How does lithium work in bipolar?

Welcome to the magical world of lithium, where a single element can make a huge difference for people diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Here we’ll take you through how this “wonder drug” works and what it actually does inside your body.

What is Bipolar?

Before jumping into the juicier stuff, let’s briefly go over what bipolar disorder is. It’s a condition that affects mood, causing extreme highs (mania) and lows (depression). People with bipolar may experience weeks or months of mania followed by equally long periods of depression.

Why Lithium?

Now that we know more about bipolar disorder, let’s talk about why psychiatrists often prescribe lithium as medication for individuals experiencing these mood swings. Lithium has been used since the 1950s as an effective treatment option for both manic and depressive episodes associated with bipolar I disorder, which is characterized by severe manic or mixed episodes that last at least one week each year.

As such, lithium remains an essential part of many psychiatric practitioners’ toolkits when considering potential treatments available to their clients who exhibit symptoms associated with this type of mental illness.

But what exactly happens once lithium enters your body? Keep reading!

The Science behind Lithium

Once inside our bodies,lithium ions from the medication move in and out of specific channels in nerve cells located within areas known as dendrites – those small branches on neurons responsible for transmitting signals throughout our nervous system – changing certain aspects related to neurotransmission signaling processes within these neurons themselves.

While scientists are still researching everything there is to know about how lithium works differently across different regions across various brain regions (from prefrontal cortical area all way down deep white matter tracts!), here’s some cool things they have discovered thus far:

  • One possibility could be that because lithium interferes with enzymes involved in regulating second-messenger signaling pathways within neurons, which in turn cause changes inside those nerve cells’ organelles such as mitochondria or endoplasmic reticulum.

  • Another potential way lithium affects neurotransmission may be by increasing retention of one type of chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) called glutamate/glutamic acid that works differently depending on the location in brain where it acts.

  • Lastly, some experts also believe that when we take lithium pills these ions flood our bodies like electrolytes during sports events and influence synaptic function – the connections between different brain areas responsible for our behaviors emotions thoughts. Basically giving mood disorder amnesia if taken regularly long enough!

Sounds cool right? But before you go running to your nearest pharmacy to stock back up on this vitamin-sounding element, let’s discuss some potential negative side-effects too…


Like everything else in life,lithium has its own downside, including harmful effects. In fact, there is a narrow therapeutic index regarding lithium dosing; thus monitoring blood levels continuously remains important just avoid severe toxicities related hypernatremia problems.

Some people who take lithium report feeling sluggish and mentally foggy after being on them for extended periods of time. Others find themselves gaining weight without any explanation, developing acne outbreaks due hormonal imbalances triggered by ion imbalances from taking these pills daily!

There are other common concerns related to taking lithium tablets regularly over longer periods include:

  • Kidney damage
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Fine tremors
  • Coordination issues
    and even electrolyte disturbances all wreak havoc sometimes!

But fret not! These serious side-effects often only occur at higher doses than what most psychiatrists prescribe their patients (phew!). The most common issue tends usually amount sleepiness impair concentration though frequent urination because kidneys have shift focus curing toxicity instead keeping proper water balance becomes minor inconvenience people can deal with so long as their symptoms of bipolar are properly managed too.

And while there’s no denying that lithium undoubtedly remains an essential tool for dealing with mood swings associated bipolar disorder, it’s important to acknowledge its potential downsides before starting treatment.

Remember, before beginning any new medication regime always consult a qualified psychiatrist experienced treating patients diagnosed with the mental condition you’re experiencing!

Final thoughts

So there you have it – everything you ever wanted to know about how Lithium works in Bipolar but were afraid to ask! Remember not only can lithium help reduce the occurrence and severity of both manic and depressive episodes, but it can also improve general functioning after periods where these symptoms may have become too severe too manage alone anymore. So without further ado- let us start educating ourselves more today on just how important taking medications prescribed by psychiatrists can be when living psychological conditions like bipolar or depression for turning one’s life around completely !

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