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It’s important: Continuing medication for bipolar disorder?

Medically reviewed by

Written by Parth Sharma

In the case of a physical illness, pain, or infection, we are often recommended a course of medication that alleviates our health and increases our resilience in life. Rarely do we ever stop the medication mid-treatment in the course of such illnesses; however, it is seldom that people are open to medication in the first place. The same stands true for mental health disorders as well.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

One such case is that of Bipolar Disorder. This mental health condition is severely generalized and reduced to temper swings and has a high prevalence of people stopping their medication mid-course of its administration. 

Bipolar disorder, which was formerly called manic depression, is a condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).What is Bipolar Disorder?

One such case is that of Bipolar Disorder. This mental health condition is severely generalized and reduced to temper swings and has a high prevalence of people stopping their medication mid-course of its administration. 

Bipolar disorder, which was formerly called manic depression, is a condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

People diagnosed with bipolar disorder may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities through their depressive episodes. At the same time, their mood may shift to mania or hypomania, where they feel full of energy or unusually irritable. These mood swings can affect their sleep, energy, judgment, and behavior. 

These episodes of mood swings may happen rarely or multiple times a year. While most people will experience emotional symptoms between episodes, some may not experience any. Although Bipolar Disorder is a lifelong condition, you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms by pursuing a treatment plan. Bipolar disorder is treated with medications and psychotherapy in most cases.

Within the umbrella of Bipolar Disorders, the following can further be classified: 

  • Bipolar I disorder. Hypomanic or major depressive episodes may precede at least one manic episode. 
  • Bipolar II disorder. At least one major depressive episode and one hypomanic episode and have never had a manic episode.
  • Cyclothymic disorder. At least two years — or one year in children and teenagers — of many periods of hypomania symptoms and depressive symptoms.

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Treatment: Does Bipolar Disorder need medication?

Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition where the treatment is directed at managing the symptoms. Treatment is best instructed by a medical doctor (psychiatrist). A person with Bipolar Disorder may have a treatment team that includes a clinical psychologist and a social worker. Several bpd medications are used to treat bipolar disorder. 

The types and doses of medications prescribed are based on individual needs and particular symptoms. While bipolar disorder treatment without medication is known, it must always be pursued in consultation with a mental health professional. 

Within the Medications, the following may be included to treat a specific type of bipolar disorder. These could be classified under Bipolar I or Bipolar II medication.

  1. Mood stabilizers. Mood-stabilising Medication to control manic or hypomanic episodes
  2. Antipsychotics. Suppose symptoms of depression or mania persist despite treatment with other medications by adding antipsychotic drugs. In that case, your doctor may prescribe some of these medications alone or along with a mood stabilizer.
  3. Antidepressants. The doctor may add an antidepressant to help manage depression because an antidepressant can sometimes trigger a manic episode. Thus it's usually prescribed along with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic.
  4. Anti-anxiety medications. Benzodiazepines may help with anxiety and improve sleep but are usually used short-term.

Does medication continue in bipolar disorder?

Like the routine of a medication for a physical illness is advised to be completed and paired with great care, the most effective treatment for bipolar disorder is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Most people are prescribed to take more than one drug, like a mood-stabilizing drug and an antipsychotic or antidepressant.

Many factors stop people from taking their bipolar mania medications. They include undesirable side effects, difficulty remembering to take the medications, fear of addiction, personal prejudice, and preference for an alternative treatment. Even the best bipolar medication will have some or the other side effects. 

However, a person with bipolar disorder must continue the recommended treatment to control mood symptoms even after feeling better. Different medicines, including some mood stabilizers and atypical antipsychotics, are usually the first-line treatments for bipolar depression. It is highly likely to be skeptical to start and then continue the treatment for yourself or a loved one.

After remission from an acute episode of bipolar disorder, there is an exceptionally increased risk for relapse for about 4-6 months. Thus, continuation and supervision of ongoing therapy and treatment are often recommended. After 4-6 months, there is still a lifelong risk of new episodes.

Anyone who has experienced two or more manic or hypomanic episodes commonly is considered to have a chronic case of bipolar disorder. Having a regular session of maintenance therapy helps minimize the risk for such future episodes. Once the doctor has helped stabilize the moods of the acute phase of the disorder, medication therapy is usually resumed indefinitely (while, in some cases, at lower doses).

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The importance of continuing bipolar disorder medication

There may come a time when treating the bipolar disorder symptoms when a person may feel that drugs are no longer performing. This is when stopping bipolar medication becomes an issue and people try and find alternate medications. That's when people start looking for different avenues and ask, what are the options for bipolar disorder non-medication treatment?

While there are reasons for wanting to stop taking a particular bipolar disorder medication, doctors agree that it's rarely a good idea to do so suddenly and on your own. At this point, it's important to remember that even if you have been without bipolar symptoms for several months, the medication must continue. While the doctor may reduce your doses, discontinuation of medications will put you at risk of recurrence of bipolar symptoms. Before stopping any medications abruptly, it is essential to discuss them with your doctor. 

To facilitate a healthy recovery process of treatment, there is an imperative need to continue the prescribed medication under the supervision of a trained professional. At any point, if you feel that you or a loved one might stop medication for bipolar and related disorders, you must reach out to a professional for guidance and clarity about your options.

FAQs

  1. Why do bipolar individuals stop taking medication?

    Unpleasant side effects, trouble remembering to take prescriptions, fear of addiction, and a desire for an alternate therapy are among the causes.

  2. Does Bipolar Disorder need medication?

    Ans:
    Bipolar disorder needs pharmaceutical therapy for the rest of your life, even when you are feeling better. People who miss maintenance therapy run the danger of relapsing or having small mood swings grow into full-fledged mania or depression. Day therapy programs are available.

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