Lithium remains to be the drug of choice for treating BPAD for the past few decades. There is extensive literature showing the effectiveness of Lithium when used as a mood stabilizing agent in bipolar spectrum disorders. However significant number of articles show that a third of the patients who receive lithium for their symptomology not only do not show any response but also may show deterioration of their clinical symptoms. (However, research shows that Lithium may negatively affect a third of the patients depending on various factors). The side effect profile of Lithium and especially its neurotoxic effects were discussed in depth in literature over the last decade. Although Lithium remains first choice as maintenance treatment for bipolar affective disorder, about half of all individuals may stop their treatment at some point, despite its proven benefits concerning the prevention of severe affective episodes and suicide.
The authors performed a systematic literature review to recognize the significance of negative effects of Lithium in a minority of patient population and also comment on the factors influencing patient compliance. We ran a literature search on Pubmed using the following terms: “Lithium” AND (“schizoaffective disorder [MeSH terms]” OR “Bipolar Affective disorder [MeSH terms]” ). Our inclusion criteria were studies which have observed effects of Lithium in schizoaffective patient population or bipolar affective patient population. Studies with other concurrent diagnoses were excluded.
We discuss a fifty nine year old male with a history of multiple admissions to a forensic hospital care setting. He initially endorsed a diagnosis of Psychotic disorder NOS which was later changed to schizoaffective disorder during his subsequent admissions. He presented with affective psychotic features where his mood was labile shifting from melancholic to euphoric and a concurrent history of auditory verbal hallucinations. He displayed paranoid non-bizarre persecutory delusions and also alleged that one of his doctors had hated him and put him on Lithium as a form of punishment. He claims that Lithium, as a result, has significantly affected him negatively and also damaged his nerves. This led the authors to explore the significance of use of Lithiumin people with schizoaffective disorders and also bipolar affective disorders. We also discuss the disease course in the patient and his clinical response to use of various psychotropic medications.
The case exemplifies the negative effects of Lithium when used as a mood stabilizer in patient population that is susceptible to its adverse effects due to various factors.