Mood Stabilizers for Bipolar Disorder

2013 Bipolar Update

Mood Stabilizers for Bipolar Disorder

In clinical psychiatry, mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder represent one of the most vital medications in helping to manage and control the illness. Today, there is a large variety of options for mood stabilizers, however, each carries its own side effects. One of the most compelling challenges to any doctor is to be able to identify the right type of mood stabilizers for a particular bipolar disorder so that the treatment regimen can be specifically targeted to the condition at hand.

This isn’t as easy as many people think; unlike most illnesses, bipolar disorder presents itself in varying degrees of complexity, severity, frequency, and even underlying nature. Sub-cases in bipolar disorder include hypomania, mixed mania, or just mania – among others – and the use of mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder must be specifically tailored to address these specific conditions.

For example, Lithium is one of the earliest known mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder but subsequent research has shown it is not as comprehensively effective as some people used to think. Today, Lithium is only used for purely manic conditions. Conditions that are represented by rapid cycle mania are almost always not treated with lithium because of reduced effectiveness. The combination of minimal positive effect and potentially-risky side effects like trembling, weight gain, and risks to kidney and thyroid functions have nullified the use of Lithium for other forms of bipolar disorder aside from those with mania manifestations.

The same can be said of other forms of mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder. It is important to take into account the various complexities in order to maximize the effect of the medication while keeping side effects at bay. Consider:

§ Anticonvulsants, which find great use in the prevention or management of epileptic seizures, can also be used for high mania symptoms. The medication has the effect of calming brain functions and toning down the highs of a mania episode.

§ Antipsychotics are also effective against acute mania cases. In fact, these are some of the most widely used mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder together with Lithium. In severe bipolar cases, antipsychotics are used as maintenance drugs much like one would use calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure.

§ Anti-anxiety drugs are used to fight conditions where there is a predominance of depressive cases. In general terms, although there are exceptions, anti-anxiety drugs find great use in promoting sedation or inducing sleep to relieve patients of anxiety attacks.

Mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder are helpful in treating bipolar cases but there is a limitation to the use. Doctors and patients alike must be aware of the limitations of the medication in order to use it in the most effective way possible without amplifying its side effects. With more effective use of mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder, patients can hope to take advantage of breakthroughs in modern medicine that will allow them to completely and quickly recover from their mental maladies and return to society as highly functioning and healthy individuals.