NeuroLove

Loving Neuroscience comes from understanding

Posts tagged lithium

41 notes

Lithium is the only treatment I have been on. Typically it is not used for treating the depression aspect of bipolar as well as the mania, but I feel very lucky that it has worked for me. I also feel very lucky that I do not have to be on the insane dosage that gives lithium a bad rap. Overdosing on lithium makes people basically go comotose, unable to read 3 words in a sentence, completely zombie-like, and I have felt that during the medication optimization process. For me, the lithium takes away the anxiety and urgency I felt. I didn’t realize that those feelings clouded my everyday life until I did have lithium. Lithium also took away the brightness of the sunlight. Things that used to elicite a wonderful response in me now feel dull sometimes, like music. But when I’m in the mood to get excited I still get a taste of that happy wildness (although not quite so free and weightless feeling if we’re going to be picky). At the beginning I was also on lithium with a low dose of citalopram, which is for manic depressives who need to temper the depressions as well as the manias. I did not notice anything while I was on it, but coming off of it was terrible: for two weeks I was irritated by cars going past, small alterations necessary for daily plans, and people tapping their fingers to the point I had to cover my ears and get myself in a safe quiet place. For neuroscience purposes, this lead me to believe that SSRIs are not happy pills, but rather increased tolerance pills for people with unnecessary emotional irritability. Now, with my twice-a-day slow release lithium, I feel contently normal.
EH’s experiences with medications.  Please note that this is just their experience with lithium and antidepressants and does not mean other people’s experiences would not be different.  For more information about how bipolar disorder is treated, please see my last post.

Filed under science psychology antidepressants bipolar disorder lithium

81 notes

How is bipolar disorder treated?
Mood stabilizers are the most common treatments.  The most common of these is Lithium, which was first approved in the 1970’s.  It is not known exactly how lithium works, but it seems to be very effective at both preventing mania and preventing depressive episodes.  It probably acts on neurons in the brain (since these symptoms are neuronal), but it’s not clear how or where exactly.  Other mood stabilizers include anticonvulsants (used to prevent seizures in epilepsy) that were also found to stabilize mood.  For instance, valproic acid may work better than lithium for some people.
Lithium also seems to change brain structure.  It increased gray matter volume in limbic and related areas in patients with bipolar disorder as compared to other treatments (see image; Germana et al., 2010).  These areas are involved in emotional regulation, and so it suggests that lithium may help cause structural changes in these areas that lead to the mood stabilizing effects.
Antipsychotics can also be used along with other medications to decrease some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder.  These include olanzapine (which helps with severe depressive episodes), risperidone, and clozapine, among others.
Antidepressants can also be added to decrease depressive symptoms (such as the SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).  However, these are never (or should never) be given alone to people with bipolar disorder as this can cause the person to swing from depressive episodes into mania.  Therefore, antidepressants are usually given in conjunction with mood stabilizers, such as lithium.  It’s not clear whether mood stabilizers + antidepressants is all that effective though, as a study conducted by NIMH found it no more effective at treating bipolar disorder than the mood stabilizer and placebo (sugar pill).  For more information on that study, see here.
The next post will talk about EH’s experiences with treatment.
[Image Source]

How is bipolar disorder treated?

Mood stabilizers are the most common treatments.  The most common of these is Lithium, which was first approved in the 1970’s.  It is not known exactly how lithium works, but it seems to be very effective at both preventing mania and preventing depressive episodes.  It probably acts on neurons in the brain (since these symptoms are neuronal), but it’s not clear how or where exactly.  Other mood stabilizers include anticonvulsants (used to prevent seizures in epilepsy) that were also found to stabilize mood.  For instance, valproic acid may work better than lithium for some people.

Lithium also seems to change brain structure.  It increased gray matter volume in limbic and related areas in patients with bipolar disorder as compared to other treatments (see image; Germana et al., 2010).  These areas are involved in emotional regulation, and so it suggests that lithium may help cause structural changes in these areas that lead to the mood stabilizing effects.

Antipsychotics can also be used along with other medications to decrease some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder.  These include olanzapine (which helps with severe depressive episodes), risperidone, and clozapine, among others.

Antidepressants can also be added to decrease depressive symptoms (such as the SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).  However, these are never (or should never) be given alone to people with bipolar disorder as this can cause the person to swing from depressive episodes into mania.  Therefore, antidepressants are usually given in conjunction with mood stabilizers, such as lithium.  It’s not clear whether mood stabilizers + antidepressants is all that effective though, as a study conducted by NIMH found it no more effective at treating bipolar disorder than the mood stabilizer and placebo (sugar pill).  For more information on that study, see here.

The next post will talk about EH’s experiences with treatment.

[Image Source]

Filed under science psychology bipolar disorder antipsychotics lithium