The drugs that treat this mood disorder are powerful but imperfect
Bipolar disorder can often be treated effectively with medication. Along with leveling out bipolar-associated mood swings, however, the medications can cause unwanted side effects, the number one reason people with bipolar disorder stop taking their medications. These side effects tend to be worse during the first few weeks of treatment and may go away over time. But don’t assume you’re stuck with medication that makes you feel crappy. Here’s how to cope with side effects that don’t lessen:
Constipation. Drink lots of water. Add more fresh fruits, vegetables and bran to your diet. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Talk to your physician about taking stool softeners.
Dizziness. Don’t rise from a sitting or lying position too quickly. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Stay hydrated, because not drinking enough liquid can make dizziness worse.
Drowsiness. If you’re finding it hard to stay awake during the day, talk to your doctor about adjusting the time when you take your medication.
Nausea or upset stomach. Take your medication with food. Sometimes changing the dosage of your medication will help, but talk to your physician before making any changes to your dosage.
Insomnia. Exercise in the morning. 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. Have your physician adjust the time when you take your medication.
Weight gain. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Choose whole grains, fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods, sweets and snacks. Discuss concerns about weight gain with your physician, who may be able to adjust your treatment plan.
White blood cell disturbances. This can lead to increased susceptibility to infection or bleeding, so you may need regular tests to make sure you’re staying healthy.
Keep track of all side effects. Log the symptoms, when they occur and how bad they are, and take the log to your doctor. He or she may have additional suggestions for minimizing the side effects. If side effects are severe, your doctor may switch you to another medication or change your dose.
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