bipolar parent

Antibiotics Linked to Manic Episodes

Have you ever taken an antibiotic and felt more manic? There might be a reason for that.


Credit to user Iqbal Osman. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

Researchers have found a link–not cause and effect, mind, just a link–between antibiotics and manic episodes in people with mental disorders. Robert Yolken and a research team at John Hopkins University reviewed medical records of patients treated for mania, major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia at the Sheppard Pratt, a psychiatric hospital in Baltimore. The scientists also surveyed over five hundred controls–people without mental disorders–about their antibiotic use.


What they found is shocking. In the manic patients, 7.7 percent were taking antibiotics, compared to 1.3 percent of the controls. This is a more than a fivefold increase in the odds of being in the mania group. However, only 4 percent of the people hospitalized for bipolar depression and 3 percent of the people hospitalized for schizophrenia were taking antibiotics.

Yolken’s team examined whether the place of infection, such as the mouth, skin, or respiratory system correlated with hospitalization, and determined that the site of the infection didn’t seem to matter.

There are several ways that antibiotic use could impact psychiatric symptoms. The infection itself could lead to inflammation. Or the antibiotic could kill off good bacteria, which could also lead to inflammation.

The research team is conducting more studies to see how this link works. For example, one study is examining whether suppressing inflammation in the gut will reduce the recurrence of manic episodes.