How Long Does It Take For A Mood Stabilizer To Work?
There are several medications in the market for mood stabilization, which are very effective and each medication comes with its effects and side-effects. They can be used either alone or in combination to treat bipolar disorder. The commonly used medications for mood stabilization are lithium, anticonvulsants and antipsychotics.
Lithium is one of the most widely used medications for the treatment of bipolar disorder. People with mania in bipolar disorder respond well to lithium. It can take up to 2 weeks for the drug to be effective and up to 3 weeks for manic symptoms to diminish and 1.5 months to be effective for depression symptoms. In half of the cases, an addition of another drug is required to treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder and for mood stabilization. Lithium levels in blood are regularly monitored along with monitoring of kidney function and thyroid function.
Valproate (Depakote) is anticovulsant that is FDA approved for the treatment of mood stabilization in bipolar disorder. This drug is effective for both mania and depressive episodes of bipolar disorder. It can take up to 1-2 weeks to start working.
Carbamazepine (Tegretol) is another anticonvulsant, which is not FDA approved, but is used often for the treatment of early onset bipolar disorder and in patients who are not responsive to lithium. It also takes 1-2 weeks to show its effect. However, it is not a preferred medication due to its various side-effects, short term effects and possible drug interactions.
Lamotrigine (Lamictal) is an effective mood stabilizer that is very effective in managing depressive state in bipolar disorder; however, it is not that effective in manic state. It is not prescribed as a single medication for bipolar, but in combination with other mood stabilizers. It is worth noting that it is not effective for the treatment of major depressive disorder.
Gabapentin (Neurontin) is another medication that is used in combination with other mood stabilizers for the treatment of bipolar disorder, such as in patients who do not respond to lithium. Although, it is not as effective in treating manic episodes, its action in managing depressive episode is satisfying.
Antipsychotic Drugs, such as quetiapine (Seroquel), clozapine (Clozaril), olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal) and aripiprazole (Abilify) have also shown promising results in the efficacious treatment of bipolar disorder and working as mood stabilizers. They can be used in combination with lithium or divalproex to control acute mania in bipolar patients.
Mood stabilizers are medications that are used for mood swings and mood disorders to stabilize the fluctuating moods of a person. They are mostly used for the treatment of bipolar disorders, where there are fluctuating episodes of euphoria (mania) and sadness (depression). They help stabilize moods, which if not managed may lead to self-harm and risky behavior. Although, mood stabilizers are very effective in managing manic, hypomanic and depression symptoms of bipolar disorder, they may take several weeks (usually 2-3 weeks) to start showing their effect and several months to work 100%. They are slow acting; hence, other medications may be needed for initial phase to treat acute mania.
Depression, along with anxiety symptoms if present, in bipolar disorder also needs to be addressed. However, the use of antidepressants for their treatment is not advocated due to exacerbation of manic symptoms and rapid cycling (frequent mood fluctuations from depressive state to manic state) episodes. Recent studies have also shown that the use of antidepressants in depression related to bipolar disorder is found to be ineffective and their effect is comparative to placebo.
Although, medications are integral to the treatment of bipolar disorder, it is helpful for patients to get additional psychological counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family focused therapy and relaxation therapy. In addition, eating a balanced and nutritious diet along with proper exercise and sleep hygiene can be effective in long term management of bipolar disorder.