The intensely deep lows of bipolar depression, far more common than the manic highs, are typically treated with mood-stabilizing medications, often in combination with other drugs and therapies. But how exactly do these medications and therapies help with bipolar depression? Successful treatment of bipolar depression typically includes mood-stabilizing medication, such as Lithium, as well as other types of drugs, along with therapy and social support. Bipolar depression is associated with reduced levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, which play important roles in regulating mood. This chemical imbalance is believed to contribute to the emotional and physical pain sufferers often experience. Lithium is the most widely studied and commonly used mood-stabilizer, and is typically one of the first drugs prescribed for bipolar depression. Another commonly used mood-stabilizer is the anticonvulsant, Lamotrigine. Both drugs help improve mood and social interaction. A single mood-stabilizer may often be sufficient to relieve bipolar depression, but some people may need an additional mood-stabilizer or anticonvulsant. Additionally, antipsychotic medication may be prescribed if mood stabilizers aren't effective or if someone loses touch with reality. Another drug that may be effective for bipolar depression is Symbyax, which combines Zyprexa, an atypical antipsychotic, with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor Prozac, an antidepressant. It's believed that these drugs help restore the brain's chemical balance. Antidepressants should be prescribed with caution, as they may have a mood destabilizing effect over time, which is why they're typically prescribed with a mood stabilizer. In addition to medication, bipolar depression sufferers may also benefit from various types of therapy. For example, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy may help sufferers identify and transform negative thought patterns and behaviors into healthier, more positive ways of coping with, and responding to, stressful situations. Family-Focused Therapy helps educate family members about the illness. This type of therapy strives to identify conflicts and reduce stress and strain within the family dynamic, while developing supportive home environments. Another form of therapy, Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy, helps address and improve relationship issues and daily routines to reduce stress and mood cycling. When sufferers have not been able to overcome severe depression with medication and therapy, Electroconvulsive Therapy may provide relief. ECT is administered under brief anesthesia for approximately 30-90 seconds. In instances where depression becomes severe, hospitalization may be required especially if suicide risk is high. If you or someone you know is affected by bipolar disorder, please see a mental health professional.