Divalproex for anxiety & depression.

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Bottle of divalproex medicine

Is divalproex (depakote) right for you?

There are many different types of medications for bipolar disorder, and it’s important to find the one that’s right for you. At Brightside, we’re here to help. Our providers are knowledgeable about each type of medication for bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression and specialize in finding the best fit for your individual needs. As part of your treatment, your provider may recommend an anticonvulsant medication called divalproex to help you feel better.

Divalproex, commonly called valproic acid, is used to treat episodes of mania (periods of extremely excitable mood) associated with bipolar disorder. Divalproex is often used in combination with other bipolar disorder medications.

Below, we offer some helpful information about divalproex so you can work with your provider to determine if it’s right for you and make an informed decision about your care.

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Mimi Winsberg, MD

Chief Medical Officer
Stanford-trained Psychiatrist with 25 years of practice

Get a divalproex prescription and ongoing anxiety & depression care for only $95 / month.

What’s included in a Brightside Medication Membership:

  • Ongoing support from an expert psychiatric provider
  • Unlimited daily messaging & video follow-ups
  • Regular progress tracking

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Step 1

Fill out our free mental health assessment.

Start with a clinically-proven set of questions to shed light on how you’re feeling. We’ll help you understand your symptoms, then recommend the best treatment plan for you–including medication, therapy, or both.

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Step 2

Connect with your provider for a personalized treatment plan.

Get matched with an expert provider for an online video consultation. Share how you’re feeling and then decide on next steps–together.

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Step 3

Make progress and start feeling better.

Stay in touch with with unlimited messaging, plus monthly video sessions with your Therapist and unlimited video consults with your Psychiatric Provider.

Then measure your progress with regular check-ins to monitor your symptoms and make adjustments until your treatment is right for you.

Everything you need to know about divalproex

What is divalproex, and how does it work?

Divalproex, commonly sold under the brand name Depakote, is a prescription medication used to manage certain types of seizures, but it also has a special use if you have bipolar disorder. Our providers at Brightside prescribe divalproex to treat manic episodes related to bipolar disorder.

The medication is a type of anticonvulsant that works by increasing a chemical in your brain called GABA. GABA calms the nervous system and stabilizes your mood.

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What conditions does divalproex treat?

At Brightside, our psychiatric providers specialize in personalizing treatment for each person. We give you personal attention and expert advice you can count on—and explain all your options. By using our expertise, we’ll work to find the medication that’s right for you. It’s important to make sure you understand how medications work and what to expect so that your treatment is worry-free.

If your Brightside provider prescribes divalproex, they will explain how it’s used as a treatment for your specific symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Divalproex may also be used to prevent migraine headaches.

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What symptoms can divalproex help treat?

If you have bipolar disorder, divalproex can help stabilize your mood and reduce symptoms of mania.

These include:

  • Engaging in risky or dangerous activities 
  • Excessive energy
  • Extreme excitability
  • Feeling distracted
  • Facing thoughts

Your Brightside provider specializes in finding the right balance of medication to manage your symptoms and help you feel your best. 

Making sense of different medications, their uses, benefits, and side effects can be challenging. That’s where we can help. Brightside providers have an in-depth knowledge of the strengths and drawbacks of each medication. You’ll get all the information you need to make an informed choice about your treatment.

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Will divalproex work for me?

At Brightside, we can assist you in finding the right treatment to help you feel better. Many different factors influence how you respond to medication. We understand that you may have questions about taking a new medication and whether it will help you. You’re not alone—many patients have similar questions.

With divalproex, you may notice its effects within hours, but it can take several weeks before you see a decrease in the frequency of your manic episodes.

Before starting a new medication like divalproex, it’s important to get a comprehensive health assessment from a provider who understands your health history. You should only take divalproex if a physician or other qualified psychiatric provider prescribed it for you.

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How long do people generally take divalproex?

Before you start taking divalproex, you may have some questions about how long you’ll need to take this medication. The length of time you need to take divalproex will depend on your diagnosis and specific symptoms. Your provider may prescribe this medication for many years—even after your condition is under control.

Your Brightside provider will work with you to determine what course of treatment is best for your specific needs. Most importantly, we recommend that you keep taking your medication until your provider says it’s time to stop—even after you start to feel better.

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How effective is divalproex?

You should know that divalproex has been used for decades to successfully treat mania related to bipolar disorder. However, research has linked divalproex use to liver and pancreas problems. Your Brightside provider will closely monitor the effects of divalproex on your liver and pancreas.

To get the best results with medication, it’s important to consistently measure progress during treatment. This is known as Measurement Based Care, and it’s the approach we use at Brightside. It’s common to adjust the dose and/or medication when starting a new treatment until you find just the right fit.

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Does divalproex change my personality?

Many people worry that medications will alter their personality or change who they are. As long as you’re taking the right dosage, divalproex will not change your personality. Actually, it will help you feel like yourself again by stabilizing your mood and emotions.

Just remember to keep taking your medication as prescribed—even when you start to feel better—and talk to your Brightside provider if you have any questions or concerns.

Are there side effects associated with divalproex?

When prescribing any medication, our providers work to make sure you experience as few side effects as possible.

Side effects from divalproex are usually temporary, but talk to your provider if any of these symptoms become severe or don’t go away:

  • Abnormal thinking
  • Agitation, mood swings 
  • Back pain
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Changes in appetite
  • Constipation 
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches
  • Problems with walking or coordination
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Uncontrollable eye movements
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of your body
  • Weight changes

In rare cases, divalproex can also cause severe side effects. Contact your provider if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Drop in body temperature
  • Fever
  • Peeling or blistering skin
  • Rash or hives
  • Small purple or red spots on the skin
  • Swelling of the face, eyes, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Tiredness
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Vomiting 
  • Weakness or swelling in the joints

At Brightside, your health and safety are our highest priorities. We make sure you get individual attention and guidance to make you feel your best.

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Does divalproex have withdrawal symptoms?

Your Brightside provider will prescribe divalproex to help you feel better. After you start to feel these positive effects, you may want to stop taking the medication. However, if you suddenly stop taking divalproex, it can cause serious problems—including anxiety, dizziness, tremors, and worsening of bipolar disorder symptoms, which may require immediate attention.

Make sure to talk to your provider before stopping or changing how you take your medication so they can create a plan that gives your body enough time to adjust. This will keep you feeling well and prevent symptoms from returning.

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Can I take divalproex during pregnancy or while nursing?

If you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are nursing, please talk to your provider before starting or making any changes to a medication. For some, the benefits of staying on a prescribed treatment during pregnancy can outweigh the potential risks.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about the use of divalproex during pregnancy. Their warning is based on research showing children born to women who took divalproex during pregnancy have lower IQ scores compared to children whose mothers took other anticonvulsant medications.

Divalproex does pass into breast milk. Talk to your healthcare provider about your breastfeeding questions.

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Is divalproex addictive?

Divalproex is generally considered non-addictive and is not habit-forming. However, it’s important to remember that you may still experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it suddenly.

What does the FDA say about divalproex?

You can view the FDA black box warning for divalproex here. If you have questions about whether the black box warning for divalproex applies to you, please talk to your provider.

Conditions we treat with divalproex

Brightside Psychiatric Providers prescribe divalproex alongside other medicines to treat conditions including:
  • Bipolar Disorder
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