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FAQ - Medications used to treat bipolar depression

The medication used most often over the years to combat a manic "high" is lithium. It is unusual to find mania without a subsequent or preceding period of depression. Lithium evens out mood swings in both directions, so that it is used not just for acute manic attacks or flare-ups of the illness, but also as an ongoing treatment of bipolar disorder.

Not all patients with symptoms of mania benefit from lithium. Some have been found to respond to another type of medication, the anticonvulsant medications that are usually used to treat epilepsy. Carbamazepine (Tegretol) is the anticonvulsant that has been most widely used. Individuals with bipolar disorder who cycle rapidly, (changing from mania to depression and back again over the course of hours or days, rather than months) seem to respond particularly well to carbamazepine. 

In 1995, the anticonvulsant divalproex sodium (Depakote) was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for manic-depressive illness. Clinical trials have shown it to have an effectiveness in controlling manic symptoms equivalent to that of lithium; it is effective in both rapid-cycling and non-rapid-cycling bipolar. 

As we develop additional information regarding specific medications, the drug name will link to a page providing specific information for that medication. If a medication's trade name does not appear in this list, look it up by its generic name or ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Antimanic Medications





lamotrigine Lamictal
oxcarbazepine Trileptal

divalproex sodium


olanzapine Zyprexa
aripiprazole Abilify
risperidone Risperdal
clozapine Clorazil
ziprasidone Geodon

lithium carbonate


lithium carbonate


lithium carbonate


lithium citrate



More Information About Bipolar Disorder