Explains how lithium and other mood stabilising drugs work, how they might help you, whether to take them if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, and what alternative treatments are available.
This page covers:
The decision to offer you a mood stabiliser is likely to depend on:
There are a few different healthcare professionals who can prescribe mood stabilisers to you. It may depend on which type of mood stabiliser you are being offered. It may also depend on whether you are just starting to take it or being given ongoing prescriptions.
The person who prescribes it may be your doctor (GP). Or it could be another specialist healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist. These information pages usually refer to 'your doctor' prescribing this medication.
Different mood stabilisers can be offered to treat different types of mental health problem:
"I have a form of bipolar which cycles very quickly, but I'm not psychotic. I was prescribed valproate in a controlled release tablet… It's changed my life."
A combination of a mood stabiliser and another drug might be the best way to manage your symptoms. This depends on your diagnosis and the problems you experience. The other kinds of medication that you may be offered include:
See our pages on treatments for bipolar disorder, treatments for mania and hypomania, and treatments for depression to find out more about other treatments you may be offered alongside mood stabilisers.
It's important to remember that all drugs can affect people differently.
Although many people find that the benefits of taking a mood stabiliser outweigh the negatives, not everybody does. Your experience will be personal to you. For ideas to help manage your mood without drugs, see our page on alternatives to mood stabilisers.
Mood stabilisers also have the potential to cause unwanted side effects. They may also cause withdrawal effects if you choose to stop taking them.
See our pages on lithium, valproate, carbamazepine, lamotrigine and our A-Z list of antipsychotic drugs. These pages have links to information about the side effects and withdrawal effects of these drugs.
"I have a total distrust of mood stabilisers ... I can't be doing with the side effects – they flatten my personality and prevent me doing the creative things I love."
This information was published in June 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.