Let’s face it, side effects happen to almost everyone who takes medication for bipolar disorder. Bipolar medication side effects can range from annoying, to painful, to downright intolerable. But how does one deal with bipolar medication side effects?
Tolerable vs. Intolerable Bipolar Medication Side Effects
Some people get very confused when it comes to bipolar medication side effects. They often want to know if they should change medications because of them. In this video I explain that there are only two kinds of medication side effect: tolerable and intolerable ones.
Intolerable Bipolar Medication Side Effects
If you’ve truly determined that your bipolar medication side effect is intolerable (and, keep in mind, many things are worth tolerating for the good that the medication can also bring), then there’s really only one thing to do: change it. Dealing with a medication side effect generally requires:
- Lowering the dose of the offending medication
- Adding a medication to deal with the side effect
- Changing medications altogether
Which approach you choose depends on your situation but I would almost always choose to try lowering the medication first before trying the other two. This is because, in my experience, doctors like to ramp the dosage of medication as high as is possible until you pretty much scream at them that you can’t take it any longer. That doesn’t mean, however, that a lower dose won’t work for you so it’s well worth trying to lower the dose until the side effect becomes tolerable and hope the medication still works at that level.
If the medication is bringing good results other than the intolerable side effect, then adding a medication may be what you need. For example, movement problems which are often side effects of antipsychotics can often be dealt with by adding a medication.
If, though, you’re in the unenviable state where the side effect is intolerable and the medication isn’t very effective, then it’s probably time to taper down the medication and try something new.
Tolerable Bipolar Medication Side Effects
On the other hand, if the side effect you’re suffering is tolerable, your decision on what to do about it may change. You still have the above three options but each one looks less promising if you’re doing well right now. For example, if you’re virtually symptom-free but suffering from a sucky side effect (I once had one make my nose run all the time. Try to make out with that.), then you might not want to touch the medication anyway. Stability is, after all, a rare and beautiful thing and if you’ve achieved it, you might not want to mess with it; and if you do decide to make alterations, I would make them extremely slowly over a very long period of time to make sure I didn’t lose the benefits because I was trying to optimize my own comfort (but I’m like that).
Side Effects from Bipolar Medications Can be Dealt with
While I know a lot of people complain about bipolar medication side effects (me too) the fact is that most of them can be dealt with in one of the above ways. That being said, sometimes just sucking it up and living with it is, indeed, the best answer. Because a good life where you’ve overweight and happy is a much better life than one where you look better but are suicidal.