Learn which depression treatment option is right for you.

Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers are used to treat a variety of mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder. Mood stabilizers are designed to balance the neurochemicals in the brain. 

Specifically, mood stabilizers help to control widely swinging moods from too high (mania) to too low (depression). Mood stabilizers are a type of psychiatric medication. They are used to help treat and prevent bipolar mania. Certain mood stabilizers can treat depression when used together with other depression medications. 

How Mood Stabilizers Work

For individuals with mania, mood stabilizers decrease brain activity by restoring neurochemical balance in the brain. Mood stabilizers can also be used to support other medications used in the treatment of depression. 

The goal of mood stabilizers is to extend the period between a manic or depressive state, helping to extend one’s ability to maintain a stable mood. The exact type of mood stabilizer prescribed for you may depend on whether you are being treated for mania or depression and your ability to tolerate different side effects. 


The most commonly-used mood stabilizer, which has been around the longest is lithium. It is primarily used to treat bipolar disorder and can help reduce the risk of suicide among those with bipolar disorder. 

It can also be used to alleviate depression symptoms. In that case, it may be used alongside an antidepressant medication

Valproic Acid/Divalproex Sodium, Carbamazepine, and Lamotrigine

These medications are used to help stabilize your neurons and, thus, the electrical activity in your brain. They are also used for treating seizure disorders due to their ability to stabilize electrical activity. 

Effectiveness of Mood Stabilizers

Bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as depression. This is because for most people with bipolar disorder, depression is the most frequent symptom. 

In a vast number of cases, patients may only register themselves as experiencing depression and be unable to recognize signs of mania, which stems from bipolar disorder. In these situations, they may be diagnosed with depression and be given antidepressants for treatment.

Such misdiagnosis can be dangerous since continued use of antidepressants can switch the patient into mania. In these cases, antidepressant medication is best combined with mood stabilizers as a more comprehensive form of treatment. 

Mood stabilizers can help reduce symptoms of bipolar disorder, which can help you more fully engage in your relationships and interests. 

Mood stabilizers can take several weeks to show results. To guard against extreme effects, other psychiatric medications, such as neuroleptics or antipsychotics, may be recommended in the early stages of treatment when treating cases of acute mania.

Symptoms tend to reduce as your body adjusts to the medicine. Depending on your situation, you will most likely need to take mood stabilizers for at least six months or longer.

Side Effects of Mood Stabilizers

The exact side effects of mood stabilizers depend upon the medication you are taking. 

Known side effects of lithium can include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain 
  • Trembling of the hands
  • Tiredness and muscle weakness
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Blurred vision
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty concentrating

Known side effects for anticonvulsant medications, such as Divalproex, valproic acid, or valproate, can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and blurred vision
  • Vomiting or mild cramps
  • Muscle tremor
  • Mild hair loss
  • Weight gain
  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Liver problems 
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle

Mood Stabilizers for Treatment of Depression

Finding the right treatment when you suffer from mood disorders and depression can be challenging. Mood stabilizers are a good treatment for bipolar disorder and depression. 

Contact Axis Integrated Mental Health at (720) 400-7025 or fill out our contact us to learn how we can help with your medication management. 

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