Beating Bipolar Disorder

It’s estimated that 2.5 million people in the United States suffer from bipolar disorder. It’s a mood disorder in which people have periods of depression that alternate with periods of mood elevations. Doctors often treat bipolar disorder with two drugs to tackle the highs and lows, but that can cause extreme side effects.

Kara Richards is an interior designer — a job that takes focus and creativity. However, her work and everyday activities are often interrupted because she has bipolar disorder, also called manic depression.

“There were times when it was an effort to go and get the mail. I mean I just wouldn’t even get the mail because I was afraid to go out of the house,” says Kara.

Kara tried two common drugs to treat her highs and lows, but the side effects were too much. Her husband, Dave, remembers. “We get up in the morning, and we like to have coffee and watch the sunrise, and she would just shake so bad that she couldn’t even hold the coffee,” he says.

Joseph Calabrese, M.D., a psychiatrist says, “People with bipolar disorder really struggle.”

In a study, Dr. Calabrese found Lamictal, a drug approved to treat epilepsy, works on bipolar disorder. It manages both the depression and the manic episodes without the side effects.

“Patients who were previously non-responsive to numerous antidepressant medicines responded nicely to this,” says Dr. Calabrese.

After eight years of ups and downs, Lamictal changed Kara’s life. “All of a sudden my anxiety started to go away, and the paranoia started to disappear, and the tremors were gone,” she says.

Dave says, “I knew that I loved her very much. So we’d be together to face this together, and she’s doing fine.”

Dave’s seen the worst and now the best of what his wife has been through.

There are about a half dozen more studies currently underway on Lamictal, which is also known as lamotrigine. The drug is FDA-approved for epilepsy. Some physicians are prescribing it off-label for bipolar disorder.

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