Mood stabilizer drugs were first developed to treat seizures, and manic depressive illness. They also are used to treat behavioral symptoms in other disorders including Huntington's. They can be helpful for treating irritability, rapid mood changes, agitation and obsessive compulsive symptoms. They are most often used in combination with antidepressants, and rarely as single agents for any psychiatric symptom.

These drugs should always be started at low dosage and increased gradually, usually at weekly intervals. Use lowest dose that gives benefit because higher dosages will have greater side effects. When stopping these drugs it is usually best to taper off over several weeks.

Valproate (Depakene®) or divalproex (Depakote®) Dosages start at 125 mg twice a day, gradually increasing to an effective dose, usually at or below 500 mg twice daily. Blood tests help to adjust dosage, and are necessary to check for liver and blood side effects. Other side effects include sleepiness, dizziness, nervousness, nausea, diarrhea, and weakness.

Carbamazepine (Tegretol®) Dosages start at 100-200 mg/ day and gradually increased to a usual dose 800-1200 per day. Blood tests are done for this drug to help with dosage and to check for liver and blood side effects. Other side effects include nausea, dizziness, sleepiness, liver, and fluid retention.

Lamotrigine (Lamictal®) This drug is a more recent addition to this drug class. It may be the preferred drug due to fewer side effects than others. Regular blood testing is not necessary for this drug. In addition this drug can be useful in treating depression resistant to other drugs. Side effects include dizziness, sleepiness, and frequent rash. Dosing starts at 50 mg/day, and increases by 50 mg each two week period till a maximum of 300 mg dose is reached.