Lithium and other mood stabilisers

Explains what mood stabilising drugs are, what they're used for, possible side effects and information about withdrawal.

Are there any alternatives?

Managing a condition like bipolar disorder without mood stabilisers can be challenging, but medication isn't right for everyone, and you might find that you want to explore other ways to manage your mood. This could be alongside taking medication, or instead of it.

"I'd taken mood stabilisers for many years and they just stopped me feeling anything. That’s not the way forward [for me]. I have been off them for some years now and with the help of a therapist I'm having to learn to feel again!"

You might find that some of the following options could work for you:

  • Talking treatments – The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines advise that the following kinds of talking treatment can all be helpful in managing bipolar disorder:
    • psychological therapy that is specifically adapted for treating bipolar disorder
    • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – this can help you identify any patterns in your mood changes and develop strategies for how to manage them
    • interpersonal therapy
    • behavioural couples therapy (for both you and your partner if you're in a relationship)
  • Keep a mood diary – you could try keeping a diary of how you feel from day to day, to help you spot patterns in your mood swings over time. This could help you learn how to avoid situations which you know might trigger an episode of depression or mania in future. There are a number of websites with programmes that can help you do this (see our pages on bipolar disorder for more information).
  • Look after your general health
  • Try complementary therapies – you might find certain complementary therapies helpful, such as aromatherapy, reflexology or massage.
  • Peer support – you might find it helpful to share your experiences with other people who have the same diagnosis, who can understand what you're going through. Elefriends and BipolarUK both offer online support groups, and Mind's Infoline can give you more information about local groups you could join near you.
  • Discuss it with your doctor – they might be able to suggest an alternative medication that you could try instead, or offer other alternatives (see our pages on having your say in your treatment and making yourself heard for tips on how to get the most from your doctor).


This information was published in February 2015. We will revise it in 2019.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

Share this information

arrow_upwardBack to Top