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The Side Effects of Lithium: My Love Affair with Water

I never go anywhere without a drink in my hand. My nosey neighbor had the nerve to ask me if I was an alcoholic.

I’m not an alcoholic. I just love ice water, huge, plastic glasses of ice water.

The lithium did that to me. Lithium carbonate, which used to be a medication of choice for bipolar individuals, is a salt. It makes you ridiculously thirsty. For over 15 years, I ingested a lot of it daily. The result was a constant, unquenchable thirst.

I don’t physically need water anymore, but I’m kind of addicted to it psychologically.

Funny, I don’t want juice or coffee or pop. I want water.

This drinking activity will be with me for the rest of my life, I’m sure.

I’m constantly on the lookout for extra-large, plastic glasses. I prefer plastic to glass. It’s safer. I find a lot of my drinking glasses at thrift stores. Huge containers meant for iced tea, they’re perfect for my water fix.

And guess what? I’m constantly going to the bathroom. If I added up how much time I spent relieving myself, I’d rack many days a year.

We can’t predict what kind of side effects will materialize from taking these psychotropic drugs for our mental health issues.

My craving for water was a benign side effect of lithium.

What lithium side effects were worse?

  • Horrible acne. For years, I endured life with enormous pimples on my face. I had acne that no acne medication could cure. I tried everything from garden variety Clearasil to oral antibiotics to expensive prescription creams. Nothing cleared up that acne except going off of the lithium.
  • Weight gain. I put on 50 pounds on this salt medication. I lost my girlish figure and became matronly before my time. Having been off lithium for ten years, I’m now still trying to take the weight off.
  • Loss of emotion. My experience with lithium was that the drug cut off my feelings. I had only a small range of emotional life. I felt happy, but not too happy. I felt sad, but not too sad. I was kind of “blah” all the time.
  • Loss of sex drive. Sex was something I didn’t care for anymore. I engaged in it for the sake of my husband and my marriage.

In short, lithium messed me up “royally,” but it did keep me from perilous manic highs and excruciating depressed lows. I guess I’m grateful that something could work like this.

I remember going off the lithium and onto divalproex sodium, another mood stabilizer.

My world suddenly became more colorful again. I had a range of emotion I hadn’t had in fifteen years. I began to enjoy sex. My skin cleared up.

But I still drink lots of water a day.

Thank goodness water is good for a person. According to healthline.com, “The health authorities commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon. This is called the 8×8 rule and is very easy to remember.”

I must drink at least three liters of water a day.

I especially love to drink water when I’m writing. In fact, it’s one of my writing rituals. Before I sit down for a writing session, I fill one of my huge iced tea glasses with ice and add H2O. Then, I sit down and sip the stuff and the ideas flow. In fact, it’s become hard to be creative without drinking water. So my love affair with water has actually helped my freelance writing career.

My love affair with water is part of who I am.

By the way, the neighbor who asked me the onerous question about my drinking habit moved away. Thanks goodness. Some people…

The Side Effects of Lithium: My Love Affair with Water


Laura Yeager

Laura Yeager has been writing for over 35 years. Some of her favorite topics include mental health, writing, religion, parenthood, dogs, and her day-to-day life. She is a mental health writer for PsychCentral.com. Her articles about writing have appeared in The Writer Magazine, The Toastmaster Magazine, writersweekly.com and authormagazine.org. Her spiritual writing has been featured in several venues including Aleteia USA, Busted Halo, The Liguorian Magazine, Canticle Magazine and Guideposts Magazine. A graduate of The Writers' Workshop at The University of Iowa, Laura teaches writing at Kent State University and online Creative Writing at Gotham Writers' Workshop in New York.


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APA Reference
Yeager, L. (2018). The Side Effects of Lithium: My Love Affair with Water. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 18, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-side-effects-of-lithium-my-love-affair-with-water/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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