Mood Stabilisers

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Mood Stabilisers are a type of medication used to treat several mental health conditions. They are mainly used for Bipolar Disorder, however they can also be used for recurring Depression or some Personality Disorders. There are five mood stabilisers used in the United Kingdom – ranging from a natural element to anticonvulsants to an antipsychotic. In this article, we take a look at mood stabilisers in detail.

 

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It is unclear as to exactly how mood stabilisers work. It is believed that when an individual is going through a depressive or manic phase, that certain chemicals in the brain are unbalanced. These chemicals include the transmitters noradrenaline and dopamine – both of which are linked to regulating mood. Mood stabilisers are thought to help restore the balance in these chemicals – in the process stabilising an individual’s mood. Each different mood stabiliser has  intricate differences in operation, but they largely do the same thing.

 

Mood stabilisers are normally taken on a long-term basis. They normally come in tablet form, though select drugs are available as a liquid or as an injection. Generally, mood stabilisers cannot be prescribed by a GP, instead a mental health professional should only prescribe them. Mood stabilisers have helped many people control the symptoms of their mental health condition. These medicines can take a few weeks to provide the desired effect, but in the long-term can have a very positive effect.

 

Five medicines are licensed for use as a mood stabiliser in the United Kingdom. In some cases, they can be prescribed alongside antipsychotics or antidepressants. These are:

 

  • Lithium: This is actually an element that is naturally created by the environment. It isn’t a manufactured drug. Lithium is particularly useful in treating the mania phase of Bipolar disorder, and is generally the first choice mood stabiliser.

 

 

  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal): This is a medicine belonging to the anticonvulsant class. Anticonvulsants are used to treat seizures and epilepsy. Lamotrigine is effective in treating depressive phases of Bipolar disorder. For Bipolar with severe depressive phases, Lamotrigine can be very effective.

 

  • Valproate (Depakote or Epilim): This is a medicine belonging to the anticonvulsant class. Anticonvulsants are used to treat seizures and epilepsy. Valproate is useful for Bipolar Disorder, symptoms of Psychosis and patients who undergo rapid cycling between mania and depression.

 

  • Asenapine (Sycrest): This is a medicine belonging to the antipsychotic class. It is mainly used as a mood stabiliser, as opposed as treatment for Schizophrenia, like other antipsychotics. Asenapine will rarely be prescribed, but can be used to treat the mania phase of Bipolar disorder. If other mood stabilisers don’t fit your symptoms or haven’t worked, Asenapine could be used.

 

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By clicking on the medicine name above, you can see the individual side effects of each mood stabiliser. As you will see, the side effects range from one stabiliser to another. With each pack of tablets, a Patient Information leaflet will be provided, which will also provide an exhaustive list of side effects. You will normally meet your GP during the first few weeks of treatment too – in order for your progress to be monitored.

 

One common side effect between all the mood stabilisers is the risk of withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking the medicine. Therefore, unless your doctor specifically tells you to do so, do not suddenly withdraw from mood stabilisers. In the event you are to stop taking them, it is advised to slowly reduce the dose.

 

You should also tell your doctor if you are taking any other medication. When two or more medicines are combined, there can be unpredictable side effects and interactions.

 

 

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As with any medication, you must be careful when taking mood stabilisers. Your GP or mental health professional should make you aware of any types of medicine or foods that you should avoid. Some frequently used medications, even over-the-counter ones shouldn’t be used with mood stabilisers. It is worth looking at the individual page of each mood stabiliser to see the specific cautions.

 

Drinking excessive alcohol can heighten the effect of mood stabilisers. Therefore, you should refrain from drinking excessive alcohol during treatment involving mood stabilisers.

 

It is recommended that you don’t use mood stabilisers during pregnancy. Taking mood stabilisers during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects, such as heart issues. Lithium especially – as it is a natural substance – needs to have its levels controlled. Valproate is especially harmful, and should not be used during pregnancy. All mood stabilisers can also cause problems in the breastfeeding stage. The medication can pass into breast milk, causing considerable problems for the newborn. If possible, you shouldn’t ever use mood stabilisers during pregnancy.

 

The only mood stabiliser that is licensed for use in adolescents (under 18) is Lithium.

 

The use of illegal or recreational drugs isn’t recommended during a treatment course involving mood stabilisers, as they can react unpredictably.

 

As always, ensure you read the information leaflet that comes with your tablets.

 

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