Mood Stabilizers and Medication Management Guide

Mood Stabilizers List and Medication Management Guide

If you frequently experience extreme emotions that impact your daily life, you may suffer from a mood disorder. Mood disorders can make you feel sad, anxious, and frustrated, seeping pleasure from life.
Mood stabilizers help you regain control over your emotions by regulating the chemical imbalances.
With the right treatment plan, you will soon be on your way to a healthier future.
Explore a complete mood stabilizers list to learn your options and discover how to manage your medication to improve your outcome.

    What Are Mood Stabilizers?

    Mood stabilizers are a class of medications used in psychiatric treatment. They manage mood disorders, which are disorders that involve extreme emotional states, like fluctuating from extreme depression to a manic state.

  • Mood stabilizers regulate neurotransmitter activity in the brain, particularly serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. The goal of taking mood stabilizers is to reduce the frequency and severity of your mood swings.
    You can improve your emotional stability and quality of life through careful mood stabilizer management.

    Importance in Bipolar Disorder and Other Conditions

    Doctors commonly prescribe mood stabilizers to treat bipolar disorder. In addition, you can use them to treat other conditions that involve an extreme swing between depression and mania, including schizoaffective disorder and borderline personality disorder.
    They reduce the frequency and severity of mood swings.
    Mood stabilizers for depression and anxiety can also help patients with dual diagnosis.
    In some cases, mood stabilizers may be beneficial for neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraine.

Common Mood Stabilizers List

Explore four of the most common FDA-approved mood stabilizers in our complete mood stabilizer medication list.

1. Lithium

Lithium is a mood stabilizer medication that helps people with mood disorders like bipolar disorder. Doctors often prescribe lithium to prevent episodes of mania and depression in bipolar disorder.

It works by affecting certain brain chemicals involved in regulating mood, such as serotonin and dopamine.

Think of it like a thermostat for your emotions—it helps keep your mood from swinging too high or too low.

Some examples of lithium include:

  • Priadel
  • Camcolit
  • Liskonum
  • Li-Liquid

2. Anticonvulsants

Anticonvulsants are medications primarily used to treat seizures, but they're also used as mood stabilizers for conditions like bipolar disorder. 

They help control abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which can cause seizures or mood swings. These medications work by calming down the overexcited nerve cells in the brain, preventing them from firing too rapidly and causing seizures or mood fluctuations. 

While initially developed to treat epilepsy, doctors have found that some anticonvulsants, like valproate and lamotrigine, can also help smooth out mood swings in bipolar disorder. 

Some examples of anticonvulsants include:

  • Lamotrigine
  • Gabapentin
  • Clonazepam
  • Levetiracetam
  • Oxcarbazepine
  • Valproate

3. Divalproex

Divalproex, often known by its brand name Depakote, is a medication used to treat various conditions, including seizures, bipolar disorder, and migraine headaches.

It works by increasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain that help control nerve activity. For people with epilepsy, it can reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. In bipolar disorder, it helps smooth out mood swings, keeping emotions more stable.

Some examples of divalproex include:

  • Amitriptyline/Nortriptyline
  • Diazepam
  • Ethosuximide
  • Lamotrigine
  • Phenobarbital
  • Phenytoin
  • Primidone
  • Rufinamide

4. Carbamazepine

Carbamazepine is a medication primarily used to treat seizures, nerve pain, and certain mood disorders like bipolar disorder. 

It works by calming down overexcited nerve cells in the brain, which helps prevent seizures and reduce pain.

For people with epilepsy, it can help reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. In bipolar disorder, it helps stabilize mood swings, keeping emotions more even-keeled. 

Some examples of carbamazepine include:

  • Carbatrol
  • Epitol
  • Equetro
  • TEGretol

Mood Stabilizer’s Mechanism of Action

    What do mood stabilizers do and how do mood stabilizers work?
    Mood stabilizers work like brain moderators, helping to keep your mood balanced.

  • Imagine your brain as a complex electrical system with various circuits responsible for controlling emotions. Sometimes, these circuits can become overactive or unbalanced, leading to mood swings like feeling too high (mania) or too low (depression).
    Mood stabilizers step in and help regulate these circuits. They do this by targeting specific chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are involved in controlling mood.
    By adjusting the levels of these chemicals, mood stabilizers can smooth out the highs and lows, making your mood more stable and predictable.

Prescribing and Monitoring Mood Disorders

What mood stabilizer is right for you?
Your choice of mood stabilizer depends on factors like your diagnosis, symptom severity, and medical history. For example, mood stabilizers for anxiety may be different than mood stabilizers for BPD.
Consult with your doctor to help you find the right treatment. Be sure to ask about side effects, how it acts, and other treatment options so you fully understand the medication before beginning treatment.
Once you receive a diagnosis and your doctor prescribes a mood stabilizer, it’s time to manage your medication. Medication management is ensuring you keep up with your medication schedule and avoiding under or over-dosing.
It also involves monitoring your symptoms and having frequent check-ups with your doctor to check your blood levels and side effects.
Your doctor will adjust your dosage according to what works best for your unique condition.

Managing Mood Stabilizers’ Side Effects

    Side effects are common as your body adjusts to the new medication. However, they can also signify a serious issue, so you shouldn’t ignore them entirely. If you notice changes after starting the medication, let your doctor know. Your doctor will assess whether to adjust your dosage, switch medications, add other therapies or, if the side effects are minor enough, determine if you should continue with your current medication schedule.

  • To reduce the side effects of mood stabilizers, take it with food or milk. This will be especially helpful in reducing nausea and upset stomach. You might also try switching the time of day you take the medication.

    Common side effects of mood stabilizers include:
    •Weight gain
    •Nausea and abdominal discomfort
    •Hair loss
    •Sexual dysfunction
    •Skin rashes
    •Liver and kidney damage

Special Considerations

Mood stabilizers may not be for everyone. Here are a few special cases where different treatments or adjusted dosages might be necessary:

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding: Using mood stabilizers adds potential risks to the fetus or newborn if you take them while pregnant or breastfeeding. Consult your doctor to decide what medication and dosage would be safest while also managing your condition.
  • Pediatric and geriatric: Children and the elderly may require adjustments in dosage and monitoring due to differences in metabolism and vulnerability to side effects.

A consultation with a healthcare provider is essential to weigh the benefits and risks of mood stabilizer use in these populations.

Discontinuing Mood Stabilizer Use

While mood stabilizers work well for short-term treatment, over time, they lose some of their efficiency and can increase your risk of developing adverse side effects.

When your doctor sees noticeable and consistent improvement, they may discontinue the medication.

When discontinuing mood stabilizers, doctors typically recommend a gradual tapering approach to minimize withdrawal symptoms and the risk of relapse. It allows your body to adjust naturally and reduces adverse side effects.

Potential withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Rebound symptoms

Managing withdrawal symptoms involves closely monitoring your health, managing symptoms, and, in some cases, temporarily reinstating the medication before continuing the tapering.

Current Research and Advances in Mood Stabilizers

About 4.5% of U.S. adults have bipolar disorders. For many years, lithium was the primary treatment for bipolar and mood disorders.

However, over time, researchers found more medications to manage mood disorders. These medications provide more options for patients, especially those who may not react well to lithium and require other options.

Research also revealed new methods to treat mood disorders, such as personalized medicine, counseling, and therapies using advanced technology. These alternative options work well with medication and are safer to continue long-term to prevent relapse.

If you want to learn more about mood stabilizers and the best treatment options available today, we can help.

Contact us for a consultation.

Patient Resources and Support

Do you struggle with bipolar disorder and other mood disorders?

Explore this list of resources for continued education and to find the support you need for long-term recovery:

FAQs about Mood Stablizers

Do you still have questions about mood stabilizers? Browse these frequently asked questions or reach out to us.

Can I stop taking my mood stabilizer once I feel better?

Following your healthcare provider’s guidance is crucial when considering discontinuing a mood stabilizer. Abruptly stopping medication can lead to relapse or withdrawal symptoms. Always discuss any changes to your treatment plan with your doctor.

How long does it take for mood stabilizers to work?

Mood stabilizers take different lengths of time to act, depending on your genetics, health, and body’s response.
While some people may notice improvement within a few weeks, it may also take several weeks to months for you to feel the full therapeutic effects. Patience and consistent use of the medication are essential.

Can I drink alcohol while taking mood stabilizers?

Alcohol and mood stabilizers do not mix well. Alcohol can make your side effects worse or interfere with the medication’s effectiveness. Try to limit or avoid alcohol consumption while taking mood stabilizers. Discuss any alcohol use with your doctor to ensure safe and effective treatment.

What should I do if I miss a dose of my mood stabilizer?

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it’s close to your next scheduled dose. In that case, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule.
Never double up on doses to make up for a missed one, as this can increase the risk of side effects.

Will mood stabilizers make me gain weight?

Weight gain is a potential side effect of some mood stabilizers, although not everyone experiences it. If you notice changes in your weight while taking medication, discuss them with your healthcare provider. They can offer guidance on managing weight-related concerns and explore alternative treatment options.