Mood stabilizers are a type of psychiatric medication, commonly used in the treatment of bipolar disorder. They offer a balance between the contrasting manic and depressive episodes. The medication is also used in borderline personality disorder and schizoaffective disorder. The most commonly used mood stabilizer is lithium. Other mood stabilizers are known as anticonvulsants. Anticonvulsants are used for patients with epileptic seizures, but they also work well as mood stabilizers.
It is important to be aware of side effects. Some side effects of mood stabilizers are:
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Shaking or trembling
- Dehydration, increased thirst
- Weight gain
- Drowsiness, fatigue
- Metallic taste in mouth
- Problems with kidney and thyroid function
Why Are Mood Stabilizers Important?
Mood stabilizers are an important psychiatric medication, because a person with something such as bipolar disorder might feel that they have no control between their manic periods and depressive periods. This can take a great strain on a person, and nobody should have to live this way. Manic periods can include an increased irritability and energy levels, which can coincide with hallucinations, psychosis and delusions. Depressive moods are the opposite; a person with bipolar disorder can become severely depressed, causing other risks such as suicidal thoughts. When taken properly, mood stabilizers can help a person suffering from bipolar disorder to strike a balance and feel more normal.
What are the Risks Involved with Mood Stabilizers?
Mood stabilizers come with the aforementioned side effects, but there are also other risks involved. Some of these risks include blacking out, slurred speech, increased white blood cell count, heart block or heart rhythmical changes, pancreatitis, polycystic ovary syndrome, and Stevens-Johnson syndrome. It’s important to discuss the various medication options to pick the best one for you, and to take the medicine exactly as directed. Keep an eye on your symptoms and side effects, making sure to communicate any concerns with your doctor. It’s important to not suddenly stop taking the medicine, as it should be gradually stopped to avoid serious effects like worsened symptoms.
What to Consider Before Taking Mood Stabilizers
Again, it’s important to discuss all options with your doctor, and to not rush the decision to take mood stabilizers of any kind. You need to consider any preexisting medical conditions you have, such as kidney or liver problems. Pregnant women are advised to be careful, because certain medications can cause birth defects. It will be important to have regular check-ups to make sure your kidneys, liver, thyroid and white blood cell counts are healthy. It’s also important to communicate with your doctor about any other medicines you are taking, because mood stabilizers don’t always mix well with other medicines.
If you are suffering from bipolar disorder or another mental disorder that causes you to swing between extreme moods, the most important thing is to seek professional help. Regular visits with a trained therapist can help you to harness your problem and work to eliminate it. Talk openly with your doctor and those close to you about medication options, and if you should decide to take medication, be sure to take it properly. With patience and effort, you can gain more control of your moods.
- Wikipedia – Wikipedia entry for mood stabilizers, listing different kinds.
- PsychEducation.org – Extensive information about various mood stabilizers, how they work, what kinds are best and what to consider.
- WebMD – Important considerations for taking mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder.