Difference Between Mood Stabilizers and Anti Depressants

Both the terms Mood stabilizers and Anti-depressants are medications that are used for treating different forms of disorders which are depressive and other conditions such as anxiety, sleeping problems, disorders related to eating etc. Mood stabilizers are considered very effective in the regulation of the mood of a person whereas, Anti-depressants are well known for lifting one’s mood. Let us understand the difference between the two medications in a more detailed form.

Mood Stabilizers vs Anti Depressants

The main difference between Mood stabilizers and Anti-depressants is that the former is generally used for those who are facing anxiety and the latter is considered for those who are suffering from depression.

Mood Stabiliers vs Anti Depressants

Mood stabilizers are very important for those people who undergo a lot of mood swings. These medications will help them to stabilize the fluctuations in their mood. The stabilizers will ensure that their moods are not too high or too low.

Antidepressants on the other hand help in the treatment of disorders related to depression. These medications tend to work on serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that helps in sending signals between the nerve cells.

Comparison Table Between Mood Stabilizers and Anti Depressants

Parameters of Comparison Mood Stabilizers  Anti Depressants
Used for  Treating mood swings of a person Treating depressive disorders 
Time of action  They usually take 2-3 weeks to start showing their effects Clinical effects take several weeks to manifest    
Types  Lithium, tryptophan etc.  Tricyclic anti-depressants (TCA), Atypical anti-depressants etc. 
Action  They tend to decrease the activity of the brain so that it can restore neurochemical balance They help in promoting the activities of the brain  
Side effects Include dizziness, weakness in muscles, nausea etc. Fatigue, insomnia, mild discomforts etc.  

What Are Mood Stabilizers?

A mood stabilizer is defined as a psychiatric medication that is used for treating mood disorders that are characterized by intense mood swings, for example, bipolar disorder, which is a very serious mental illness including severe changes in the mood of a person and extreme depressive feelings as well. Mood stabilizers are considered antimanic agents which means that they can effectively treat mania and shifts in mood.

Mood stabilizers aim to regulate and stabilize the mood of a person by enhancing either serotonin or GABA, where serotonin is the happy hormone and GABA is the calming hormone in our body. Several mood stabilizers such as Lithium and VPA have shown good results and have been proven very effective as well. Taking these medications regularly can help in the prevention of the symptoms of mania and depression.

Mood stabilizers are not addictive, someone who is taking these medications don’t develop tolerance. If these medications are stopped then it might lead to risks of having relapses.

What Are Anti Depressants?

Antidepressants are drugs that help a person in the reduction of symptoms related to depressive disorders which are very severe. It alters the chemical imbalances of the neurotransmitters which are present in the brain. These changes in the mood and behaviour of a person arise due to the chemical imbalance.

They also help in treating anxiety disorders and other psychological conditions of a person. Antidepressants help in promoting the activity of the brain and avail the excitatory neurotransmitter as well. The side effects of taking antidepressants vary from one type to another as well as from one person to another. The symptoms of depression show a lot of fluctuations, one antidepressant may help a person in providing a lot of relaxation. For example, if a person is having trouble while sleeping then an antidepressant is a good option which is slightly sedating as well. The side effects of antidepressants vary from one medication to another and from person to person.

Some examples of antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors that are SSRIs, these are the most widely prescribed type of antidepressants and another one is tricyclic antidepressants i.e. TCAs are a very old type of antidepressant which are no longer very much in use.

Main Differences Between Mood Stabilizers and Anti Depressants

  1. Mood stabilizers are used to treat mood disorders, bipolar disorder, mania etc. whereas Anti depressants are used for treating severe depressive disorders.
  2. Both mood stabilizers and anti depressants must be taken separately as the combination of two may not be effective.
  3. The mood stabilizers decrease the activity of the brain, on the other hand, anti depressants promote the activity of the brain.
  4. Mood stabilizers are given to a person suffering from bipolar disorder but anti depressants are not recommended for a bipolar patient as they might switch the patient from the depressive phase to maniac phase.
  5. The side effects of taking mood stabilizers are nausea, weight gain, acne, shaking etc. and the side effects of taking anti depressants are insomnia, fatigue, pain in muscles etc.


Mood stabilizers and Antidepressants are a form of medications that are different from each other in many aspects such as their functioning, structure, mode of action and other indications. They also differ in the side effects produced by them such as mood stabilizers leading to nausea and vomiting whereas, antidepressants cause fatigue and pain in the body or muscles.

Mood stabilizers are known for treating bipolar disorder by balancing the moods of a person and they also tend to show their action by decreasing the brain’s activity to restore the neurochemical balances. On the other hand, antidepressants help in the treatment of serious depressive disorders and are known for promoting the activity of the brain. They also help in availing excitatory neurotransmitters for the brain and body.

Both the medications have their pros and cons and are prescribed accordingly. Their side effects vary from person to person as well as from one form to another. These should be taken only under the guidance of a doctor.


  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1399-5618.2003.00074.x

2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1399-5618.2005.00251.x

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