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Anti-Depressants May Not Work On Bipolar Disorder

By: Rachael On: 01-30-2014 Category: Mental Health

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that consists of long episodes of depression followed by episodes of mania, both of which are distinct from the person’s normal range of moods. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but it can be treated and managed, allowing a person to live a full life. Treatment differs depending on the person and the type and severity of the disorder.

However, bipolar disorder is usually managed with prescription medication, often accompanied by psychotherapy. Although mood stabilizers are the most commonly used medication for managing bipolar disorder, some doctors prescribe antidepressants or antipsychotics.

The Use Of Anti-Depressants

The use of anti-depressants for treatment of bipolar disorder is controversial. These drugs increase the risk of switching to a mania or hypomania episode or even developing rapid-cycling bipolar disorder (where a person moves back and forth between depression and mania quickly, sometimes multiple times in the same day).

Doctors typically only use antidepressants for short periods of time, usually alongside a mood stabilizer to prevent triggering a mania episode. However, the use of antidepressants to treat bipolar disorder remains divisive among experts, with studies showing both the benefit and risks involved. A new study might provide some insight into this debate about antidepressants to help find the best medication for treating bipolar disorder.

Research Team Weighs In

A research team from the Mental Health Institute of Central South University in China analyzed several studies to assess the efficacy of antidepressants for the treatment of bipolar disorder. They found that there was not a significant difference in outcomes for patients using antidepressants compared to a placebo.

For the study, the researchers reviewed only large scale, double-blinded randomized controlled trials. To achieve objective results, they set strict guidelines for which studies to include, excluding research that involved any other type of psychiatric drugs or open label design studies, and only used studies that involved patients over the age of 18 diagnosed with primary bipolar disorder.

A Review Of The Study

A review of the studies by the researchers found that in the short term, antidepressants did not perform significantly better than the placebo. Additionally, long-term use provided no benefits, with participants showing no higher remission rates or better response from the use of antidepressants. These findings imply that antidepressants provide no benefits for patients with bipolar disorder, even in the short term, and would therefore not be worth the risk of triggering a manic episode.

This study does not answer questions about the best treatment for bipolar disorder, but it may suggest avenues for further studies that could improve treatment for those with bipolar disorder. The researchers believe that more large-scale, double blinded studies are necessary in order to adequately understand the efficacy of antidepressants on the different subcategories of bipolar disorder.

Experimenting With Medication

Many people with bipolar disorder often have to experiment with different medications, sometimes taking more than one, until they find the best way to maintain their condition. More studies like this might help exclude unnecessary medications that have serious side effects, such as antidepressants. Antidepressants can cause headaches, nausea, jitters, sexual dysfunction, episodes of mania, and other unpleasant effects. Although this study provides some benefits, additional research is needed regarding the potential efficacy of antidepressants for treating bipolar disorder.

At Sovereign Health Group, we offer treatment for bipolar disorder, along with any underlying or co-occurring conditions. Our Mental Health Program utilizes experiential and expressive therapeutic modalities including individual and group psychotherapy and complementary alternative therapeutic activities such as yoga, meditation, equine therapy, art therapy, and music therapy. You can learn more about our program here or call our Admissions team at 866-264-9778.

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