Over and over I see posts like, "I take Trileptal, and it's working pretty well, but I have problems with the side effects. My doctor suggests switching to Geodon, but I don't know if I should do that. What do you think? Which is better?"
The other question that's really common runs like this: "My doctor wants me to take Abilify, but I don't know. How well does it work?"
I understand the motives of people who post questions like these. The array of medications prescribed for bipolar disorder is bewildering and intimidating. Both anticonvulsants and some antipsychotics are used as mood stabilizers along with lithium.
Seroquel, an antipsychotic drug, also has antidepressant and sedative effects. Amitriptyline, an antidepressant, can also do wonders for the quality of your sleep, treat numbness and tingling from diabetic neuropathy, help with bulimia, and has a host of other uses - even treating hiccups. And both of these meds can cause serious weight gain.
Neurontin (gabapentin) has failed, in clinical trials, to be shown effective as a mood stabilizer - but it does work for some people.
So when someone asks, "Lithium's side effects are really wearing me down, what should I take instead?", or "Prozac isn't working for me anymore, do you suggest Paxil or Cymbalta?", the best answer is, "I don't know."
I don't know because everybody is different. I respond well to Seroquel, but you might not. I take Lamictal without problems, but you might get a serious rash. Cymbalta works for me, but Paxil doesn't.
And the entire issue is complicated because more often than not, people take multiple medications. I take Trazodone, an antidepressant, because I have a sleep disorder. Whether it is helping my depressive tendencies or not, I haven't a clue, since I also take Seroquel and Cymbalta for depression. Then, too, Seroquel helps me sleep.
Thus, the replies to questions like those above are really going to boil down to "This works for me." Or the opposite: "I had a bad time with that."
In the end, the only way you'll know if a particular medication works for you is to try it.