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Magnesium as Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

author image Barbara Aufiero
Barbara Aufiero has been writing health-related articles since 2008, specializing in mental health and health insurance. Aufiero resides in New York and holds a Master of Arts in psychology.
Magnesium as Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Spinach is high in magnesium.

Magnesium is an important mineral that is involved in many bodily functions. One of the main functions of magnesium is to regulate nerves and muscles. Magnesium is also purported to alleviate some symptoms of bipolar disorder. Dark leafy green vegetables and whole grains are good sources of magnesium. Magnesium supplements taken orally are composed of magnesium and another substance, such as salt. Consult your doctor before taking magnesium supplements.

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Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depression because it is characterized by severe shifts in mood from mania to depression. During periods of depression, fatigue and feelings of worthlessness may occur. According to an article in the March 2006 issue of "Medical Hypotheses," depression may be manifested as a result of damage incurred by neurons when there is a lack of magnesium. Researchers found that magnesium was generally effective for the treatment of depression as well as anxiety, irritability and insomnia, which are also symptoms of bipolar disorder.


Suicide is a significant problem among people who suffer from bipolar disorder. Recurrent thoughts of death and suicidal ideation tend to occur during depressive episodes. Actual suicide attempts typically take place during manic episodes. In an interesting study published in the February 1985 issue of "Biological Psychiatry," researchers discovered a relationship between suicide attempts and magnesium levels. Specifically, psychiatric patients who made suicide attempts had lower levels of magnesium than those who did not. This finding was true among all psychiatric disorders involved in the study, namely major depression, schizophrenia and adjustment disorder.


According to "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision," manic episodes that occur as a result of bipolar disorder last at least 1 week and include at least three of the following symptoms: inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, increased talking, racing thoughts, increased activity and excessive pleasure-seeking behavior. Magnesium sulphate was found to be an effective supplementary treatment of severe manic agitation in a study published in the December 1999 issue of "Psychiatry Research." Patients with initial resistance to medication combinations of lithium, haloperidol and clonazepam markedly improved with the addition of magnesium sulphate.


Lithium is the most popular medication for bipolar disorder. Lithium decreases abnormal brain activity and can effectively treat and prevent manic episodes. Unfortunately, lithium has a long list of side effects such as stomach pain, joint or muscle pain, acne, hair loss and depression. More severe side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, slurred speech, chest pain, hallucinations and seizures. Since its chemical properties are very similar to magnesium, and magnesium has fewer side effects, supplementation of lithium with magnesium could potentially have the same impact on bipolar disorder with fewer health risks.

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