Medication for Bipolar Disorder in Children

Medication can be an important component of treating children and adolescents who have bipolar disorder. Psychiatrists at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center provide medication consultations to address symptoms of bipolar disorder and for any coexisting mental health conditions, such as an anxiety disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Sometimes, medication is combined with another form of treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Some parents may have reservations about medication as a treatment for their child. During a medication consultation, our clinicians meet with you to describe the different medications, how and when they are used, the benefits and potential side effects of each, and how long they may be needed. Parents then have the opportunity to raise any questions or concerns with our specialists.

Child and adolescent psychiatrists at NYU Langone select the appropriate medication and can help you and your child to manage any side effects. Your child’s psychiatrist provides regular assessments on how well the medication is working and whether adjustments to the dosage or type of medication are necessary.

Follow-up appointments initially occur weekly, when symptoms are most intense, so that medication adjustments can be made. These appointments then occur monthly and eventually once every three months.

For children and teens with bipolar disorder, doctors may prescribe one of a variety of medications, including a mood stabilizer such as lithium, an anticonvulsant, or an antipsychotic. These medications help the brain regulate emotion. Occasionally, an antianxiety medication may also be prescribed. The doctor carefully chooses a medication based on your child’s symptoms.

Bipolar disorder affecting children and adolescents usually requires long-term management with medication, sometimes for life.

Resources for Bipolar Disorder in Children
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