Are Drugs Necessary To Treat Bipolar Disorder?

My husband has bipolar disorder and is not taking any medication, by choice, because of the side effects. He seems to be doing better without the medications, but his four and five-day depressions are difficult for me to tolerate. I don’t know if there is anything I can do to help him. He says to just leave him alone, but I can’t because I care. It scares me to see him isolate himself. Is there anything I can do?

Bipolar disorder is treatable in a variety of ways. With some creativity, a regimen can usually be worked out to prevent or reduce recurrences of depression and mania with tolerable side effects. The main drugs include lithium, valproate (Depakene and Depakote), and carbamazepine (Tegretol). Some new antiseizure drugs can also be tried.

Your husband’s “doing better” presumably means he has no problem with drug side effects, but a major side effect of his declining to have drug treatment is his unhappy wife (and he can’t be having much fun with recurrent depressions either).

Try to induce him to see an expert psychopharmacologist who will take his concerns about side effects seriously.

But suppose his refusal to seek treatment is stubborn and unreasonable. What do spouses do when their partners refuse to help themselves? What does the spouse of an active dysfunctional alcoholic do? These days, the common advice is to hold the spouse responsible for his or her behavior, including the failure to pursue effective treatment, and not to become locked in a so-called “co-dependent” relationship. Maybe you should seek some counseling with or without your husband.

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