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For individuals who suffer from major depressive disorder, the usual treatment protocol involves antidepressants and psychotherapy. However, for some people, antidepressants are simply not effective. In these cases, mood stabilizers for depression may offer a treatment option.
When depression strikes, it can completely upend your life. Suddenly, and many times without a clear cause, the symptoms of depression present themselves. Major depressive disorder can vary from mild to severe and may persist for weeks or months.
The main symptoms of depression are as follows:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, and despairing most of the time.
- Change in sleep patterns.
- Change in eating habits; sudden weight changes.
- Slowed movements.
- Trouble making decisions or concentrating.
- Loss of interest in usual pastimes.
- Feelings of shame or guilt.
- Thoughts of suicide.
There are different subtypes of depression. One of them is bipolar depression, the type of depression that alternates with episodes of mania in bipolar disorder. Mood stabilizers have been found to help modulate extreme mood shifts.
What Are Mood Stabilizers?
Mood stabilizers are psychotropic drugs that have anti-seizure properties. They are useful for treating certain types of mental health disorders. These include bipolar depression, impulse control disorder, and some personality disorders.
The most common mood stabilizers are:
Mood Stabilizers for Bipolar Depression
Bipolar depression is a feature of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating and extreme mood shifts. There are different types of bipolar disorder, but the most common one is bipolar I.
Someone with bipolar I will struggle with largely unpredictable swings, shifting between manic and depressive mood states. Mood stabilizers can help mitigate the symptoms of depression and episodes of mania. In some cases, antidepressants are prescribed with the mood stabilizer for bipolar treatment.
Mood Stabilizers for Depression
When it comes to the treatment of major depressive disorder, mood stabilizers are not the first line of treatment. Doctors will trial the patient with an antidepressant, and in about 4-6 weeks it becomes evident that it either works or doesn’t. It is quite common to have to trial 2 or 3 drugs before finding the right “fit.” The antidepressant is paired with CBT therapy.
Some patients, though, do not respond to antidepressants. In fact, up to half of those who are prescribed these drugs do not achieve relief from symptoms. This is when a mood stabilizer like lithium might be considered.
In other words, these drugs are not considered for the treatment of depression unless the antidepressants do not help. Mood stabilizers should only be an option for treatment-resistant depressive patients who have a severe illness, such as suicide.
There is good reason to use caution with this class of drugs. There are risks involved with mood stabilizers like lithium, so they require blood monitoring. Some of the side effects might include:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Frequent need to urinate.
- Excessive thirst.
- Skin rash
- Shaking of the hands.
- Changes in vision.
- Hair loss.
- Mood swings.
- Loss of motor coordination.
- Changes in appetite and weight.
Lithium is a highly toxic drug and can cause severe reactions, including respiratory failure, coma, and death. This happens due to health conditions, like kidney, liver, or pancreas disease that can lead to lithium toxicity in the body.
Lifestyle Changes that Can Help with Depression Symptoms
When battling depression, it is easy to lose hope. You may begin to believe you will never feel like your old self again. If you begin to feel hopeless, try these tips:
- Set attainable goals. When depression saps your energy, the idea of tackling any large project can feel overwhelming. Instead, why not set small goals and accomplish them, one at a time? Start small and manage your expectations. As you complete a task, enjoy that sense of accomplishment.
- Pamper yourself. Sometimes it is nice to reward yourself with a little pampering. If you have been struggling with depression, consider doing one nice thing for yourself each week. It can become a goal that inspires you from one week to the next. Get a massage, a pedicure, go see a movie with friends, or visit a day spa.
- Get outside and move. While the idea of going out for a walk may not thrill you, push through the resistance and go anyway. Science has shown there is a multitude of mental health benefits associated with getting exercise. Taking a short walk each day will help to improve your energy level, sleep quality, and mood. The sunshine will help your body produce vitamin D, which also helps depression symptoms.
- Use positive self-talk. You may have to fake it, but when you start feeling really down, try hard to change your mindset. To help combat a negative mindset, try practicing positive self-talk. Train your mind to focus on the positives. Start keeping a gratitude journal, post positive affirmations around the house, and read uplifting devotionals.
Treatment Options for Major Depressive Disorder
When nothing else seems to help, you may want to consider a residential mental health program. These are treatment programs located in a private home setting, which offers a comfy, intimate space for healing.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself is to escape your routine and change up your environment for a little while. A residential treatment program will often have spa-like amenities and luxury accommodations. They are located in pretty places, such as coastal or lakefront settings.
Treatment will include psychotherapy, medication management, group therapy sessions, holistic healing methods, nutrition, and outdoor experiential activities.
While mood stabilizers for depression are usually reserved for bipolar depression, these drugs may provide a treatment option in limited cases. The meds, plus the therapy and other healing elements will bring some relief from depression.
The Treatment Specialist Is a Trusted Resource for Mental Health Guidance
The Treatment Specialist is an online resource for informative articles on mental health conditions and treatment options for adults, teens, and families. If you or a loved one are battling depression, reach out to us for expert guidance today at (866) 644-7911.