According to the "Clinical Handbook of Psychotropic Drugs," mood stabilizers fall into three chemical classifications: lithium, anticonvulsants and tryptophan. Medications in each of these categories are used to treat mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder and mania. Certain mood stabilizers can also be used to augment antidepressants in the treatment of depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Only a doctor can perscibe or combine medications safely. If you feel you may need medication, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss appropriate options.
Although it is not known exactly how lithium works, drugs that fall under this classification remain some of the most widely used in treating bipolar and mood disorders. The commercial names of Lithium salt medications include Lithotabs, Eskalith, Lithonate, Lithobid and Eskalith CR. In addition, Cibalith-S is available in a liquid form. Many patients require more than one medication to fully stabilize their mood. According to an article in the "American Journal of Psychiatry" published in 1998, combining lithium with an anticonvulsant was found to be one of the safest and most effective methods of mood stabilization.
Anticonvulsant drugs are divided into first generation, second generation and third generation. The most widely known first generation medications are Klonopin, Rivotril and Dilantin. Typically, these are used for patients who do not react well to the newer medications as they have a lot of side effects. The most widely known second generation medications include Tegretol and Depakote. According to the "Clinical Handbook of Psychotropic Drugs," Tegretol in particular has shown positive effects for treating bipolar depression, behavior disturbances and PTSD. It has also been successfully used as an adjunctive drug in treating paranoid ideation and negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Third generation drugs include Trileptal and Topamax, which have both shown positive affects in treating mixed mood states, bipolar depression and certain pain disorders.
Tryptan, a drug that falls under the chemical class of tryptophan, is not marketed in the United States, but is available in Canada. It is commonly used outside of the U.S. as an adjunct lithium in the treatment of bipolar disorders. It can also be used to treat depression, mania, aggression, and to help with sleep disorders. No data is available on the use of tryptan in children; in adults this drug carries the risk of diabetes and some types of cancer.