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Coping with Side Effects of Bipolar Medications

Content provided by: Better Medicine from Healthgrades

Your healthcare provider has prescribed a medication that helps treat bipolar disorder. This sheet tells you about side effects that may occur during your treatment and how these effects can be managed.

Understanding Side Effects

Medications are effective treatments for bipolar disorder. Along with their benefits, though, medications can cause unwanted side effects. Side effects tend to be worse when treatment is first begun and may go away over time. Those that don’t go away can often be managed.

Managing Side Effects

To help cope with specific side effects, try the tips below:

Side Effect

What You Can Do


Drink plenty of water. Eat more bran and fresh fruits and vegetables. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Talk to your healthcare provider about stool softeners.

Daytime drowsiness

Talk to your healthcare provider about adjusting the time when you take your medication.


Get up slowly from a sitting or lying position; avoid caffeine and alcohol; drink plenty of water (not drinking enough liquid can make dizziness worse).

Trouble sleeping

Talk to your healthcare provider about adjusting the time when you take your medication. Exercise early in the day. Avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as chocolate, coffee, tea, and colas. Try to go to bed at the same time every night.

Nausea or upset stomach

Take your medication with food. Drink lots of fluids, such as water, unsweetened fruit juice, and lemon water. Ask your healthcare provider whether changing the dosage of your medication will help.

Weight gain

Get exercise. At least 30 minutes of activity a day is recommended. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and fewer processed foods, sweets, and snacks. Discuss concerns about weight gain with your healthcare provider, who may be able to adjust your treatment plan.

Keep Taking Your Medication

Troublesome side effects are one reason that people stop taking bipolar medications. If your medication causes side effects that you find bothersome or troubling, don’t stop taking your medication. Instead, talk to your healthcare provider. An adjustment in dosage, medication type, or other change may help. In some cases, a different medication will treat your symptoms without causing the same side effects. Or, you may be given an additional medication that treats a specific side effect. In any case, adjustments can be made so that the benefits of treating your bipolar disorder outweigh any side effects that you have.

NOTE: This sheet does not include all adverse reactions, precautions, side effects, and interactions of this type of medication. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have any questions. Always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

Medical Reviewer: Lewis, Daniel A, PharmD, BCPS Last Annual Review Date: 2011-01-11 Copyright: 2011 Krames Staywell

Reference: Bipolar Disorder section on Better Medicine

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