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Information on Vitamin B-12 & Bipolar Disorder

By Emma Cale

Three different types of bipolar disorder exist. In type 1, previously called manic depression, individuals experience full-blown manic episodes and major depression. Type 2 bipolar disorder does not manifest mania; instead patients experience less intense periods of high energy oscillating with milder depressive episodes. A third form of bipolar disorder is called cyclothymia, which is characterized by mild mood swings. Vitamin B-12 deficiency often has an emotional and psychological component -- research documents mood swings, depression and in some cases mania -- later attributed to low vitamin B-12.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

In type 1 bipolar disorder, manic episodes resemble extended high periods characterized by excitable energy, little to no sleep, unrealistic evaluation of one’s abilities, and unfocused ideas and thoughts. In the manic phase, patients with bipolar disorder engage in high-risk pleasure-seeking behavior involving rash spending, reckless and often unsafe sex, and participation in impulsive business ventures. Depressive episodes include lethargy, constant anxiety, disinterest in sex, and suicidal thoughts or attempts. Type 2 and cyclothymia patients manifest lesser degrees of these symptoms.

B-12 Deficiency Symptoms

A deficiency in vitamin B-12 often presents emotional and psychological symptoms. These include confusion, depression and dementia, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Jim Haggerty, M.D. of the online mental health and psychology network “Psych Central,” identifies the B vitamins as mood regulators; vitamin B-12 deficient individuals may experience symptoms similar to bipolar disorder such as depression and anxiety.

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Research

Over the years many studies have acknowledged the presence of vitamin B-12 deficiency in bipolar disorder cases. A February 1984 study published in the “American Journal of Psychiatry” related the case of mania that manifested in a patient that vitamin B-12 supplementation immediately resolved. A December 2000 study conducted by University of the West Indies researchers and published in the “West Indian Medical Journal” found the symptoms in a diagnosed type 1 bipolar disorder patient improved dramatically following vitamin B-12 supplementation. More recently, a September 2009 study conducted by Medical University of South Carolina researchers and published in the “Journal of Psychiatric Practice” partially attributed a patient’s psychosis to vitamin B-12 deficiency, and subsequent supplementation alleviated some symptoms significantly.

Caveat

While these studies certainly underscore the importance of vitamin B-12 and nutrition in bipolar disorder, the condition does require medication and supervision by a qualified mental health professional. Speak to your doctor or health care provider about the role vitamin B-12 might play in the treatment of your condition if you have bipolar disorder.

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