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How Are lithium & Valium used to treat bipolar disorder?

Updated February 21, 2019

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a psychological disorder classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as having both depression and mania symptoms. Depression symptoms include feeling worthless, thoughts of suicide and problems sleeping. Mania symptoms, on the other hand, include euphoria, lessened need for sleep and excessive energy. Patients who have mainly mania symptoms have bipolar disorder type I, whereas patients who have more depression symptoms have bipolar disorder type II. Regardless of the type of bipolar disorder the patient is diagnosed with, she can still have drastic mood changes. Medication is often used to manage these symptoms and minimise the risk of rapid switches between moods. Lithium and Valium are two different types of medications that treat symptoms of bipolar disorder, mainly symptoms of mania.

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Lithium is a mood stabiliser drug. Lithium is primarily used to treat the symptoms of mania and is usually the first form of medication prescribed to bipolar disorder patients. The exact mechanism of how lithium works is not known, but lithium does lessen the mood swings from bipolar disorder, which is why it is categorised as a “mood stabiliser.” In many cases, bipolar disorder patients take lithium for the rest of their lives to manage symptoms.


Valium is another medication that is used to treat bipolar disorder. Classified as a benzodiazepine, Valium works by acting on the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. However, bipolar disorder patients should be wary when using Valium as benzodiazepines can be addictive. Alcohol also acts on the GABA receptors, so patients with a family history of alcoholism have a higher risk of addiction to benzodiazepines. Valium can help relieve anxiety and is usually combined with another bipolar disorder medication, such as a mood stabiliser, atypical antipsychotic or antidepressant.

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About the Author

Lia Stannard has been writing about women’s health since 2006. She has her Bachelor of Science in neuroscience and is pursuing a doctorate in clinical health psychology.

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