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What Are the Benefits of Lithium for Depression?

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  • Written By: K.E. Walsh
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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Lithium is a medication prescribed to help treat bipolar disorder or manic depression. One of the benefits of lithium for depression is that it can prevent or lessen the severity of manic episodes. It can stabilize the patient's mood and reduce negative thoughts, depression and feelings of anger. Lithium can work relatively quickly to enhance the patient's mood.

Bipolar disorder and manic depression are characterized by mood swings from manic highs to depressing lows. Manic symptoms, such as aggression, euphoria, poor judgment, hyperactivity and a reduced need for sleep can be treated with lithium. In acute cases, mania can cause hallucinations and psychosis.

Many doctors use lithium for depression as a maintenance drug for patients who have manic levels of depression. It helps stabilize a patient’s mood and aids in the long-term control of bipolar disorder. By regulating a patient’s mood, his or her suicidal thoughts, anger and depression can be reduced. The use of lithium for depression has also led to fewer incidences of these manic episodes recurring.

Additionally, 70-80 percent of bipolar patients have shown lithium to be an effective mood enhancer. In about 80 percent of people studied, acute mania has been reversed by lithium. Unlike some psychiatric medications that can take four to six weeks to show any improvement, the benefits of lithium for depression can be seen in some patients in as few as seven to 14 days.

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Stopping the use of lithium for depression does not seem to show many side effects, unlike many other anti-depression medications. In addition, the use of lithium has been proved to be effective on children as young as 8 years old for the treatment of early onset bipolar disorder. Another benefit of lithium is that, when used in conjunction with other anti-psychotic medications, it can help augment the original medication's effectiveness.

Some researchers suggest that depressive illness, such as manic depression, is caused by the atrophy of gray matter from a reduction in the number and size of neurons. Research has shown that the use of lithium for depression can renew brain cells. This aids in the treatment of bipolar disorder.

Lithium carbonate is the most frequently prescribed form of lithium for patients with depression. It also is one of the more affordable medications available for manic-depression sufferers. Lithium carbonate is available in extended-release form, which helps control a patient’s symptoms over the course of the entire day. The extended-release medication also seems to have fewer side effects for users.

For those patients who are concerned about taking synthetic drugs, lithium is a mineral. Chemical salts from the mineral are used to make the medicinal lithium. It is part of the periodic table of elements and can be considered a natural medication. In many places, it is available only by prescription.

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