Bipolar Disorder: Finding and Maintaining Balance with Mood Stabilizers
If you make up part of the 2% of Canadians who suffer from bipolar disorder, you probably experience extreme mood swings, alternating between sad, sombre periods (depressive episodes) and highs where you feel like you can do a lot of things all at once (manic episodes). Learn why and how to take your mood stabilizers properly, so you can get off your emotional rollercoaster ride.
Aiming for stability
Treatment is based on medication known as mood stabilizers, as well as on psychotherapy and lifestyle changes, including better stress and sleep management.
As the name suggests, mood stabilizers do just that—they stabilize mood by levelling out its extreme variations. This doesn’t mean you will no longer feel any emotion. Like everyone, you will still experience highs and lows, only they will be of a more normal intensity.
There are a number of medications that can act as mood stabilizers. While lithium is the most well-known, certain antiepileptics and antipsychotics are also used. Each of these medications can help mitigate your brain’s hypersensitivity in their own way. The choice of medication depends on a number of factors, including your symptoms, your overall health, and the characteristics of each medication.
It may take several weeks before the maximum effect of the mood stabilizer is felt, so you’ll need to be patient and to persevere.
Once your mood has stabilized, it is important to continue your treatment in order to maintain that balance. Never quit your treatment cold turkey, as you are likely to experience unpleasant side effects, a relapse, or an increase in the frequency and severity of your manic and depressive episodes.
How to take your medication
It is important to take your medication as prescribed—no more, no less, no more frequently, and no less frequently—to ensure its efficacy. If you have trouble following the instructions, talk to your pharmacist.
Mood stabilizers can sometimes cause adverse side effects, especially in the early days of treatment. If you experience such side effects, do not adjust your treatment yourself. Instead, ask your pharmacist for advice. They will find an appropriate solution.
People who take mood stabilizers require close medical monitoring such as routine blood works. Make sure you undergo all the tests prescribed by your doctor.
Your pharmacist is your ally
Since certain products can interact with mood stabilizers, it is important to always check with your pharmacist before taking an over-the-counter medication or natural health product. If it is not compatible, he or she can recommend a more suitable option.
Your pharmacist is there for you throughout your treatment to listen to your concerns and provide support. If you experience mood swings during your treatment and think you may be having a relapse, consult your doctor or pharmacist without delay. Your treatment may need to be adjusted.
If you are taking more than one medication, you can ask your pharmacist to synchronize your medication renewal dates. This will save you repeated trips to the pharmacy and make it easier to manage your medications.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.