people taking Lithium will be required to have regular blood checks.

Antiepileptic Medication

Some antiepileptic medication has proved effective in treating bipolar.  Some commonly prescribed ones are:

  • Sodium Valproate
  • Valproic Acid
  • Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • Lamotrigine (Lamactil)


Used to treat depression, but sometimes used along with a mood stabiliser for people experiencing bipolar.   Bipolar depression does not always respond to antidepressants when prescribed on their own. Commonly prescribed ones are:

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil or Seroxat)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro, Esipram)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
  • Venlafaxine (Efexor)
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban)
  • Amitriptyline

Antipsychotics or Neuroleptics:

Sometimes known as major tranquillisers, the following drugs are used to treat people with bipolar who may experience psychosis:

  • Haloperidol
  • Quetiapine
  • Olanzapine
  • Respiradone
  • Aripiprazole

Anti-anxiety medication:

Diazepam and Valium are sometimes prescribed to treat acute anxiety.

Visit Netdoctor for information on medications.  This link opens in a new window and is provided for information only.

Electroconvulsive Treatment (ECT)

ECT can be used in the treatment of resistant severe mania or depression.

Behavioural Therapies

Sometimes alongside medication, treatment will consist of some form of behavioural treatment.  The following list is not exhaustible:

  • CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique
  • EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing
  • Family Centered Therapy
  • Counselling
  • Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT)

Next, learn about self-management training for bipolar disorder.

The website link on this page is for information only. The information on it does not necessarily reflect the views of Bipolar Scotland.

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