Treatment for bipolar disorder varies from person to person. That’s because our brains, while structured similarly, work differently. Coupled with the fact that the actual cause of bipolar disorder remains to be discovered, it’s quite difficult to identify a single treatment that works for everyone.

Researchers are still trying to pinpoint exactly what causes bipolar disorder. However, there are numerous treatments available to help calm the symptoms of the disorder.

Treating bipolar disorder can be a trial and error process. A healthcare provider will often prescribe one medication to see if it works. Depending on the symptoms that you present with, your healthcare provider may prescribe a combination of medications to treat your symptoms.

Antipsychotics may be used in situations of acute manic episodes requiring hospitalization. However, mood stabilizers, such as lithium, are generally considered the main therapy for bipolar disorder.

Mood stabilizers may be used in combination with antipsychotics as they can take a while to work. In some people, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may also be used to treat symptoms of a depressed mood.

Some medications can take weeks to reach their full, expected results. Make sure you ask your healthcare provider how long your specific medication should take to work and what the expected results should be.

There are numerous reasons why you might feel like you're not getting the most out of your medications for bipolar disorder.

Here are some factors to consider before you talk to your healthcare provider about trying something else.

The goal of medication for bipolar disorder treatment is to help manage anxiety, depression, manic episodes, and other symptoms.

If you regularly take your medication, you should feel some kind of desired effects. Your mood should improve or at least stabilize. You should feel more at ease and overall better about your condition.

You may not notice subtle changes in your condition, but others around you might. Talk with trusted friends or family members and ask for their thoughts on how you’ve been doing.

This change won't happen immediately, but if you’re not feeling any different after taking your medication for a period of time, you should talk with your healthcare provider.

Almost all medication comes with side effects. However, sometimes the benefits of taking the medication may outweigh its side effects.

Talking about and addressing the side effects of your medication with your healthcare provider is important in getting the best care for bipolar disorder.

Some side effects of commonly prescribed medications include:

However, some people can experience even worse negative effects from medication. Report any and all of your concerns to your healthcare provider so they can get an accurate understanding of how the medication is affecting you.

If any of your treatments cause thoughts of suicide, contact your healthcare provider immediately. These are signs that your medication and therapy aren’t working correctly and should be reported to your healthcare provider immediately.

There’s a chance that medication for bipolar disorder may not become as effective as it once was as you start to develop a tolerance for the drugs. Tolerance and other factors can prevent medications for bipolar disorder and depression from working effectively.

This might occur because:

  • your underlying brain biochemistry may have changed
  • you have another medical condition
  • you’ve made dietary or other changes
  • you’ve lost or gained weight

As with any medication, don’t stop taking your prescriptions until your healthcare provider has told you to do so.

Sometimes it can take several tries before figuring out the right medication and dosage as part of your treatment plan for bipolar disorder. If you’re experiencing unpleasant side effects or feel like a medication isn’t working properly, talk with your healthcare provider.