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A Comprehensive Guide to Mood Stabilizer Medications: Indications, Side Effects, Safety, and Adjunct

Young female in a bad mood

As a trusted mental health clinic, Alevea Mental Health is committed to providing insights into various aspects of mental health treatments and therapy options. In this article, we will explore the world of mood stabilizer medications. We'll delve into their indications, side effects, safety measures, and their role in adjunct therapy.

What are Mood Stabilizers?

Mood stabilizers are a class of medications commonly prescribed for controlling mood swings and reducing the severity of manic and depressive episodes primarily in bipolar disorder, but also in other mood-related disorders. They help maintain a balance in brain chemistry, thereby promoting a more stable emotional state.

Indications for Mood Stabilizers

  1. Bipolar Disorder: This is the primary condition for which mood stabilizers are prescribed. These medications are used to manage both manic (elevated mood, increased activity) and depressive (low mood, decreased activity) episodes, as well as to prevent relapse.

  2. Cyclothymic Disorder: A less severe type of bipolar disorder, cyclothymia is characterized by hypomania and mild depression.

  3. Schizoaffective Disorder: Mood stabilizers can also be used in conjunction with antipsychotics in the treatment of schizoaffective disorder, which comprises symptoms of both schizophrenia and mood disorders.

  4. Borderline Personality Disorder: Mood stabilizers can help regulate mood swings and impulsivity in individuals with borderline personality disorder.

  5. Impulse Control Disorders: Certain mood stabilizers can assist in managing impulse control disorders, such as intermittent explosive disorder.

Commonly Prescribed Mood Stabilizers

Among the most commonly prescribed mood stabilizers are lithium, valproic acid (Depakote), lamotrigine (Lamictal), carbamazepine (Tegretol), and oxcarbazepine (Trileptal).

Side Effects of Mood Stabilizers

Like all medications, mood stabilizers come with potential side effects. Not everyone will experience all these side effects, and they often lessen over time. However, if any of these persist or cause significant discomfort, contact your healthcare provider.

  1. Lithium: Common side effects include increased thirst and urination, tremors, gastrointestinal upset, weight gain, cognitive difficulties, and renal dysfunction with long-term use.

  2. Valproic Acid: This can cause gastrointestinal disturbances, tremors, weight gain, hair loss, and, rarely, liver problems.

  3. Lamotrigine: Potential side effects include skin rash, dizziness, headache, nausea, and insomnia. A very small percentage of people may develop a serious rash, which is why the dose is usually increased slowly.

  4. Carbamazepine: Side effects can include dizziness, drowsiness, unsteadiness, nausea, and blood disorders. Regular blood monitoring is necessary.

  5. Oxcarbazepine: Common side effects include dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, double vision, and low sodium levels.

Safety Measures

Patients on mood stabilizers should have regular check-ups to monitor the effects of these drugs. This includes blood tests to check medication levels, kidney and liver function, and electrolyte balance.

It's crucial to maintain regular communication with your healthcare provider about how you're feeling, any side effects you may be experiencing, and any other changes in your health status.

Remember, never alter the dosage or stop taking your medication without first consulting your healthcare provider. Abruptly stopping these medications can cause rebound symptoms or withdrawal-like effects.

Adjunct Therapy

Mood stabilizers are often used in combination with other types of treatment. This is known as adjunct therapy. Adjunct therapies may include:

  1. Psychotherapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other therapy types can be used alongside medication. These therapies can provide coping mechanisms, stress management strategies, and ways to identify triggers and symptoms early on.

  2. Antipsychotics or Antidepressants: For some patients, additional medications like antipsychotics or antidepressants may be needed to manage other symptoms. For instance, atypical antipsychotics like quetiapine (Seroquel) or aripiprazole (Abilify) may be used alongside mood stabilizers.

  3. Lifestyle Changes: Regular exercise, a healthy diet, good sleep hygiene, and avoiding substances like alcohol and caffeine can significantly impact mood and overall mental health.

In conclusion, mood stabilizers are a vital tool in managing mood disorders, providing relief from the emotional highs and lows these conditions present. However, they work best as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, which can include psychotherapy, other medications, and lifestyle changes.

If you or a loved one are dealing with a mood disorder, don't hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional to discuss your options. At Alevea Mental Health, we are here to support you every step of the way. Remember, it's okay to ask for help, and it's okay to take care of your mental health.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment options.

Sources: American Psychiatric Association, National Institute of Mental Health, Mayo Clinic.

Mood Stabilizers

Bipolar Disorder

Cyclothymic Disorder

Schizoaffective Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder

Impulse Control Disorders


Valproic Acid




Side Effects

Safety Measures

Adjunct Therapy




Mental Health Treatment

Alevea Mental Health

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