Treating Teen Bipolar Disorder with MedicationIf your child has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you might have already had a discussion with his or her psychiatrist about medication. However, using psychotropic medication, although growing as a choice for treating psychological disorders, continues to carry a stigma. Often, those who take medication for their mental health are judged or looked down upon.

Despite this, research shows that the combination of medication and individual therapy are quite effective for treating most mood disorders. For bipolar disorder, specifically, medication can manage the wide swing of changing moods from depression to mania. This article will address the various forms of medication that might be used in teen bipolar disorder treatment.

Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers are commonly used to treat bipolar disorder and can help prevent the swing from depression to mania or hypomania. However, not all mood stabilizers will manage the depression or mania equally well. For instance, lithium more effectively works to treat the depression versus the manic episodes, while the medication commonly referred to as Depakote works well in treating mania. In fact, Depakote seems to be more effective in treating adolescents who have four or more mood episodes per year (known as rapid cycling).

Finding the right medication, or combination of medications, for your teen’s unique circumstances always should be discussed with a psychiatrist. Additionally, as you might expect, lithium, Depakote, and other mood stabilizers come with side effects that are worthy of exploration before your teen begins any medication.


To prevent or help manage a depressive episode, your child might be prescribed an antidepressant. They can be taken alone or in combination with other drugs, such as with one of the mood stabilizers discussed above. Although antidepressants are effective, they do come with risks. For teens in particular, it is essential to know that antidepressants can cause suicidal thoughts and even attempts at suicide. This doesn’t mean to dismiss antidepressants as a treatment modality, but to keep this risk in mind when in a conversation with your teen’s psychiatrist.


These medications can be used to control hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking. They might be prescribed as a way to manage severe mania or aggression. Antipsychotics are increasingly prescribed to teens for the treatment of ADHD, as well as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Other Treatments

Although these are the most common ways teen bipolar disorder is treated medically, other methods, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), might be considered for extremely rare and severe cases of depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other forms of mental illness. Formerly known as electroshock therapy, it first gained popularity in the mid-20th century.

Additionally, herbal supplements, such as St. John’s Wort, might also be used as a treatment method for depression. Of course, any herbal supplement must be discussed in detail with a psychiatrist, particularly because of the dangers that exist when combining prescribed psychotropic medication with herbal supplements.

As a caregiver, it is essential to stay informed. The treatment methods for mental illness have become more refined over the years. Learning what you can about your teenager’s diagnosis, how it is best treated, and the side effects of those treatments is in your best interest and that of your child.



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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Feb 2014
    Published on All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Hunt, R. (2014). Treating Teen Bipolar Disorder with Medication. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from


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