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Category: Psychiatry

How Do Mood Stabilizers Work?

Mood disorders, like bipolar disorder and depression, are fairly common types of mental health disorders in the US. According to MedlinePlus, “Nearly one in ten people aged 18 and older have mood disorders.” Mood stabilizers, such as lithium, Seroquel, and Depakote, work to treat symptoms of these disorders by restoring the chemical imbalances responsible for mood swings.

North Atlanta Behavioral Health provides treatment options for mood disorders as well as other common mental health disorders. Visit our admissions page today to get started.

How Do Mood Stabilizers Work? (And Why Do They Help?)

Mood stabilizers work by decreasing abnormal activity in the brain. This abnormal activity can deplete or flood the brain with important chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemical imbalances can cause symptoms like depression, mania, psychosis, and seizures.

Mood stabilizers, like other psychiatric medications, treat mental health conditions by restoring chemical balances in the brain. By balancing these chemicals, you will notice relief from psychiatric symptoms.

What Conditions Do Mood Stabilizers Treat?

Mood stabilizers treat the following psychiatric conditions:

  • Bipolar disorder: Mood swings are the defining characteristic of bipolar disorder. Stabilizers help to keep your mood from going into manic and depressive states.
  • Schizoaffective disorder: This disorder is similar to bipolar, except that you will also have symptoms of psychosis. Antipsychotics with mood stabilizing properties can treat both the psychotic symptoms and mood swings present in schizoaffective disorder.
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD): Significant mood swings and difficulty regulating emotions are common symptoms of BPD. Therefore, mood stabilizers can help you control your moods and emotions.
  • Depression: Sometimes, mood stabilizers treat depressive disorders. Generally, your psychiatrist will prescribe mood stabilizers if antidepressants don’t treat your symptoms.
  • Anxiety: Like depression, your psychiatrist could prescribe mood stabilizers if other types of medications don’t reduce symptoms of anxiety disorders.

3 Most Common Types of Mood Stabilizers

The following are three of the most common types of mood stabilizers:

1. Lithium

Lithium is a naturally occurring element, which treats mood swings in people with bipolar disorder. It helps to stabilize your mood and prevent manic episodes. However, lithium has a limited therapeutic range, so you will need blood work regularly to ensure you don’t have too much or too little in your system.

Common side effects of lithium include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Tremors
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Weight gain
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Headaches

The above-mentioned side effects tend to decrease in severity over time as your body becomes accustomed to lithium. Still, there is a risk of severe side effects, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and confusion.

2. Anticonvulsants

Anticonvulsants typically treat seizures and epileptic disorders. Since they reduce brain activity, some anticonvulsants also treat mood disorders. Some of the most commonly prescribed anticonvulsants that work as mood stabilizers include: Tegretol (carbamazepine), Lamictal (lamotrigine), and Depakote (valproic acid).

Tegretol and Depakote reduce symptoms of mania, whereas Lamictal helps with depressive episodes.

Common side effects of anticonvulsants include:

  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Skin sensitivity/rashes

Similar to lithium, regular blood work will ensure you have a therapeutic level of your medication in your system. By remaining within therapeutic ranges, the risk of side effects lessens. Severe side effects, however, could occur, including vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, vision problems, confusion, jaundice, and liver damage.

3. Antipsychotics

Antipsychotics treat symptoms of psychosis—hallucinations and delusions—which sometimes occur in people with mood disorders, especially during acute manic episodes. Psychosis is also a hallmark of schizoaffective disorder.

Like anticonvulsants and lithium, antipsychotics also reduce activity in the brain. Thus, they can also work as mood stabilizers for those with bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder.

Antipsychotics that also stabilize mood disorders include:

  • Risperdal (risperidone)
  • Abilify (aripiprazole)
  • Seroquel (quetiapine)
  • Zyprexa (olanzapine)
  • Haldol (haloperidol)

Common side effects include:

  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Agitation

Some people have severe side effects, such as low blood pressure, tics and tremors, blurred vision, vomiting, and low white blood cell count. Therefore, like other mood stabilizers, it’s critical to have routine monitoring and blood work.

Do I Need a Mood Stabilizer?

If you struggle with manic, hypomanic, or depressive episodes, you could benefit from a mood stabilizer. These episodes are indicative of a mood or personality disorder, such as bipolar, depression, schizoaffective disorder, or borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Most mood stabilizers help to regulate manic or hypomanic episodes. However, some mood stabilizers also help those with depression or anxiety when antidepressants aren’t effective.

You might need a mood stabilizer if you experience the following symptoms of mania or hypomania (similar to mania, but less intense):

  • Racing thoughts
  • Pressured or rapid speech
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Trouble focusing and easily distracted
  • Oversharing personal information with people you just met
  • Difficulty maintaining or establishing healthy boundaries
  • Insomnia
  • Impulsivity
  • Overindulgence in certain behaviors—like shopping, gambling, drug and alcohol use, and sex—leading to negative consequences

While mood stabilizers are more commonly used for mania and hypomania, they could also help with depressive symptoms, such as:

  • Low mood or lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
  • Overwhelming shame, guilt, and doubt
  • Irritability
  • Appetite changes
  • Unintended weight gain or loss
  • Thoughts of death
  • Suicidal ideations

In addition, if antianxiety and antidepressant medications don’t relieve symptoms of anxiety, a mood stabilizer could work for you.

Regardless of the mental health condition you have, it’s also important to have a well-rounded treatment plan with psychiatric medications, therapy, peer support, and holistic approaches.

Get Help for Mood Swings Today

At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we’re here to help you find mood stabilizers that work for whatever disorder you have—bipolar, schizoaffective, depression, or anxiety. We also offer comprehensive treatment plans that focus on all aspects of your health and well-being. This approach leads to the best outcomes for mental health disorders.

Contact us today to get your mood swings under control and start living the life you deserve.

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Signs Your Antidepressant Dose is Too High

Antidepressants, combined with therapy, can be life-changing for people with mental health disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and depression. However, it takes some time to work with your psychiatrist to find the right medication and dose. That is why it is important to understand the signs that your antidepressant dose is too high.

If you’re taking an antidepressant, it could take some time to notice the effects and to get the balance just right. In addition, over time, you might find that medications are not as effective as they had been in the past. North Atlanta Behavioral Health can help you find the right medication and dose to treat your mental health disorder.

Before you can know if your antidepressant dose is too high, you need to know how your antidepressant is supposed to work.

What Is an Antidepressant?

In addition to depression, antidepressants also treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Common symptoms among these disorders include difficulty regulating mood and managing stress. Antidepressants alleviate these symptoms, which in turn, helps you engage in treatment programs more effectively.

How Do Antidepressants Work?

Antidepressants work by balancing chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters. More specifically, they target neurotransmitters linked to emotional regulation and mood. The two main neurotransmitters targeted are serotonin and norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline).

  • Serotonin: This neurotransmitter regulates nearly every human behavior including sleep, appetite, sexual drive, and mood. When you don’t have enough serotonin, you could have insomnia or oversleep, eat too much or not enough, experience a low sex drive, and feel low or down. All of these are symptoms of depression and other mental health disorders.
  • Norepinephrine: Some mental health disorders are caused by either too much or too little norepinephrine. This neurotransmitter increases your blood pressure and heart rate, helps you focus, and gives you energy. Too much norepinephrine can cause insomnia, irritability, and anxiety. On the other hand, too little can cause a lack of focus, low energy, and depression.

In short, a lack of or an excess of these neurotransmitters can cause symptoms of depression, OCD, anxiety, and PTSD. Therefore, antidepressants work by restoring a natural balance of these chemicals.

However, your psychiatrist won’t know exactly which antidepressants and dosage will work until you try them out. You and your psychiatrist will work together to find the right type of antidepressant and dosage for your symptoms. The goal is to find the right dose and medication for you to have a therapeutic level in your system.

What Is a Therapeutic Level of Antidepressants?

The therapeutic level of any medication refers to the amount of medication in your system needed for the intended effects. Therapeutic levels of antidepressants will be different for each person due to things like body weight, overall health, and metabolism. It will also vary based on the type of antidepressant that you take as well as any drug interactions from other prescriptions.

The goal of finding a therapeutic level of antidepressants is ensuring that the amount of medication in your system is within a certain range. However, the therapeutic level of antidepressants, unlike other psychotropic medications, isn’t monitored by lab testing. Instead, you and your psychiatrist work together to find the appropriate dose to maintain therapeutic levels based on your mood, behaviors, and symptoms.

How Will My Psychiatrist Find the Right Dose for Me?

Your psychiatrist will start you off at a lower dose and increase from there. This is the best way to ensure that you work your way up to a therapeutic level while monitoring side effects. Furthermore, it will take about 4 to 6 weeks for most antidepressants to have any effect as it builds up in your system.

After about 6 weeks, if you don’t notice any changes, then this is a sign that your antidepressant dose is too low. As a result, your psychiatrist will most likely increase your dosage as long as you aren’t experiencing too many adverse side effects. Following this, you will need to monitor symptoms and side effects to make sure your dose isn’t too high.

What Are the Signs That Your Antidepressant Dose Is Too High?

Overall, the purpose of antidepressants is to balance the chemicals in your brain so that you can engage in other therapeutic activities. Oftentimes, people with depression or other disorders struggle to attend therapy or follow a treatment plan consistently. Antidepressants help to improve your sleep habits and appetite, reduce anxiety, and improve your mood.

However, when your antidepressant dose is too high, you will have adverse effects, such as:

  • Feeling numb or a lack of pleasure
  • Significant changes in weight
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Drowsiness, fatigue, and low energy
  • Increased irritability and anxiety
  • Worsening depression
  • Excessive energy or mania

It is also critical to monitor symptoms over time for signs that your antidepressant dose is too high or too low. Sometimes, medications lose their effectiveness as you become accustomed to them. On the other hand, bodily changes as you get older can change how you respond to certain types of antidepressants. Thus, you must find other ways to treat your symptoms rather than relying on medications alone.

What Else Can I Do to Improve My Mental Health?

The best way to treat mental health disorders is by combining medications with therapeutic activities. The types of therapy that work for you depend on your disorder, severity of symptoms, and personal preferences. The best mental health treatment programs provide options for you to find your own path to recovery.

At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we offer the following therapies for mental health disorders in addition to psychiatry:

  • Talk therapy: Traditional therapy includes talk therapy. However, talk therapy varies based on which modality will work best for you and your symptoms. Common types of therapy include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
  • Brainspotting: This is a specific type of therapy that involves finding spots in your visual field that activate trauma responses. Brainspotting can help you heal from traumatic experiences and PTSD.
  • Red Light Therapy: Treating symptoms of mental health disorders can also include alternative approaches like red light therapy. Red light therapy can improve sleep quality and mental clarity as well as reduce stress.
  • Holistic Therapy: Our holistic approach to treatment includes nutritional support, exercise, meditation, and exercise. Holistic therapy can improve physical health, which in turn improves your mental well-being.

Find Mental Health Services in Atlanta Today

If you notice signs that your antidepressant dose is too high or too low, you need to reevaluate your medication. In addition, you could benefit from adding multiple approaches to your treatment plan, such as brainspotting or red light therapy. At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we can help you find a mental health treatment plan that will work for you.

Contact us today to begin mental health treatment in Atlanta, Georgia.

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