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What is the difference between how a bi-polar medication works and how an anti-depressant works?

4 doctors weighed in
Dr. Donald Hazlett
Psychiatry
2 doctors agree

In brief: Medications

There are three groups of bipolar medications: Lithium Carbonate a salt (only one in class); antipsychotics (typical & atypical) and seizure medications.
They can help some in depression (especially atypicals). Antidepressants, obviously for depression, help in anxiety, OCD and ptsd. They should not be used alone in bipolar disorder & cautiously with a mood stabilizer or it could be made worse.

In brief: Medications

There are three groups of bipolar medications: Lithium Carbonate a salt (only one in class); antipsychotics (typical & atypical) and seizure medications.
They can help some in depression (especially atypicals). Antidepressants, obviously for depression, help in anxiety, OCD and ptsd. They should not be used alone in bipolar disorder & cautiously with a mood stabilizer or it could be made worse.
Dr. Donald Hazlett
Dr. Donald Hazlett
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Dr. Carla Enriquez
Pediatrics

In brief: Neurobiochemistry

Antidepressants work in specific brain chemical systems.
Bipolar medications are similar to anticonvulsants & antipsychotics that work in different parts of brain. Some good treatments for bipolar disorder still haven't been pinned down as to where/why they work, but we know they do. Lithium is a perfect example of the latter. Many medications work in multiple conditions. Check with your doctor.

In brief: Neurobiochemistry

Antidepressants work in specific brain chemical systems.
Bipolar medications are similar to anticonvulsants & antipsychotics that work in different parts of brain. Some good treatments for bipolar disorder still haven't been pinned down as to where/why they work, but we know they do. Lithium is a perfect example of the latter. Many medications work in multiple conditions. Check with your doctor.
Dr. Carla Enriquez
Dr. Carla Enriquez
Thank
1 comment
Dr. Donald Hazlett
Psychiatric meds, depending on type, affect certain areas of the brain & at specific places on nerves (neurorecepter sites). Areas & sites affected are fairly well defined. Bipolar meds include antidepressants for short periods of time. Many meds for seizures & psychosis are used in bipolar disorder. Some meds for psychosis help when added to antidepressants. It's unclear how lithium works.
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