Question: Will my medication cause problems with my sexual functioning or sleep?
Answer: This is a question that comes up frequently. There is no simple answer because many different kinds of medications are used to treat people with bipolar disorder, and also different medications may be used by the same person at different phases of illness -- when they're going through a depressive phase, for example, versus a manic phase. So it's important to think of each of the medications differently.
Having said that, the general rule is that many of the medications that are used to treat bipolar disorder can actually have sedating properties, it can make people feel more sleepy. Many people will feel this way for example when they take mood-stabilizing medications or anti-psychotic medications -- not everyone. And there's no way to predict this, so it's really a trial and error deciding whether somebody's going to be able to tolerate one medication or if they're not going to be.
Similar thing with sexual function. Some of the medications that are used to treat bipolar disorder can also cause sexual difficulties, but again this is not true for everyone so it becomes a trial and error going on the medication and seeing whether it's causing these kinds of significant problems.
Both for sleep and sedation, and also for sexual difficulties, there are also more modern medications that actually are not associated with these side effects. So, if you are somebody who's experiencing these kinds of conditions, or are concerned about this when you're starting a new medication, the best thing to do is to take the medication and discuss it with your treater, with your psychiatrist. And if you both decide that the medication is not working for you because of the side effects, there's other medications to try.
This is one of the major advances in the modern era and the treatment of bipolar disorder is that there are now many different medication choices. So it's often possible through trial and error to find a combination of medications that help somebody without causing some of these significant side effects.