How Lamictal (Lamotrigine) Works to Treat Bipolar and Seizure Disorders

Rare effects of lamictal

Verywell / Catherine Song

Lamictal (lamotrigine), a mood stabilizer and anticonvulsant, is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of any anxiety disorders. It is approved to treat bipolar disorder and seizure disorders.

When Lamictal went through clinical trials, anxiety as a side effect was reported by 4 % of participants. However, 3% of the control group also reported anxiety, so this would be considered a rare side effect.

How Lamictal Works

Lamictal was one of the first medications, after lithium, to be approved by the FDA for use in treating bipolar disorder. Although the exact mechanism of action is not entirely known, Lamictal decreases abnormal excitatory activity in the brain. It is also sometimes used to treat other mood symptoms in conditions including borderline personality disorder and dissociative disorders.

Though Lamictal showed potential benefit in a small study of people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mood stabilizers as a whole are generally not a mainstay in the treatment of PTSD, which is a trauma-related disorder.

Common Side Effects of Lamictal

Lamictal is generally a well-tolerated medication. That said, the drug needs to be titrated up in dosage slowly. Very serious skin reactions are more likely to occur if your body gets exposed to too much of the medication too quickly. Other side effects of Lamictal include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of balance
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Trouble speaking
  • Missed or painful menstrual periods
  • Double vision
  • Concentration problems
  • Appetite loss
  • Hair loss (rare, but occurs in some individuals)

These side effects may go away in time. If they don't or they're bothersome, contact your doctor.

Lamictal Precautions

Discuss your health history in detail with your doctor before beginning Lamictal. Potential issues to be aware of include:

  • An allergy to lamotrigine or any other ingredients found in Lamictal
  • Interactions with other medications, whether they're over-the-counter, prescription, or simple vitamins and supplements
  • Pregnancy; if you become pregnant while using Lamictal, let your doctor know right away
  • Drowsiness; don't drive or operate heavy machinery until you have been on Lamictal for a while and are sure of how it affects you
  • Drinking alcohol, which can add to the drowsiness you may already feel from Lamictal
  • Autoimmune diseases like lupus, a blood disorder, or a kidney or liver disease
4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Lamictal (Lamotrigine) tablets. Lamictal (lamotrigine) chewable dispersible tablets.

  2. Butler M, Urosevic S, Desai P. Treatment for bipolar disorder in adults: A systematic review. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 208. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

  3. Zavodnick AD, Ali R. Lamotrigine in the treatment of unipolar depression with and without comorbidities: a literature review. Psychiatr Q. 2012;83(3):371-83. doi:10.1007/s11126-012-9208-4

  4. MedlinePlus. Lamotrigine. U.S. National Library of Medicine.

By Marcia Purse
Marcia Purse is a mental health writer and bipolar disorder advocate who brings strong research skills and personal experiences to her writing.