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Atypical Antipsychotics for Bipolar Disorder

The most recent medications typically prescribed for bipolar disorder include a class of drugs called “atypical antipsychotics.” Atypical means they work in a manner that is significantly different than the previous class of antipsychotic medications. “Antipsychotic” refers to the fact that these medications were initially thought only to help people with psychosis (a common symptom of schizophrenia).

However, since their initial development, further research has demonstrated that this class of medications also can have helpful mood stabilizing properties. This means for someone with bipolar disorder, their moods swings will typically become less frequent and less intense.

There are seven commonly prescribed atypical antipsychotic medications for bipolar disorder:

Common side effects of these medications include weight gain and drowsiness. Weight gain can be a significant issue — most people taking an atypical antipsychotic can expect to gain weight. Because weight gain is also associated with an increased risk for Type II diabetes, individuals taking an atyptical antipsychotic should be carefully monitored by their physician. Exercise and a nutritional, balanced diet are also important.

It is a common misnomer that atypical antipsychotic medications have less side effects than other drugs. Atypical antipsychotic medications have significant side effects, it’s just that their side effect profile is different than that of most other drugs used to treat mental disorders. Your doctor cannot tell you whether a specific medication is going to help you or what side effects you will experience — only through a trial and error process will you find a medication that is effective for you with minimal side effects.

If you want to learn more about how to manage medication side effects, you’ll find this article helpful.

Psychiatrists will typically try a course of an atypical antipsychotic for the treatment of bipolar disorder before trying any other medication. Your psychiatrist may also prescribe an additional medication to help supplement the effectiveness of the atypical antipsychotic.

Always take all medications as directed and ask your doctor what to do if you miss a dose.

Atypical Antipsychotics for Bipolar Disorder

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder & CEO of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues -- as well as the intersection of technology and human behavior -- since 1992. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member and treasurer of the Society for Participatory Medicine. He writes regularly and extensively on mental health concerns, the intersection of technology and psychology, and advocating for greater acceptance of the importance and value of mental health in today's society. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Atypical Antipsychotics for Bipolar Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 22, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/atypical-antipsychotics-for-bipolar-disorder/

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 20 Jan 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Jan 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.