Mood stabilizer

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Overview

A mood stabilizer is a psychiatric medication used to treat mood disorders characterized by rapid and unstable mood shifts. The most common is bipolar disorder, where mood stabilizers suppress swings between mania and depression, and these drugs are also used in borderline personality disorder. Most mood stabilizers are anticonvulsants, with the important exception of lithium, which is the oldest and best known mood stabilizing drug.

Mood stabilizers include

Sometimes mood stabilizers are used in combination, such as lithium with one of the anticonvulsants.

Many atypical antipsychotics also have mood stabilizing effects and are thus commonly prescribed even when psychotic symptoms are absent. It is also conjectured that Omega-3 fatty acids may have a mood stabilizing effect. However, more research is needed to verify this (a multi-year study of this is now being carried out as of 2001).

Most mood stabilizers are effective at treating mania and mood cycling and shifting, but are not very effective at treating depression (with lamotrigine and lithium carbonate being exceptions). Often, an antidepressant is prescribed in addition to the mood stabilizer during depressive phases. However this brings some risks, as antidepressants can induce mania, psychosis, and other disturbing problems in bipolar patients, particularly when taken alone, but sometimes even when used with a mood stabilizer.

See also

References

  • Manic-Depressive Illness by Frederick K. Goodwin and Kay Redfield Jamison.

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