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B12 and mental health

Many symptoms of B12 deficiency are debilitating but I have been stunned by the lack of knowledge of this condition within the mental health community. Sadly our health professionals are simply not taught enough, or at all, about the impact low B12 can have on mental health.

Depression can be one of the first presenting symptoms of this condition. Many health care professionals would be shocked to learn that B12 deficiency can also cause psychosis. 

The Neuropsychiatric symptoms of B12 deficiency can precede the development of anaemia.

Having a diagnosis of bipolar or Alzheimer's means that patients may be firmly pigeon-holed and very rarely assessed again. B12 deficiency is commonly misdiagnosed as various mental and physical health conditions due to the lack of education on this subject. For more information on misdiagnoses and causes please explore the site. 

Please read the Case studies of Paul, Sara and Tom.

Exposure to toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and cyanide deplete B12 and victims may present with depression and psychosis. Please see B12 the Antidote page. 

Of course there are many causes of poor mental health but ruling out B12 deficiency and other nutritional deficiencies is essential.  Many undiagnosed patients are isolated from society, estranged from loved ones, quietly deteriorating whilst being fed cocktails of antidepressants, anti psychotics and mood stabilisers, some of which deplete B12 levels further.

It is important to note here that folate deficiency can also have a serious impact on mental health, many drugs are known folate antagonists, depleting this vital companion to vitamin B12.

For anyone who thinks they may be B12 deficient, please see the 'What to do Next' page.

If you are struggling to access testing and treatment the 'writing to your doctor' page and this link may help.

The connection between mental health and B12 deficiency is staggering and yet it appears screening is rarely carried out within the NHS.

My experience of trying to help mental health patients to acheive a diagnosis or the correct level of treatment is met with a reluctantance to even acknowledge a link between B12 deficiency and poor mental health. This is despite the connection between B12 deficiency and psychiatric manifestation being well documented. This link was discovered in the early 1900's by Dr. Melvin Hector and Dr. John Burton.

There is a dire need for all health professionals to educate themselves regarding this devastating reality especially when the patient in front of them is pleading for more B12 injections than the 4 per year most patients in the UK are allowed. B12 is a not a drug and it cannot be overdosed. 

An undiagnosed or under treated deficiency means that the protection for nerves and spinal cord is deteriorating. The myelin coating is being stripped away affecting and brain function and all body systems. This continues on whilst the prescribed psychiatric drugs simply modify symptoms.

Imagine being sectioned due to this condition? Psychosis is a common symptom, but unless your GP or psychiatrist are aware that Vitamin B12 deficiency, coeliac disease and thyroid dysfunction can cause this you may never be tested.

How many young mothers are misdiagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's simply due to the fact that it is not widely understood just how important it is to screen for a physical cause for this illness?

New mothers presenting with post natal depression could be B12 deficient, either due to nitrous oxide use during labour, or as a result of an undiagnosed deficiency worsened by the growing baby's demands on diminished supplies.

How many patients with eating disorders are left without this essential vitamin?

GPs should be screening patients for any physical cause for their mental health problems, however due to ignorance, this is routinely overlooked.

There are 1000's of journals on the connection between B12 deficiency and poor mental health please see Pubmed or other journal sites for more info but in the mean time;

Click here for a pdf of medical journal links on B12 deficiency and psychiatric disorders.

Click here for a pdf of medical journal links on B12 deficiency and Post Natal Depression

Below Information supplied with kind permission of Sally M. Pacholok R.N. and Dr. Jeffrey J. Stuart.

Among the most common psychiatric symptoms seen in people with B12 deficiency are the following:

  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Psychosis
  • Mania
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Apathy
  • Personality changes
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour
  • Violent/aggressive behaviour
  • Schizophrenic symptoms
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in taste, smell, vision, and sensory/motor function which can mistaken for psychiatric problems
  •  

Post natal depression

Tests that could save a mother's sanity and a child's life.

More research is needed to determine the incidence of B12 deficiency in women with post natal depression or post natal psychosis. In the meantime, we believe that all women diagnosed with post natal mental illness should undergo screening, including serum B12 and urinary MMA tests. Pregnancy can dramatically worsen a pre-existing B12 deficiency, because B12 is transferred to the growing foetus throughout pregnancy, and prenatal vitamins contain only sixteen micrograms of this nutrient (compared to the 1,000 micrograms needed to treat deficiency). Pregnant women at greatest risk for deficiency include vegans and vegetarians, those with autoimmune pernicious anaemia or malabsorption syndromes such as Crohn's disease (an inflammatory intestinal disease) or coeliac disease, and those with a history of gastric bypass for weight loss, strict dieting, anorexia, or bulimia. However, any women who develops symptoms of mental illness following pregnancy needs B12 screening.

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