Antipsychotics for Child and Teen Bipolar Disorder

Search Knowledgebase

Topic Contents

Antipsychotics for Child and Teen Bipolar Disorder


Generic NameBrand Name
quetiapine Seroquel

These medicines are available in liquid or tablet form.

How It Works

These medicines balance certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that help regulate mood and control symptoms of bipolar disorder. They quickly improve manic episodes.

Why It Is Used

Antipsychotics are used to treat manic symptoms, such as reckless and impulsive behaviour, and to help stabilize moods. Antipsychotics may be used in combination with other medicines to treat bipolar disorder, like mood stabilizers.

Your doctor may prescribe an antipsychotic for only a short time to help your child deal with immediate symptoms. After other long-term medicines begin to work and symptoms improve, your child may be able to taper off and stop the short-term medicine.

How Well It Works

Medicines for bipolar disorder in adults have been well studied. Early research shows antipsychotics are safe and effective for children and teens with bipolar disorder, but long-term studies are still under way.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine your child takes. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with the medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after your child takes the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother your child and you wonder if he or she should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower the dose or change the medicine. Do not suddenly have your child quit taking the medicine unless your doctor says so.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if your child has:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) is an extremely rare but serious side effect that has been reported by people who take antipsychotic medicines. NMS causes life-threatening problems with your body's ability to regulate its temperatures.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if your child has a fever and:

  • Muscle rigidity.
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Severe sweating.

Other side effects of antipsychotic medicines include:

Managing side effects

It may take several attempts to find the right dose and medicine to treat your child's bipolar symptoms. Effectiveness and side effects for each medicine vary from person to person.

Some side effects are minor, and you can manage them through lifestyle changes such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and diet changes. Other side effects can be more serious and require changes to the dose or type of medicine.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. If your child takes medicine as your doctor suggests, it will improve your child's health and may prevent future problems. If your child doesn't take the medicines properly, his or her health (and perhaps life) may be at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If your teen is pregnant or breast-feeding, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm the baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that your teen is pregnant or breast-feeding.


Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Before your child takes an antipsychotic medicine, be sure to tell your doctor if your child has:

  • A heart condition.
  • A seizure disorder.
  • Problems with liver function.
  • Problems with blood pressure.
  • Diabetes or high blood sugar.
  • Constipation.
  • A history of breast cancer.
  • Problems with swallowing.
  • Problems with fainting.

These medicines should be started in low doses. Talk with your doctor about any other medicines your child may be taking to make sure there are no negative drug interactions.

Your child may require regular liver tests, blood tests, and blood pressure monitoring while taking an antipsychotic medicine. Your doctor may also monitor your child's weight and blood sugar.

Avoid herbal stimulants (such as ma huang, ginseng, or kola) while taking an antipsychotic medicine.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about drinking grapefruit juice while taking an antipsychotic medicine. Grapefruit juice can increase the level of these medicines in your child's blood. Having too much medicine in your child's blood increases the chances of having serious side effects.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Carlson GA, Meyer SE (2009). Early-onset bipolar disorder. In BJ Sadock et al., eds., Kaplan and Sadock’s Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 9th ed., vol. 2, pp. 3663–3670. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Primary Medical Reviewer Donald Sproule, MD, CM, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David A. Axelson, MD - Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Last Revised June 7, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.