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How is lithium used to treat bipolar disorder?

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Lithium (brand names include Eskalith or Lithobid) is the most widely used and studied medication for treating bipolar disorder. It has been used for more than 50 years and helps lessen the severity and frequency of manic states. It may also help with bipolar depression.

If you have bipolar disorder, you may take lifelong lithium as maintenance therapy to avoid relapses. Relapses can happen within 6 months in 90% of patients. And lithium treatment may sometimes be less effective if you stop taking it abruptly instead of gradually (over a period of 2 weeks or longer).

Studies show that lithium can significantly lessen the risk of suicide among people with bipolar disorder. It also helps prevent future manic episodes.

Lithium is a simple salt that acts on a person's central nervous system. Doctors don’t know exactly how lithium works to stabilize mood. However, it helps people with bipolar disorder have more control over their emotions and cope better with the problems of daily life.

SOURCES: WebMD Medical Reference: "Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depressive Disorder)." WebMD Assess Plus: Bipolar Disorder Assessment.  National Institute for Mental Health: "Step-BD Womens Studies."   Massachusetts General Hospital Bipolar Clinic & Research Program.  MedicineNet: "Bipolar Disorder (Mania)."  WebMD Medical Reference: "Effects of Untreated Depression." American Psychiatric Association: "Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Bipolar Disorder."






Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg on November 7, 2017

SOURCES: WebMD Medical Reference: "Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depressive Disorder)." WebMD Assess Plus: Bipolar Disorder Assessment.  National Institute for Mental Health: "Step-BD Womens Studies."   Massachusetts General Hospital Bipolar Clinic & Research Program.  MedicineNet: "Bipolar Disorder (Mania)."  WebMD Medical Reference: "Effects of Untreated Depression." American Psychiatric Association: "Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Bipolar Disorder."






Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg on November 7, 2017

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What will your doctor suggest when taking lithium to treat bipolar disorder?

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