Mood-stabilizing medicines

Information about this medicine

What are the most important things you need to know about your medicines?

Make sure you know about each of the medicines you take. This includes why you take it, how to take it, what you can expect while you're taking it, and any warnings about the medicine.

The information provided here is general. So be sure to read the information that came with your medicine. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Why are mood stabilizers used?

Mood stabilizers can help to:

  • Treat mania and prevent the return of both manic and depressive episodes in bipolar disorder.
  • Treat mood problems linked with schizophrenia, such as depression.
  • Reduce anger, anxiety, depression, impulsivity (acting without thinking), or attempts at self-harm linked with borderline personality disorder.

What are some examples of mood stabilizers?

Here are some examples of mood stabilizers. For each item in the list, the generic name is first, followed by any brand names.

  • carbamazepine (Mazepine, Tegretol)
  • divalproex (Epival)
  • lamotrigine (Lamictal)
  • lithium

This is not a complete list.

How do mood stabilizers work?

Mood stabilizers work in the brain to help with emotions and mood problems.

What are the side effects of mood stabilizers?

Some people may feel dizzy or sick to their stomach when they take mood stabilizers.

General information about side effects

All medicines can cause side effects. Many people don't have side effects. And minor side effects sometimes go away after a while.

But sometimes side effects can be a problem or can be serious.

If you're having problems with side effects, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change to a different medicine.

Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of side effects, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Cautions about mood stabilizers

Cautions for mood stabilizers include the following:

  • Your doctor may want you to have regular blood tests to check your medicine levels, liver function, and blood counts.
  • Do not stop taking these medicines suddenly. You should taper off of these drugs slowly with the help of your doctor. This will help you avoid serious side effects.
  • While these medicines have been well studied for use in adults, there are no long-term studies that show how well they work and how safe they are for children and teens.

Cautions for all medicines

  • Allergic reactions: All medicines can cause a reaction. This can sometimes be an emergency. Before you take any new medicine, tell the doctor or pharmacist about any past allergic reactions you've had.
  • Drug interactions: Sometimes one medicine may keep another medicine from working well. Or you may get a side effect you didn't expect. Medicines may also interact with certain foods or drinks, like grapefruit juice and alcohol. Some interactions can be dangerous.
  • Harm to unborn babies and newborns: If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of the medicines you take could harm your baby.
  • Other health problems: Before taking a medicine, be sure your doctor or pharmacist knows about all your health problems. Other health problems may affect your medicine. Or the medicine for one health problem may affect another health problem.

Always tell your doctor or pharmacist about all the medicines you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines and natural health products. That information will help prevent serious problems.

Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of warnings, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Related topics

Related Information


Current as of: September 23, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien MD - Internal Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health

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