Mood Stabilizers – What They Are and How They Help
Mood stabilizers are a type of medicine that is used to balance mood in people who suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, or other types of mental illnesses. Mood stabilizers can be prescribed for short-term or long-term use depending on the severity and duration of symptoms. In this blog post, we will discuss what mood stabilizers are and how they work so you can decide if they might benefit you!
Mood stabilizer medication list
The following are examples of mood stabilizers:
Mineral: Lithium is a naturally occurring element. It is not a manufactured medication. People with bipolar disorder are often prescribed Lithium to help stabilize moods.
Brand names for lithium include:
- Eskalith: capsules, oral solution
- Carbolith: capsules
- Lithonate: syrup
The most common adverse effects of lithium include:
- goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)
- weight gain (most likely due to water retention)
- increased thirst
- drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, or vomiting.
Lithium may interact with certain foods and medications so you must consult your doctor before taking this medication.
Anticonvulsants: A seizure medication may also be prescribed as a mood stabilizer.
- Brand names for anticonvulsants include:
- Divalproex sodium (Depakote) – oral solution, tablets
- Valproic acid (Depakene) – capsules and syrup (this medication may cause liver damage and birth defects so you must discuss this with your doctor if you are considering having children)
- Lamotrigine (Lamictal) – tablets, chewable, and solution. Lamictal is the only medication approved by the FDA to treat bipolar depression in adults ages 18-24 years old. It may also be used for maintenance treatment of Bipolar I Disorder or Bipolar II Disorder.
- Carbamazepine (Tegretol) – tablets and oral solution, Tegretol is also used to treat seizures (this medication may cause liver damage so you must discuss this with your doctor if you drink alcohol).
The following are possible anticonvulsant adverse effects:
- blood disorders (low red blood cells, low white blood cell counts, and/or low platelet counts)
- hepatotoxicity (liver damage) with Tegretol or oxcarbazepine (Trileptal). Your doctor will order routine liver enzyme tests to monitor for this risk.
- seizures – if you have not had a seizure before taking an anticonvulsant, your doctor will prescribe another medication, to begin with, and gradually increase the dosage until seizures are controlled.
- irritability – this may be due to low white blood cell counts or because of drug withdrawal when stopping Tegretol or oxcarbazepine (Trileptal). This usually resolves within one week of stopping the medication.
The following medications may interact with an anticonvulsant:
- alcohol – this increases your risk for liver damage so you should avoid drinking alcohol while taking Tegretol or oxcarbazepine (Trileptal)
- anti-seizure medicines – you should not take more than one medication to treat seizures and you should discuss this with your doctor before taking Tegretol or oxcarbazepine (Trileptal)
- birth control pills – birth control pills may decrease the effectiveness of these medications which increases your risk for pregnancy. You should use an alternate form of contraception while taking a mood stabilizer.
- blood thinners – these medications may increase your risk for bleeding while taking Tegretol or oxcarbazepine (Trileptal). You should discuss this with your doctor before starting any new medication, including over-the-counter supplements and herbal remedies.
Antipsychotics: Brand names for antipsychotics include:
- haloperidol (Haldol) – tablets and intramuscular injection
- risperidone (Risperdal) – oral solution, tablets, and extended-release injectable suspension. Risperdal is the only atypical antipsychotic medication approved by the FDA to treat irritability associated with autism.
- olanzapine (Zyprexa) – oral solution and tablets, Zyprexa is also used to treat schizophrenia (this medication may increase your risk for diabetes so you must monitor your blood sugar while taking this medication).
The following are possible side effects of antipsychotic medications:
- weight gain – these medications can increase your appetite which may cause you to eat more than usual, leading to weight gain. Your doctor will monitor your weight while taking this medication and recommend lifestyle changes (including diet) if needed.
- sedation – you should avoid driving or operating heavy machinery in the first few weeks of treatment with an antipsychotic medication because you may become drowsy or dizzy.
- Parkinson’s disease – your doctor should monitor your motor skills while taking an atypical antipsychotic to reduce this risk. This is especially important in elderly patients who are more likely to develop a movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia (a side effect of older antipsychotic medications).
The following medications may interact with an antipsychotic:
- anticholinergic drugs – these reduce the secretions in your body including saliva, sweat, and digestive juices. This increases the risk for a blockage in your bladder or intestines which can lead to constipation or urinary retention while taking an antipsychotic. You should discuss this with your doctor before starting a new medication, including over-the-counter supplements and herbal remedies.
- antidepressants – taking more than one antidepressant at a time can increase serotonin levels in the brain which increases your risk for serotonin syndrome (an overdose of serotonin). Your doctor will monitor you for symptoms of serotonin syndrome while taking an antipsychotic.
How mood stabilizers can help
Mood stabilizers can generally be used to help someone who is experiencing bipolar disorder. Mood stabilizers are chemicals that affect brain function and can help balance moods for people with bipolar disorder. Mood stabilizers are one part of bipolar treatment because they do not cure bipolar disorder, but it helps people manage their symptoms.
Can I take mood stabilizers during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?
Some mood stabilizers can be taken during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, but it is important to consult a doctor before. It may affect your baby in the early stages of development if you take mood stabilizers when pregnant or breastfeeding, so it’s best to talk with a physician about the right medications for you.
How long should I keep taking mood stabilizers?
It depends on how long you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When your mood stabilizers are working well, talk to a doctor about whether it should be continued or stopped – some people may need to stay on their medications for life due to other health issues that can go along with being bipolar.
How can I come off mood stabilizers safely?
It is important to talk with a doctor about how you can come off mood stabilizers safely. Some people may need to stay on their medications for life due to other health issues that go along with being bipolar, but others might be able to stop taking them after some time has passed and they continue managing symptoms.
Are there any alternatives to mood stabilizers?
There are alternative medications besides mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder, but they have not been tested as much. If you feel like your medication is working well and you want to try something different, talk with a doctor about whether an alternative might be right for you.
Some of the most popular alternatives to taking mood stabilizers are as follows:
Talk therapy. This form of psychotherapy can be tailored to your needs and is best if you have no other diagnosis that would be helped by mood stabilizers. If you have schizophrenia, taking mood stabilizers might help with your hallucinations, but there are drawbacks, such as the dependency on the drugs for this one symptom.
Talking therapies are not addictive or harmful to others who come in contact with them so they are a good alternative if you have no other conditions that are helped by mood stabilizers.
Keep a food diary: this can help you and your doctor track how often mood swings occur.
This is a good alternative to taking medication if the side effects of the medications are too strong or if they do not work for you, but it should be done in conjunction with talking therapy so that both methods address different parts of bipolar disorder and each one doesn’t become overwhelming.
Try peer support: support groups and online forums can be a great way to reach out for help, find resources, and feel less alone.
Peer support is another good alternative if you do not want medication or your medications are too strong and it might benefit from talking with other people who have bipolar disorder as well. However, peer support does not address the root of bipolar disorder and it may only be a band-aid for the problem.
Consult with a professional counselor: this is an alternative to taking medications, but you should still talk about your options with a doctor before making any changes to medication or dosage of mood stabilizers. Professional counseling can help people recognize triggers that might cause them to have bipolar episodes as well as develop coping mechanisms to deal with the symptoms when they do come up.
This is a good alternative if you want help learning skills that can keep your bipolar disorder under control and it should be used in conjunction with medication, although it may not address all of the issues associated with having bipolar disorder.
Look after your physical health: sleep, nutrition, and exercise are all factors that can affect how you feel when you have bipolar disorder.
Taking care of yourself is an alternative to medication if the medications do not work for your or their side effects are too strong – however, it should be used in conjunction with other treatments so that they don’t become overwhelming on top of taking proper care of your health.
Your doctor can help you figure out the right alternatives to mood stabilizers that are safe for you and that will still effectively manage bipolar disorder symptoms, but it is important to talk with them before making any changes to medications or dosage of medication if they decide not to make a change themselves. The best alternative should be one where each method of treating bipolar disorder addresses different aspects of it and where neither method becomes overwhelming.
What is the best mood stabilizer for anxiety?
There is no best medication for anxiety; medications are typically used to treat co-occurring conditions. Antidepressants may help treat anxiety in some cases, but they also carry the risk of causing or worsening symptoms of depression and obsessive thoughts (including OCD).
Benzodiazepines can cause dependence so you should avoid taking these unless it’s for a short term.
What is the safest mood stabilizer?
The safest mood stabilizer is lithium, which has been used to treat bipolar disorder for decades. Lithium carries a low risk of serious side effects and comes with monitoring requirements and instructions about how much salt you should include in your diet while taking this medication (to avoid toxicity). Your doctor will also check your kidney function before prescribing this medication to reduce the risk of long-term kidney damage.
If you are at high risk for bipolar disorder or have had an episode in the past year, your doctor may recommend a mood stabilizer called Divalproex (brand name Depakote). Divalproex is also used to treat seizures and migraines so it carries additional risks including liver damage.
Your doctor will determine which medications are best for you based on your symptoms, medical history, and other conditions you may have. It’s also important to work closely with a psychiatrist or therapist while taking mood stabilizers because these should only be used as part of an overall treatment plan for bipolar disorder.
The following chart lists the most common mood stabilizers and their uses:
Lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid) – used for treating bipolar disorder and preventing manic episodes. Divalproex/Depakote – often combined with an antidepressant to treat depression caused by bipolar disorder or when other medications are ineffective in the treatment of anxiety. Lamotrigine (Lamictal) – used for treating epilepsy and bipolar disorder, but it may also help relieve anxiety. Carbamazepine (Tegretol) – this reduces nerve pain in some cases or prevents seizures. It is typically combined with an antidepressant to treat depression caused by bipolar disorder when other medications are ineffective in the treatment of anxiety.
Gabapentin (Neurontin) – used to treat neuropathic pain, seizures, and anxiety disorders including panic disorder with or without agoraphobia. Topiramate – this medication is typically combined with an antidepressant for treating depression caused by bipolar disorder when other medications are ineffective in the treatment of anxiety.
Is Zoloft a mood stabilizer?
No, Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). SSRIs are antidepressants that work by increasing the amount of available serotonin in your brain.
Do mood stabilizers change your personality?
Mood stabilizers don’t typically affect your personality and they cannot change the way you think or how you feel about yourself. However, some people may experience side effects from certain mood stabilizers including drowsiness and weight gain.
How long does it take for mood stabilizers to work?
It can take several weeks for mood stabilizers to work, but the time it takes varies depending on your symptoms and other conditions you may have. You should continue taking medication as prescribed even if you don’t immediately see an improvement in your symptoms because this typically occurs during the second or third week of treatment.
Some people begin feeling better within a few days of taking mood stabilizers, but it can take several weeks for the medication to fully work. It’s also important to continue seeing your doctor or therapist while you are taking these medications because they may need to adjust them based on how you respond.
Do mood stabilizers make you numb?
No, mood stabilizers do not make you numb. Mood stabilizers are medications that work by normalizing brain function and they can help reduce your symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Your doctor will determine which medication is best for you based on your symptoms, medical history, other conditions you may have, and the potential risks associated with each one so it’s important to work closely with them while taking mood stabilizers.
Do mood stabilizers make you gain weight?
Mood stabilizers don’t typically cause weight gain, but some people may experience certain side effects including drowsiness and appetite changes. Your doctor can help you manage these if they do occur by prescribing a low dose or changing your medication.
It’s also important to continue seeing your psychiatrist while taking mood stabilizers because this helps ensure that the medication is working properly and you are tolerating it well.
Is Wellbutrin a mood stabilizer?
No, Wellbutrin is a norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor antidepressant.
NDRIs prevent the breakdown of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine so they can be used to treat depression when other medications are ineffective in treating a bipolar disorder or anxiety disorder including panic disorder with or without agoraphobia.
What are the worst side effects of Wellbutrin?
Common side effects of Wellbutrin include nausea, insomnia, weight loss or gain, dry mouth, and anxiety.
Wellbutrin can also cause seizures so it is typically not prescribed for people with a seizure disorder unless they have tried several other medications without success first. It may also interact poorly with certain drugs including erythromycin and rifampin which can increase the risk of seizures.
Wellbutrin is not typically prescribed for people under 18 because it increases their risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, but this may be a last resort option if other medications have failed to treat your condition. Be sure to tell your doctor about any history of depression or mental illness as well as all other medications you are taking before starting this medication.
You should also tell them if you have a history of heart disease, liver or kidney impairment, glaucoma, high blood pressure, seizures, strokes, or head trauma because these conditions may limit the use of Wellbutrin.
Side effects typically subside after several weeks so it’s important to continue seeing your doctor and taking the medication as prescribed even if you don’t immediately feel better.
Wellbutrin is typically used for depression, but it can also be effective in managing bipolar disorder so talk with your psychiatrist about whether or not this medication might work for you.
Conclusion: Mood stabilizers can help with symptoms of bipolar disorder and anxiety by regulating the brain. Mood stabilizers do not make you numb, but they may cause some unwanted side effects like appetite changes or drowsiness. If you experience these adverse reactions, your doctor should be able to prescribe a medication that is more effective for you based on what works best for other people in your condition. It’s important to continue seeing your psychiatrist while taking mood stabilizers because it helps ensure that the medication is working properly and tolerably well so talk about whether Wellbutrin might work for you too!