Depakote (A complete guide)

Depakote

Depakote, or valproic acid, is an anticonvulsant medication that treats seizures and bipolar disorder.

It can also be prescribed to prevent migraines. 

If you or someone you know are experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, seizures, or migraines, your doctor may prescribe Depakote.

Even in 2020, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health disorders, especially bipolar disorder.

Raising awareness and talking about your disorder to others who are less knowledgeable should help decrease the stigma over time. 

You should never think or let other people convince you that these feelings or symptoms are “in your head”.

Bipolar disorder is a serious but treatable medical condition that should be evaluated and treated properly by a licensed medical provider. 

Depakote (A complete guide)

Who is likely to be prescribed Depakote?

People who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder may be prescribed Depakote. 

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels, and severely interferes with everyday life. 

Symptoms of bipolar disorder include both manic and depressive episodes. Signs of a manic episode are: 

·      Feeling very “up” or elated

·      Increased energy and activity levels

·      Feeling jumpy or wired 

·      Trouble sleeping (insomnia)

·      Talking very fast about a lot of different things

·      Agitation or irritability

·      Thoughts racing 

·      Think they can do a lot of things at once 

·      Taking risks such as spending a lot of money or having reckless sex 

The following are symptoms of a depressive episode: 

·      Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness 

·      Very low energy and activity levels 

·      Trouble sleeping (either sleeping too much or too little) 

·      Loss of enjoyment in hobbies or activities

·      Feelings of worry 

·      Trouble concentrating and trouble remembering things 

·      Changes in appetite (either eating too much or too little)

·      Feeling sluggish 

·      Thoughts of death or suicide

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, seek help immediately. 

There are two main types of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I Disorder and Bipolar II Disorder. 

Bipolar I Disorder is defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or severe manic symptoms that require immediate hospitalization.

Depressive episodes occur as well and usually last at least 2 weeks.

Bipolar I Disorder patients may also have mixed episodes with both manic and depressive symptoms simultaneously. 

Bipolar II Disorder is characterized by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes.

Hypomanic episodes have some features of typical manic episodes, but are not severe enough to be considered manic. 

Depakote (A complete guide)

How does Depakote work to treat bipolar disorder and seizures? 

Depakote is a coordination compound that consists of sodium valproate and valproic acid.

It is an anticonvulsant medication and mood stabilizer used to treat several conditions including seizure disorders (complex partial and simple and complex absence seizures), acute manic or mixed episodes associated with bipolar disorder, and migraines

Depakote works by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.

This is the brain’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means that it reduces the firing of neurons.

When receptors for GABA are activated by Depakote, neurons are “quieter” and thus elicit an antiseizure or other effects that reduce manic episodes from bipolar disorder and migraine headaches.

What are some common side effects of Depakote?

There are many side effects of Depakote including the following:

-Gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, upset stomach, and constipation 

-Extreme drowsiness

-Dizziness

-Weakness

-Increased appetite or weight gain (or loss of appetite)

-Pain

-Tremor

-Back pain

-Hair loss

-Headache

-Fever

-Double or blurred vision  

Depakote can also cause suicidal thoughts or actions. Call your doctor right away if you are having any of the following symptoms: 

-Thoughts of suicide or dying

-Attempts to commit suicide

-Depression that is new or getting worse

-Anxiety that is new or getting worse

-Feelings of agitation or restlessness

-Panic attacks

-Trouble sleeping (insomnia) 

This drug may also cause life-threatening pancreatitis.

Get emergency medical help immediately if you are experiencing nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or tenderness when pressing on the stomach.

If the abdominal pain you are having radiates to your back or is getting worse, this may be a sign that you have pancreatitis.

Depakote (A complete guide)

What are interactions between Depakote and other drugs?

Depakote should not be taken with alcohol because certain nervous system side effects may be amplified such as drowsiness, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, and impaired judgement. 

The following drugs can interact moderately with Depakote: 

-Carbamazepine (Tegretol)

-Salicylates (Doans Pills)

-Topiramate (Topamax and Topamax Sprinkle)

-Rifampin (Rifadin)

-Warfarin (Coumadin)

-Amitriptyline (Elavil)

-Clomipramine (Anafranil)

-Nortriptyline (Pamelor)

-Rufinamide (Banzel)

-Lorazepam (Ativan)

-Felbamate (Felbatol)

In addition, certain barbiturates, anticonvulsants, and hydantoins may interact with Depakote.

It is imperative to tell your doctor about any other medications you are currently taking. 

Depakote (A complete guide)

Is there anyone who should not take Depakote?

Depakote should not be taken by children under the age of 2 because it can cause serious or fatal liver damage.

You should also not take Depakote if you have a history of liver disease, a urea cycle disorder, or a genetic disorder such as Alper’s disease (a degenerative and progressive disease of the central nervous system that occurs mostly in infants and children). 

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant you should not take Depakote because this can harm an unborn baby.

If a mother has taken Depakote while pregnant, she may give birth to a baby that is born with serious birth defects such as spina bifida or other neural tube defects.

Another risk of taking Depakote during pregnancy is giving birth to a baby that will have a lower IQ. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Depakote: 

1.   What does Depakote do to you?

Depakote is an anticonvulsant medication and mood stabilizer used to treat several conditions including seizure disorders (complex partial and simple and complex absence seizures), acute manic or mixed episodes associated with bipolar disorder, and migraines. 

2.   Is Depakote an antipsychotic medication?

Depakote is not considered an antipsychotic medication; it is an antiepileptic drug and was one of the first generation of these types of drugs. 

3.   What are the most common side effects of Depakote?

There are many side effects of Depakote including the following:

-Gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, upset stomach, and constipation 

-Extreme drowsiness

-Dizziness

-Weakness

-Increased appetite or weight gain (or loss of appetite)

-Pain

-Tremor

-Back pain

-Hair loss

-Headache

-Fever

-Double or blurred vision  

What kind of drug is Depakote?

Depakote is a coordination compound that consists of sodium valproate and valproic acid.

It is an anticonvulsant medication and mood stabilizer used to treat several conditions including seizure disorders (complex partial and simple and complex absence seizures), acute manic or mixed episodes associated with bipolar disorder, and migraines

What does Depakote do to the brain?

Depakote works by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.

This is the brain’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means that it reduces the firing of neurons.

When receptors for GABA are activated by Depakote, neurons are “quieter” and thus elicit an antiseizure or other effects that reduce manic episodes from bipolar disorder and migraine headaches. 

6.   Does Depakote help with anxiety?

Yes, Depakote can help with anxiety.

Depakote works by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.

This is the brain’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means that it reduces the firing of neurons.

When receptors for GABA are activated by Depakote, neurons are “quieter” and thus elicit a calming or sedative effect in the patient. 

7. Does Depakote cause weight gain?

Depakote affects proteins involved in appetite and metabolism, and this happens more often in women than in men, although it is not known why. 

 8. Is Depakote a mood stabilizer? 

Yes, Depakote is a mood stabilizer because it is effective in treating hypomania or mania in patients with bipolar disorder and it helps prevent recurrences of bipolar episodes. 

9.   What is an alternative to Depakote?

Some alternatives to Depakote are other mood stabilizers used to treat bipolar disorder including lithium (Lithobid), valproic acid (Depakene), carbamazepine (Tegretol, Equetro, and others), and lamotrigine (Lamictal). 

10.                 Should I take Depakote in the morning or at night?

You should take Depakote at the time of the day that you can best remember to take it consistently.

For instance, in the morning with breakfast or in the evening before you go to bed. 

In this blog article, we hope you learned more about how Depakote works to treat bipolar disorder, seizure disorders, and migraines.

We also discussed the side effects of Depakote and its interactions with other drugs.

You should now have a better understanding of the symptoms of bipolar disorder as well as how seizures work in the brain. 

Want to learn more about Depakote? Try these recommended readings! 

Depakote (Valproate): Treats Seizures, Bipolar Disorder, and Helps Prevent Migraine Headaches

This book by James Lee Anderson provides information about Depakote in paperback form.

It discusses what Depakote is prescribed for, how it works, and how it should be taken.  

Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder: A 4-Step Plan for You and Your Loved Ones to Manage the Illness and Create Lasting Stability

This book by Julie Fast and John Preston is a great resource for people looking to manage their bipolar disorder with both conventional and nonconventional treatments such as acupuncture and other mind, body, and lifestyle interventions.

People with bipolar disorder who have read this book say that it has given them hope for a brighter future. 

I am not in recovery. I am in discovery: Journaling my mental illness

Journaling is a great way to help process and keep track of your experiences and feelings while you are going through any difficulties, whether it be the debilitating symptoms of mental illness or just regular day to day problems.

This journal can be your form of catharsis, as it contains 94 daily templates to aid in your discovery process. 

The Mindfulness Journal: Daily Practices, Writing Prompts, and Reflections for Living in the Present Moment

As described above, journaling is a great way to give yourself a stress release.

Whether you are dealing with mental health issues, heartbreak, a problem at work, or any other life stressor, this journal is for you.

This Mindfulness Journal can easily be added into your daily routine and can serve as an outlet for stress-reduction that will help you appreciate every single day and moment.

It includes 365 daily writing prompts divided into 52 weekly mindfulness topics.

The prompts are extremely unique, fun, and engaging, so you will never get bored while journaling.

Additionally, each prompt is on its own separate page so you will have more than enough room for reflection and to write down all of your thoughts, big or small.

Although it is suggested to journal once a day, you can spend as much or as little time as you want on each prompt. 

References

Bipolar Disorder.National Institute of Mental Health. April 2016. 

What is Depakote (Divalproex Sodium)?Everyday Health. October 31st, 2014. 

Aura Des los Santos

Aura Des los Santos is a Clinical Psychologist with two masters degree in Education. One focused in Higher Educacion and the other in the research of Psychology of Education. Her experience is focused on working depression, anxiety and personal development. She frequently writes articles in the area of psychology, education, travel and general culture.