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Mood stabilizers for kids: 6 options

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Mood stabilizers for kidsMood stabilizers for ADHD and autismSummary
Mood stabilizers can sometimes be prescribed to children to manage conditions like bipolar disorder. Doctors may suggest medications, such as lithium or risperidone.
Medically reviewed by Nicole Washington, DO, MPH
Written by Uxshely Carcamo
Updated on

Mood stabilizers are medications most commonly given to treat bipolar disorder. Healthcare professionals may also prescribe them to manage other conditions, such as autism spectrum disorders.

Three are 3 main types of mood stabilizers:

  • Lithium: This drug is often prescribed to treat bipolar disorder. You may be given lithium carbonate (Lithobid) or lithium citrate (Priadel).
  • Anticonvulsants: These medications are often prescribed to manage seizures and epilepsy, but they are also prescribed to treat bipolar disorder. Examples include:
  • Antipsychotics: These medications are commonly prescribed to manage psychosis symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. Examples of antipsychotics include:

Mood stabilizers may be prescribed for children with bipolar disorder or to manage other symptoms like aggression or irritability.

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Mood stabilizer options for kids

Adult female and young girl laying down and laughing in an embrace.
Anastasiia Krivenok/Getty Images

Symptoms of conditions such as bipolar disorder may show up in children as young as 5 years old. Still, not many mood stabilizers are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use by children (especially very young children).

A healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist, can advise you on which mood stabilizers may be suitable.

Here are some examples of mood stabilizers that may be prescribed for children.

Lithium carbonate

Lithium is approved by the FDA for use by children from 7 years old. It is one of the medications most commonly prescribed to treat bipolar disorder. Research from 2019 and 2015 supports the use of lithium for the treatment of bipolar disorder in young people.

A study from 2018 also supports the safety of the medication when taken by children and teens.

Aripiprazole (Abilify)

Aripiprazole is an antipsychotic medication that may be prescribed to treat bipolar disorder in children that are ages 10 or older. Healthcare professionals can also prescribe this medication for children to treat the irritability associated with autism.  

A 2021 study suggests that it is safe for children and teens to take aripiprazole. But the study does recommend that doctors monitor children taking this medication to ensure they don’t experience unhelpful side effects.

Risperidone (Risperdal)

Risperidone is an antipsychotic medication that is approved for the treatment of:

  • bipolar mania for children ages 10 years and older
  • the irritability associated with autism for children 5 years and older
  • schizophrenia in teens ages 13 and older

An old study from 2012 suggests that risperidone can be more effective than lithium for treating mania in children. But the study also notes that risperidone can have unhelpful side effects in children like weight gain.

Quetiapine (Seroquel)

Quetiapine is also an antipsychotic medication approved for the treatment of mania, schizophrenia, and aggression in children and teens.  A 2020 review of quetiapine for the treatment of bipolar disorder in young people suggests that it is a relatively safe drug.

Common side effects from taking this medication included:

  • headaches
  • an upset stomach
  • drowsiness
  • weight gain

Lurasidone (Latuda)

In 2018 the FDA approved lurasidone for the treatment of bipolar type 1 in children ages 10–17. Research from 2020 found this medication to be the safest antipsychotic for children.

Other options

There are several other mood stabilizers that a doctor may recommend for children. Research suggests that drowsiness and weight gain are two common side effects of mood stabilizers taken by children.

It’s important to remember that everyone responds to medication differently. Consider speaking with a doctor to understand the potential side effects of any medications you are taking.

Mood stabilizers are often prescribed together with talk therapies to treat children with bipolar disorder.

Examples include:

Mood stabilizers for ADHD and autism

In some cases, a doctor may prescribe mood stabilizers for a child with ADHD. This will usually be given when the child also has symptoms of bipolar disorder. The typical medication options for the treatment of ADHD in children, approved by the FDA, are:

  • Stimulants: These medications contain different forms of methylphenidate and amphetamine and can calm children. Examples include methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) and amphetamine (Adderall). 
  • Nonstimulants: These medications are often prescribed when stimulants are not well tolerated. Examples include:

Mood stabilizers such as risperidone (Risperdal) and aripiprazole (Abilify) can also be prescribed to treat irritability symptoms associated with autism in children.  

Other mood stabilizers, such as quetiapine (Seroquel), can also be prescribed to treat schizophrenia and aggression in children.


Mood stabilizers are most commonly prescribed for the treatment of bipolar disorder. Several mood stabilizers may be prescribed to help manage symptoms in children. A prescription example included lithium carbonate (Lithobid), while carbamazepine (Tegretol) and lamotrigine (Lamictal) can also help with bipolar disorder symptoms but are only available for off-label use.

They can also be prescribed to treat schizophrenia and manage symptoms such as aggression and irritability.

It’s important to know that there is limited recent research on this topic, and very few mood stabilizers are FDA-approved for young children. A doctor or psychiatrist can advise you on the best mood stabilizer options for children.

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