How Effective Is Sodium Valproate for Depression?

Depression is a mental disorder characterized by sadness, lack of motivation, sleep changes, appetite disturbance, difficulty with normal functioning and sometimes suicidal thoughts. When depressive symptoms occur on their own, they are known as unipolar depression; when episodes of depressive symptoms alternate with periods of mania -- episodes of pathologically elevated mood and risky behavior -- the illness is known as bipolar depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is very treatable, particularly if addressed early in its development.


Depression is typically treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Of the medications used to treat depressive symptoms, the most commonly used today are the SSRIs -- selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors -- which are effective for many patients, with fewer side effects than some older medications. However, certain other medications are also used, depending on the circumstances. One such medication is sodium valproate.


Sodium valproate is an injectable formulation of an anticonvulsant medication, states A derivative of the mood stabilizer and anticonvulsant valproic acid, sodium valproate is typically used to treat seizure disorders such as epilepsy 1. However, this class of medications is also used for bipolar depression, which indicates that it targets mood symptoms in addition to seizure activity.


The "British Journal of Psychiatry" reports that sodium valproate has been used to successfully treat the symptoms of major depression and may be effective for a variety of mood disorders 2. Since valproic acid is most often used for bipolar as opposed to unipolar depression, sodium valproate may function more as a mood stabilizer than an antidepressant. However, every patient's neurological chemistry is different, and it's not always clear which medication will work for a particular patient without trying it.

Safety Issues

It is crucial to consult with a physician for the treatment of depression symptoms. Certain physical disorders can cause depressive-type symptoms as well, and must be ruled out before trying psychotropic medications. In addition, all medications, including sodium valproate, can cause negative side effects and dangerous drug interactions for some individuals. Depression medications must also be monitored closely, and at times require dosage modifications. Never go off a depression medication without the supervision of a physician, and follow medical advice regarding treatment. Finally, if you experience any urges to harm or kill yourself, seek medical attention immediately.

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