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There are a range of disorders where a patient's mood swings from high to low over a period of time. Bipolar disorder I is the present name for what was previously known as manic depression.
Bipolar disorders are recurrent conditions and patients need treatment to prevent their mood swings. Lithium is often used, but some people cannot tolerate it because of side effects. Regular blood tests are needed to check the dose is right.
There are some alternatives to lithium. These include medicines which are also used to treat epilepsy or schizophrenia. They are not as effective as lithium, but may be easier to tolerate. These medicines also have side effects. Some people cannot tolerate these side effects and some will not respond very well to medication.
Education helps patients understand their illness. Talking with a therapist and having a balanced lifestyle can be very helpful in managing bipolar disorders.