Previously, we have discussed the important role that lithium plays in the treatment of bipolar disorder. In that post, we talked about how a study showed that lithium alone or combined with valporate significantly reduced the number of relapses in bipolar patients. This was especially significant because it was found that lithium could help patients better manage their disorder, which could in turn help them to better manage their daily lives and jobs. Although the treatment worked, researchers could not say what it was about lithium that counteracted the effects of the mental disorder. Now, a new study helps to suggest why lithium works so well and how this discovery may help to create additional treatment options and better understand the development of bipolar disorder.
Researchers from Seoul National University examined the effect of lithium on twenty-two medication free bipolar patients from McLean Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, or the University of Washington, as reported by the Boston Globe. The participants were given a dose of either lithium or valporate, while a control group of fourteen healthy individuals received no medication. All of the participants received MRIs and clinical evaluations over a four month period. At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that those taking lithium had a three percent increase in grey matter, which is the part of the brain that regulates thinking and perception, as well as mood regulation. The participants taking the lithium also reported an improvement in their moods. Those taking valporate had better moods, but they did not have an increase in grey matter. The control group reported no changes at all. The researchers concluded that lithium’s effect on increasing the amount of grey matter may help to counteract the development of bipolar disorder, as well as dementia. Hopefully, this study will open the door for further research into how grey matter can be increased and to what extent it can be generated to completely prevent the onset of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Treatment with Lithium and Social Security Disability
While this is an exciting discovery, some people may wonder what effect taking lithium may have on receiving Social Security Disability benefits. Because lithium helps to prevent relapses in the disorder and may manage moods better, individuals may be concerned that an Administrative Law Judge will see lithium therapy as a way that they can return to work. The fact is that although lithium may help the disease, it is not a cure, and people taking the medication will still experience manic episodes. Plus, there are side effects to consider; lithium side effects can cause bipolar patients issues in the workplace as well – sometimes making it impossible to work at all.
Bipolar disorder is defined as a disability by the Social Security Administration despite the treatment options available. Make sure that your doctor has recorded your treatment and your response to therapy. Although it may make your relapses less frequent, it does not mean that your are no longer disabled.