Hemochromatosis-induced bipolar disorder: a case report.

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2011 May 27. [Epub ahead of print]


NESMOS (Neurosciences, Mental Health and Sensory Functions) Department, School of Medicine and Psychology, Sapienza University, Sant’Andrea Hospital, UOC Psychiatry, Via di Grottarossa 1035-1037, 00189 Rome, Italy; Department of Neuropsychiatry, Villa Rosa; Suore Hospitaliere of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Viterbo, Italy.



A patient presenting with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, bipolar disorder was found to be affected by high iron hemochromatosis. This prompted us to explore the relation between bipolar disorder and iron overload.


We report the case and review the peer-reviewed literature focusing on mood symptoms in patients with hemochromatosis or iron overload. Animal studies of brain effects of iron overload are summarized. High iron hemochromatosis was confirmed by genetic testing, and treatment was instituted to address iron overload.


Patient’s bipolar symptoms completely subsided after phlebotomic reduction of iron overload.


Clinicians should explore the possibility of iron overload and seek genetic confirmation of hemochromatosis in resistant bipolar disorder to avoid unnecessary medication.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Hemochromatosis is an inherited disease in which too much iron builds up in your body. It is one of the most common genetic diseases in the United States. 

Iron is a mineral found in many foods. Your body normally absorbs about 10 percent of the iron in the food you eat. If you have hemochromatosis, you absorb more iron than you need. Your body has no natural way to get rid of the extra iron. It stores it in body tissues, especially the liver, heart and pancreas. The extra iron can damage your organs. Without treatment, it can cause your organs to fail. 

The most common treatment is to remove some blood, just like when you donate blood. This is called therapeutic phlebotomy. Medicines may also help remove the extra iron. Your doctor might suggest some changes in your diet. 

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


  1. I have just been diagnosed with Hemochromatosis (3 days ago) and have received my first phlebotomy this morning. It is very new to me however I have been suffering from rapid cycling Bi-Polar for many many years 13+ in the ever worsening rapid cycling form and am resistant to all medications so far. As time passes, it has only worsened. Having read this study, I am very hopeful for the first time since the mental diagnosis that my mood disorder can only improve as the toxic levels of iron are reduced. The best thing is that the treatment for Hemochromatosis does not require me to take any medication. The years of nearly every drug have been simply awful and brought me to hell so many times not to mention the long periods spent in hospitals.

    I know that the phlebotomies are essential and am very happy to proceed – an easy thing compared to the all over illnesses I have been suffering. Even if the condition is not the cause of the bi-polar, at least my physical health will now improve, so less pressure on the mental side of my health. It will be interesting to see the progess and with that in mind I intend to keep a diary as my iron overload is reduced to monitor improvements both physically and mentally. I am really still trying to come to terms with this condition but only in a positive way as I had heard the word before (family members who have it) but never actually knew what it was or that it was hereditary!

  2. http://www.jopm.org/perspective/narratives/2011/03/28/psychosis-possibly-linked-to-an-occupational-disease-an-e-patient%E2%80%99s-participatory-approach-to-consideration-of-etiologic-factors/

    Hi Anne,

    Here is a link to a narrative I wrote that was published in the Journal of Participatory Medicine. I had lead and chemical poisoning from long-term chemical exposure working in a printing company. I went through chelation therapy and had major improvements. Keeping a journal is a great idea and I have no doubt your health will improve quickly. Take care, Maria

    1. Dear Mariam, Thank you and I will read the link later. Exhausted following the phlebotomy, but I was exhausted before it 😉 I really have no problem with having the regular phlebotomies as I am sooo looking forward to getting well. I am glad to hear that you had a good response from your treatment too. But it is scary to think that one is battling against everyday life and that the reason that it is sooooo difficult to perform simple tasks is because of an undetected toxin in ones system that works away silently even as one sleeps! This is all new to me as I wrote and therefore the diary is mainly for me to monitor progress on a number of markers e.g. tiredness, stomach pain and swelling, muscle pain, joint pain/mobility, vomiting, dysphoria, insomnia…..all good fun. But wouldn’t it just be sooo wonderful if these symptoms reduce as the treatments progress. Many thanks X

  3. Dear Anne,

    I had the same flu-like symptoms when I first started intravenous Chelation therapy.

    Because Chelation pulls out essential nutrients, I was also taking a lot of vitamin supplements.

    It took 10 weeks before I started feeling physically well.

    Intravenous Chelation pulls metals from the tissues and binds with them and is then excreted out of the body in the urine. A 24-hour urine analysis confirmed lead and other toxins were being excreted.

    As sick as I was feeling, I knew in the long run it was doing me good.

    Hang in there!

  4. Dear Maria,
    Thank you for your comments. I really don’t mind the phlebotomies at all and indeed look forward to them going forward as they are healing. Luckily, my disciplines were/are, Physiology, Bio-Chemistry and Organic Chemistries. I know that my cognitive reasoning will improve as my ferritin levels start to reduce and eventually get back to normal functioning levels you see. Had to have a specific topic to concentrate my further studies on and sure now I have it. My post-grad studies can be focused using all the disciplines I love and enjoy!

    Though I must start for the first time in a very long time, to focus on what will be my primary focus and that is the hereditary nature and incidence of iron overloading. Scientific method cannot be tarnished by looking only for the answers one wants. And equally, data should not be statistically manipulated in order to prove that which one wants……Tis skewed!

    In your particular circumstance, please note that there is absolutely NO possibility that you are incorrect! If a chelating agent is removing toxins > norm levels, it has to be concluded that you had a toxic state. Furthermore, there is ample data available regarding the effects of toxins and brain chemistry and Mental Dis-orders. Easy peasy. Toxicity reduction via chelation = mental stabilization v Medication = Zero improvement!

    I am only starting this path. I have sooooo many wonderful dear friends who and for whatever reason do suffer severe mental dis-orders and I will never stop loving them 🙂 even though they do not have recourse to anything other than the newest and latest concoction of physco mess up drugs!

    Not all meds are bad though. I have a son with Theophylline induced depression and he is getting on extremely well on his anti-depressant.

    There is nothing wrong with knowledge once it is employed objectively. The dangers with me at the moment are that I am not stable and will not be for quite some time. I therefore have to respect my own limitations and knowledge deficits in so many areas. The more I learn. the less I know!

    Thank you again Anne-Marie X

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