Medication Monday: Bipolar Medication vs. Antidepressants

Welcome once again to Medication Monday, the weekly series that offers a brief informative introduction to mental health medication, as well as some of the issues associated with mental health medication. Today, we are discussing an important issue surrounding bipolar medication vs. antidepressants.

You may have noticed on several of the posts about antidepressants that I’ve included a mention that it can be dangerous for individuals with bipolar depression, also sometimes called manic depression. The danger is that if it is just a plain antidepressant and not one meant for bipolar disorder, the medication could trigger a manic episode.

The biggest danger of this is that when a deeply depressed individual is sent into a manic state, suicidal ideation may become a suicide attempt when the individual gets more energy from their manic state. Lesser dangers that are still quite serious can be sleep disruption or appetite disruption. A manic individual who is incapable of taking care of themselves and meeting their basic needs faces additional risks from being suddenly thrown into a manic state.

Additionally, manic depression can last weeks or months, meaning that the impact of harmful behaviors like insomnia or appetite disruption can build up to be equally dangerous. In some cases, these individuals may face hospitalization if it is ultimately determined that they are a danger to themselves or others by virtue of their manic thoughts or their inability to take care of themselves.

And while it seems like this would be easy enough to avoid, the reality is that there is no easy blood test, no CT scan, that can determine the difference between depression and bipolar disorder. This means that if an individual with bipolar depression presents in a depressed state, and an accurate history if their illness isn’t taken, a medical professional might mistakenly prescribe a medication that could send them into a manic state instead of stabilizing them.

This highlights the importance of being honest with your provider about your mental health history, as well as any undesirable side effects from a typical medication. Now seems like an ideal time to also throw in my regular reminder that Medication Monday is not meant as a substitute for medical advice, rather it is meant as a brief informative introduction that is meant to hopefully help individuals be more educated about mental health medication. As such, I hope this has been helpful.

Lastly, if there is anything you want to see discussed on this page, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Be well.

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