Questions And Answers About Bipolar Disorder Medication
There are medications and there are medications for bipolar disorder. Unlike an infection, or headaches, where popping a few pills can alleviate the problem, the outlook for most people with bipolar is very different. In this Sharepost I've touched on some of the recurring questions asked about medication and have attempted to answered them to the best of my knowledge.
Q. Will Medication Take Away My Independence?
You don't have to look far to see how much bipolar meds are disliked. Yes, many people do see how meds help to stabilize their lives, but this isn't the same as saying they enjoy the experience. For others, daily medication is no different than handing over control of their feelings and behavior to chemicals.
Taking medication, along with their side effects, the trips for blood tests and the collection of meds are constant reminders that you have bipolar. Set against this are the benefits of not needing to go to hospital as often, not being as reckless, maintaining better relationships and standing a better chance of holding down work. I know it's a rather rudimentary measure, but if we take just these two alternatives I know which strikes me as offering greater independence. Keep in mind that the most independent people know how to make the best use of resources around them. If you view medication as a way to help achieve your goals then perhaps this removes some of the sting.
Q. Will Medication Turn Me Into A Zombie?
Based on my previous answer I would have to say no. However, compared with some of the moods you may have experienced a period of stability may feel like you have been emotionally flattened. Life without extremes of mood can appear a pretty strange place. Medication however takes time to achieve a therapeutic level. You may find that repeat visits to the doctor are necessary in order to fine tune the medication to a satisfactory level.
Q. Do I Have To Live With Side Effects?
This is certainly a big issue and is one of the reasons why, particularly young people with bipolar, are reluctant to take medication. Side effects not only feel bad, their effects can sometimes be seen by others.
We return to the issue of costs and benefits. Mania has consequences and so does depression. With medication comes a chance of greater stability and more control over your actions. Side effects are an inevitable consequence of most medication but it doesn't mean everyone will react badly. Some people have quite modest side effects whilst others experience greater extremes. It's important to keep your doctor advised. He or she may be able to make medication changes or adjustments to existing meds in order to keep side effects to a minimum.
Q. Will I Have To Take Medication For The Rest of My Life?
How long is a piece of string? If you're very young, who knows what medical advances might be made over the next decade or so? Some of you may have already lived a lot of your life before you were even diagnosed with bipolar. Bipolar is a complex condition that varies both in type and extreme. The role of medication is to prevent or reduce episodes. There is currently no cure for bipolar disorder and therefore the outlook for most people is to remain on medication. Over time, some people find it is possible to reduce either the dosage of medication they are taking.
Q. Medication is a Choice. What if I Choose Not To?
On current estimates around half the people who are prescribed medication for bipolar either choose not to take it, or do not take it regularly at the recommended dosage. In choosing not to take medication you become more vulnerable to mania, depression and possibly suicide. Taking the right medication will almost certainly reduce your chances of relapse. Stability in your life usually reflects on the lives of significant others. The pleasure you may experience with your high moods generally comes at a cost to yourself and others. And so the list goes on. So yes, medication is a choice but in making that choice your analysis of the relative costs and benefits needs to be broad and encompassing.
As always, please weigh in with your own thoughts as to the cost-benefits of medication.