How Do Bipolar Disorder Agents Work?

Reviewed on 1/10/2022

How Do Bipolar Disorder Agents Work?

Bipolar disorder agents are mood-stabilizing medications that are prescribed to manage both manic and depressive moods of bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Some bipolar disorder agents have anticonvulsant properties and are also used to treat neurological conditions such as epilepsy and trigeminal neuralgia.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of mania, an extremely euphoric and excited mood, alternating with depression. Bipolar disorder agents are effective for both inhibiting mania and improving depression symptoms. Bipolar disorder agents work by regulating the chemical balance and activity, and electrical activity in the brain.

Bipolar disorder agents have effects on several neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation such as dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, glutamate and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), which are chemicals that neurons release to send signals to each other and stimulate activity.

Bipolar disorder agents balance the levels of neurotransmitters and also alter the way receptors on nerve cells (neurons) receive and transmit signals. Receptors are protein molecules on neuronal surfaces that initiate intracellular action when stimulated by a neurotransmitter.

Bipolar disorder agents regulate the brain’s chemical balance and activity in many different ways such as:

  • Reducing the activity of dopamine and glutamate, which are excitatory neurotransmitters.
  • Enhancing the activity of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
  • Modulating intracellular signaling by second messenger systems which translate the signals to action within the cell.
  • Increasing the levels and activity of serotonin and norepinephrine.
  • Partial agonist activity on D2 and D3 dopamine receptors which are excitatory, and 5-HT1A serotonin receptors which are inhibitory. Partial agonists enhance or block receptor activity depending on the neurotransmitter concentration levels.
  • Blocking 5-HT2A serotonin receptors which are excitatory.
  • Stimulating H1 histamine receptors in the central nervous system, which produces sedation and a calming effect.

In addition, some bipolar disorder agents control involuntary muscle contractions and pain from abnormal electrical activity in the brain. These bipolar disorder medications prevent abnormal electrical impulses by stabilizing the sodium channels in neurons and reducing their electrical conductivity.


Another term that has been previously used for bipolar disorder is ___________________. See Answer

How Are Bipolar Disorder Agents Used?

Bipolar disorder agents may be administered as oral tablets, capsules, solutions or suspensions to treat the following conditions:


  • Bipolar I disorder (mania, depression or mixed)
  • Bipolar I disorder maintenance
  • Agitation associated with schizophrenia and bipolar I mania
  • Schizophrenia
  • Epilepsy
  • Trigeminal neuralgia

Off-label uses:

Orphan designation:

  • Huntington's disease (an inherited degenerative brain disorder)

What Are Side Effects of Bipolar Disorder Agents?

Side effects of bipolar disorder agents may include the following:

Information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.


What Is Bipolar Disorder? Symptoms, Manic Episodes, Testing See Slideshow

What Are Names of Some Bipolar Disorder Drugs?

Generic and brand names of bipolar disorder drugs include:


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