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Mood Stabilizers

Stabilize Your Highs and Lows

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Hope for Mood Disorders

Certain mental illnesses may manifest in mood cycling, meaning you have high moods (mania and hypomania) and low moods (depression). This can be debilitating not only for the person suffering from the illness but also for those who love them. Fortunately, medications are available that may be able to help “even out” mood disturbances. At Family Care Center in Colorado Springs, we provide a range of outpatient behavioral health care services, including medication management for mood disorders.

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  • Lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid, Lithonate)

  • Carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Tegretol, Epitol, Equetro)

  • Valproic Acid (Depakote, Depakene)

  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal)

  • Asenapine (Saphris, Sycrest)

  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa)

  • Risperidone (Risperdal)

  • Quetiapine (Seroquel)

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Common Mood Stabilizers

What Are Mood Disorders?

Mood disorders are mental illnesses that cause a person to experience moods that are inconsistent with their circumstances, interfering with their ability to function. Some of the most common mood disorders include:

Bipolar disorder: Formerly called “manic depression,” bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings between emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). Bipolar disorder can be broken down into two subsets, bipolar I, considered the more severe form of the disorder, and bipolar II, involving milder and less frequent episodes. Affecting approximately 1% of the global population, bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, although it can be managed with the use of psychotherapy and mood stabilizing medication.

Cyclothymic disorder: Cyclothymic disorder is very similar to bipolar disorder, however the ups and downs are less extreme. It is estimated that 0.4–1% of people have cyclothymia at some point in their life.

Schizoaffective disorder: Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic mental health condition characterized by symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, and bipolar disorder, such as mania and depression. With a lifetime prevalence of only 0.3%, schizoaffective disorder is a relatively rare mental health condition.

Major depressive disorder: Also known as “clinical depression,” major depressive disorder is a mental disorder characterized by at least two weeks of low mood. As of 2015, approximately 3% of the world’s population suffered from this condition. Major depressive disorder is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Although counseling and antidepressants are used as the first-line treatments for this disorder, mood stabilizers are sometimes added as an adjuvant therapy. Please consult with your doctor first if you’re interested in using mood stabilizers to help treat a depressive disorder.

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Symptoms of Mood Disorders

Different people may have different symptoms, depending on their age and the type of mood disorder that they are suffering from. Generally, symptoms manifest in three ways:

Mania and Hypomania

Considered the “high” phase of mood disorders, mania is a mood disturbance that makes you abnormally energized, both physically and mentally. Mania typically occurs in individuals with bipolar I disorder. The difference between mania and hypomania is the severity of the symptoms. Typically occurring in individuals with bipolar II, hypomania is much less intense than mania. While mania and hypomania are typically brought on by mood disorders, they can also occur as a result of sleep deprivation or substance abuse. Symptoms of mania and/or hypomania include:

  • Higher than normal energy levels

  • Restlessness

  • Decreased need for sleep

  • Increased self-esteem or confidence, possibly even grandiosity

  • Extreme talkativeness

  • Racing thoughts or ideas

  • Distractibility

  • Taking on multiple projects at once, with no ability to finish them

  • Decreased inhibitions

  • Increased sexual desire

  • Risky behavior, such as impulsive sex, gambling, shoplifting, etc.

  • Visual or auditory hallucinations

  • Delusional thoughts

  • Paranoia

Depression

Unlike regular depression, many people with depression caused by bipolar disorder or other mood disorders are not helped by antidepressants. In fact, there is a risk that antidepressants can even make mood disorders worse, by triggering a manic or hypomanic episode. Common symptoms of mood-disorder-related depression include:

  • Feelings of hopeless, sadness, and emptiness

  • Irritability

  • Inability to experience pleasure

  • Decreased energy

  • Physical and mental sluggishness

  • Appetite or weight changes

  • Sleep problems

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

  • Suicidal thoughts

Mixed Episodes

Sometimes, individuals with mood disorders may experience what is known as a “mixed episode.” As its name suggests, a mixed episode involves symptoms of both mania/hypomania and depression. Common symptoms of a mixed episode include:

  • Depression combined with agitation

  • Irritability

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Distractibility

  • Racing thoughts

  • Suicidal thoughts

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Types of Mood Stabilizers

The term “mood stabilizers” does not describe a mechanism, but rather an effect.

Mood stabilizers work by restoring neurochemical balance in people with mood disorders by decreasing brain activity, therefore lessening the likelihood of an episode. While these medications do not “cure” mood swings, they do provide significant relief by reducing acute symptoms and preventing relapses and rehospitalizations.

Up until the 1970s and 1980s, lithium was the only mood stabilizing medication available. Today, a variety of mood stabilizers are used to treat mood disorders and clinical depression. Mood stabilizers are characterized into three major types: minerals, anticonvulsants, and antipsychotics.

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Minerals

Lithium is a mineral type of mood stabilizer. as it occurs naturally, and is not a manufactured drug. First approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1970, lithium is still considered a highly effective mainstay treatment for bipolar disorder. Because lithium is eliminated from the body through the kidney, regular blood tests are a necessary part of lithium treatment in order to monitor levels and make sure the kidneys are functioning properly.

Types

  • Lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid, Lithonate)

Possible Side Effects:

  • Nausea

  • Fatigue

  • Weight gain

  • Tremor

  • Diarrhea

  • Confusion

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Anticonvulsants

Originally developed to treat seizure disorders, anticonvulsants have been shown to be effective mood stabilizers as well by reducing the “excitability” of nerve impulses in the brain. Some anticonvulsants tend to act more rapidly than lithium in instances of acute mood disturbances, making them a good option for patients with frequent episodes.

Types

  • Carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Tegretol, Epitol, Equetro)

  • Valproic Acid (Depakote, Depakene)

  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal)

Possible Side Effects:

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness

  • Abdominal pain

  • Decreased libido

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Antipsychotics

Acute episodes of mania result in psychosis in as many as 50% of people with bipolar disorder. Some medications used to treat psychosis also stabilize mood, and thus are used to treat mood disorders even when psychotic symptoms are absent. Antipsychotics may be used alongside other mood stabilizers or on their own. They may help to reduce symptoms of an acute episode until lithium can take effect.

Types

  • Asenapine (Saphris, Sycrest)

  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa)

  • Risperidone (Risperdal)

  • Quetiapine (Seroquel)

Possible Side Effects:

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Drowsiness

  • Tremors

  • Blurred vision

  • Dizziness

  • Weight gain

  • Sensitivity to sunlight

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Trust Family Care Center for Medication Management

If you live in Colorado Springs area and are interested in learning more about how mood stabilizing medication may help you or a loved one, get in touch with us today. A member of our licensed medical staff will be happy to discuss your medication options and offer steps for moving forward. Recovery from mood disorders is possible. Stop suffering and start living by reaching out now to one of our locations in Parkmoor Village, Gleneagle, South Circle Drive, Quail Lake, and Woodland Park.

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