Q:  Bipolar II or Unipolar 

My mother has bipolar disorder type II. I have been diagnosed with the same, but  I have only had depressed phases, I use lithium.

Mustn't I take  antidepressants?

Dont I have a unipolar disorder?

Hello Ms. H' -- 
Good question.  No accepted answer; that is, this is still controversial.  Many people with cycles of depression do not respond well to antidepressants alone.  Mood stabilizers work better, although sometimes it takes more than one.  Is this "bipolar"?  Doesn't make too much difference if you get better and the cycling stops.  Might make a difference if antidepressants could make you worse, which is quite possible if you really have "bipolar disorder".  

Take a look around the 'net for information on lamotrigine.  In the U.S., there is growing enthusiasm for this medication as a treatment for cycling depression that doesn't look "bipolar" in any other respect.  Some of my patients need an additional mood stabilizer if they take lamotrigine -- although it appears to be a "mood stabilizer", it's too powerful an antidepressant for some (not many, it looks like). 

Dr. Phelps

Published June, 2001