Lithium – What’s It All About?

It has had songs written about it and is probably the most commonly associated medication with bipolar disorder. I was on Lithium back in 2005 and had tea with Prime Minister of the UK while I was on it. So it worked well for me, but it seemed to ease off, and I had to switch to another stabiliser.

When you are on Lithium, you will need regular blood checks, and you will also need to make sure you eat regularly, as lack of food can cause you to nearly pass out. The reason being is because you can’t follow a low sodium diet with Lithium. A lack of salt from food intake will result in overwhelming fatigue enough to lead to a blackout. If you get this feeling, eat a packet of crisps and orange juice to bring yourself back.

Lithium was the first mood stabiliser for bipolar disorder, and in Roman times, the doctors of the era used to recommend those with mania to visit the alkaline springs. Lithium was found to reside within the waters. It wasn’t until the 1940’s it was used as a treatment for mania.


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So, where does Lithium come from, and how natural is it? Well, like many wild things, just because it’s natural does not mean you should not treat it with caution. It can be found in rocks, and people mine for it, and it is also found in springs and briny water.

Side effects

  • Weight gain can be one of the side effects, although I lost weight when I was on it.
  • Lithium’s drowsiness can be caused by lack of food, although this can be more pronounced in some more than others.
  • A tremor in your hands or any part of your body. I experienced a mild tremor in my left hand, but I also get this with Aripiprazole.
  • Weakness or fatigue can set it, and it can be overwhelming; if it impacts too much on your life, speak to your psychiatrist.
  • Excessive thirst can be an issue, and I used to drink quite a lot of water, leading to an increase in urination.
  • Some people get stomach pain, I never suffered from this, but we are all different.
  • Thyroid problems can be an issue, either causing underactive or overactive problems.
  • Memory and concentration problems can occur, although I had an increase in the amount of information I was able to work with.
  • Nausea and vertigo can be an issue. When I first started on Lithium, I did feel quite sick, which put me off of food and then led to me nearly blacking out. Hence why you need to eat regularly, even if it is something small and often.
  • Diarrhoea can be an issue for some people.

You need to have a blood test quite often initially when you start taking Lithium. It can become toxic if the level is too high for you and lead to hospital admission and even death. Hence, it is essential to measure lithium levels and why it is vitally important to keep them within the optimum range.

Some things can alter the levels of Lithium in your systems, we’ve already discussed food, but you have to careful with over the counter medicines and caffeine. It would help if you also tried to avoid becoming dehydrated, leading to a concentration of Lithium in your system. Also, avoid alcohol and sitting out in the sun for too long, as both these things will impact your lithium levels due to moisture release and a diuretic action from the alcohol.


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Lou Farrell

Welcome to the mental health blog of Lou Farrell. I am a writer and copywriter who pens all manner of articles relating to mental wellness and mental illness. I write about my own experiences and the knowledge I have gained over the years as someone who has bipolar disorder. I hope you enjoy the website :-)

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