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A mood stabilizer is a psychiatric medication used to treat mood disorders characterized by intense and sustained mood shifts.

Contents

Uses

One use is in bipolar disorder,[1 ] where mood stabilizers suppress swings between mania and depression.

These drugs are also used in borderline personality disorder. [2]

Relationship to antidepressants

Most mood stabilizers are purely antimanic agents, meaning that they are effective at treating mania and mood cycling and shifting, but are not effective at treating depression. The principal exceptions to that rule, because they treat both manic and depressive symptoms, are lamotrigine and lithium carbonate. While an antimanic agent such as valproic acid or carbamazepine cannot treat depression directly as the former two drugs can, it is widely thought to help ward off depression in bipolar patients by keeping them out of mania and thus preventing their moods from cycling.

Nevertheless, an antidepressant is often prescribed in addition to the mood stabilizer during depressive phases. This brings some risks, however, 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. It should be noted that antidepressants' utility in treating depression-phase bipolar disorder is unclear.

Examples

The term "mood stabilizer" describes an effect, not a mechanism. More precise terminology is used to classify these agents.

Drugs commonly classed as mood stabilizers include:

Anticonvulsants

Many agents described as "mood stabilizers" are also categorized as anticonvulsants. The term "anticonvulsant mood stabilizers" is sometimes used to describe these as a class.[3] Although this group is also defined by effect rather than mechanism, there is at least a preliminary understanding of the mechanism of most of the anticonvulsants used in the treatment of mood disorders.

Other

  • It is also conjectured that Omega-3 fatty acids may have a mood stabilizing effect.[5] However, more research is needed to verify this (a multi-year study of this is now being carried out as of 2001).

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

Mechanism

Most mood stabilizers are anticonvulsants, with the important exception of lithium, which is the oldest and best known mood stabilizing drug.

One possible downstream target of several mood stabilizers such as lithium, valproate and carbamazepine is arachidonic acid cascade.[6]

See also

References


Simple English

A mood stabilizer is a psychiatric medication used to treat mood disorders characterized by fast and unstable mood changes. One of the disorders treated is bipolar disorder. With that condition, the mood can change rapidly, between mania and depression. Many mood stabilizers can also prevent convulsions.









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