The Brain And Bipolar Disorder
Experts believe bipolar disorder is partly caused by an underlying problem with specific brain circuits and the functioning of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Three brain chemicals — norepinephrine , serotonin, and dopamine — are involved in both brain and bodily functions. Norepinephrine and serotonin have been consistently linked to psychiatric mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. Nerve pathways within areas of the brain that regulate pleasure and emotional reward are regulated by dopamine. Disruption of circuits that communicate using dopamine in other brain areas appears connected to psychosis and schizophrenia, a severe mental disorder characterized by distortions in reality and illogical thought patterns and behaviors.
The brain chemical serotonin is connected to many body functions such as sleep, wakefulness, eating, sexual activity, impulsivity, learning, and memory. Researchers believe that abnormal functioning of brain circuits that involve serotonin as a chemical messenger contribute to mood disorders .
Can Bipolar Disorder Be Prevented
There is no known method to prevent bipolar disorder. Because its exact cause has not yet been determined, it is especially important to know its symptoms and seek early intervention. Regular and continued use of medication can help reduce episodes or mania and depression. Some people who experience bipolar disorder may become suicidal. By knowing how to recognize these symptoms, there is a better chance for effective treatment and finding coping methods that may prevent long periods of illness, extended hospital stays, and suicide.
What Are The Different Types Of Bipolar Disorder
There are different types of bipolar disorder.
What is bipolar disorder I disorder?
A diagnosis of bipolar I disorder means you will have had at least 1 episode of mania that lasts longer than 1 week. You may also have periods of depression. Manic episodes will generally last 3-6 months if left untreated. Depressive episodes will generally last 6-12 months without treatment.
What is bipolar II disorder?
A diagnosis of bipolar II disorder means it is common to have symptoms of depression. You will have had at least 1 period of major depression. And at least 1 period of hypomania instead of mania.
What is bipolar I or II disorder with mixed features?
You will experience symptoms of mania or hypomania and depression at the same time. You may hear this being called mixed bipolar state. You may feel very sad and hopeless at the same time as feeling restlessness and being overactive.
What is bipolar I or II disorder with rapid cycling?
Rapid cycling means you have had 4 or more depressive, manic or hypomanic episodes in a 12-month period.
What is bipolar I or II with seasonal pattern?
Seasonal pattern means that either your depression, mania or hypomania is regularly affected in the same way by the seasons. For example, you may find that each winter you have a depressive episode, but your mania doesnt regularly follow a pattern.
There can be some similarities between bipolar I or II with seasonal pattern and another conditional called seasonal affective disorder.
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What Can I Do To Manage My Symptoms
You can learn to manage your symptoms by looking after yourself. Selfcare is how you take care of your diet, sleep, exercise, daily routine, relationships and how you are feeling.
What lifestyle changes can I make?
Making small lifestyle changes can improve your wellbeing and can help your recovery.
Routine helps many people with their mental wellbeing. It will help to give a structure to your day and may give you a sense of purpose. This could be a simple routine such as eating at the same time each day, going to bed at the same time each day and buying food once per week.
Your healthcare professionals should offer you a combined healthy eating, exercise and sleep programme.
You can find more information about wellbeing any physical health at:www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/living-with-mental-illness/wellbeing-physical-health/.
What are support groups?
You could join a support group. A support group is where people come together to share information, experiences and give each other support.
You might be able to find a local group by searching online. The charity Bipolar UK have an online support group. They also have face to face support groups in some areas of the country. Their contact details are in the Useful contacts at the bottom of this page.
What are recovery colleges?
Unfortunately, recovery colleges arent available in all areas. To see if there is a recovery college in your area you can use a search engine such as Google.
What Is Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a chronic or episodic mental disorder. It can cause unusual, often extreme and fluctuating changes in mood, energy, activity, and concentration or focus. Bipolar disorder sometimes is called manic-depressive disorder or manic depression, which are older terms.
Everyone goes through normal ups and downs, but bipolar disorder is different. The range of mood changes can be extreme. In manic episodes, someone might feel very happy, irritable, or up, and there is a marked increase in activity level. In depressive episodes, someone might feel sad, indifferent, or hopeless, in combination with a very low activity level. Some people have hypomanic episodes, which are like manic episodes, but less severe and troublesome.
Most of the time, bipolar disorder develops or starts during late adolescence or early adulthood. Occasionally, bipolar symptoms can appear in children. Although the symptoms come and go, bipolar disorder usually requires lifetime treatment and does not go away on its own. Bipolar disorder can be an important factor in suicide, job loss, and family discord, but proper treatment leads to better outcomes.
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After Searching 12 Years For Bipolar Disorders Cause A Team Concludes It Has Many
A long-term study in more than 1,100 people yields a new seven-factor framework that could help patients, clinicians and researchers.
Nearly 6 million Americans have bipolar disorder, and most have probably wondered why. After more than a decade of studying over 1,100 of them in-depth, a University of Michigan team has an answer or rather, seven answers.
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In fact, the team says, no one genetic change, chemical imbalance or life event lies at the heart of every case of the mental health condition once known as manic depression.
Rather, every patients experience with bipolar disorder varies from that of others with the condition. But all of their experiences include features that fall into seven classes of phenotypes, or characteristics that can be observed, the team reports in a new paper in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
The team, from U-Ms Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program, collected and analyzed tens of thousands of data points over years about the genetics, emotions, life experiences, medical histories, motivations, diets, temperaments and sleep and thought patterns of research volunteers. More than 730 had bipolar disorder, and 277 didnt. Three-quarters were active research participants in the Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder.
The Prechter program is named for a Detroit automotive pioneer who fought bipolar disorder even as he built a successful business.
Age Of Father At Conception
It sounds wild, we know, but stay with us here. In one study of over 6,800 people with bipolar disorder, after adjusting for several possible contributing factors , fathers who were in their mid 50s and older were six times more likely to have a child with bipolar disorder than men who were in their early 20s.
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Mental Health Treatment Locator
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides this online resource for locating mental health treatment facilities and programs. The Mental Health Treatment Locator section of the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator lists facilities providing mental health services to persons with mental illness. Find a facility in your state at www.nimh.nih.gov/findhelp.
Living With Bipolar Disorder
Teens normally face ups and downs with school, family, work, and friends. Dealing with bipolar disorder at the same time is a very difficult challenge. One 16-year-old reader who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 14 wrote to us about the experience:
“I had mood swings that were the worst anyone could have ever seen. My poor parents thought I hated them, but really I was sick and didn’t even realize it. But now I am on medications for my disorder and I live a pretty normal life. My family and friends support me, and they, along with my therapist, have helped me get to the point where I am today. I just want other teens to know that even though it is hard at times to be bipolar, things will get better.”
If you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, taking your medications as prescribed, reporting any changes in how you feel or function, and participating in therapy will be key to living a successful life. In addition to treatment, making a few lifestyle changes, such as reducing stress, eating well, and getting enough sleep and exercise can help someone who is living with the condition. And many teens find it helps to join a support network such as a local support group for people with bipolar disorder.
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What Role Does Environment And Lifestyle Play In Bipolar Disorder
Along with a genetic link to bipolar disorder, research shows that children of bipolar parents are often surrounded by significant environmental stressors. That may include living with a parent who has a tendency toward mood swings, alcohol or substance abuse, financial and sexual indiscretions, and hospitalizations. Although most children of a bipolar parent will not develop bipolar disorder, some children of bipolar parents may develop a different psychiatric disorder such as ADHD, major depression, schizophrenia, or substance abuse.
Environmental stressors also play a role in triggering bipolar episodes in those who are genetically predisposed. For example, children growing up in bipolar families may live with a parent who lacks control of moods or emotions. Some children may live with constant verbal or even physical abuse if the bipolar parent is not medicated or is using alcohol or drugs.
Could A Concussion Have Caused My Bipolar Disorder
I wasn’t always like this. At one time in my life, I was the happy-go-lucky kind. I saw the good in everything and everyone. Everything had a silver lining. I was not this shell of a person I have become. I was always walking around with a smile on my face, and I rarely felt depressed and hardly ever felt anxious. I had friends, an awesome boyfriend, who I later married, and a great job with awesome coworkers that were more like my second family than just my peers. I woke up every morning with a purpose and most of all I laughed! I had a great life! One that anyone would be happy with. I loved to read, go for walks, go out for drinks with my friends and boyfriend, go to movies, and loved to cook. It was a passion of mine.
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Brain Structure And Gray Matter
Some evidence suggests people with bipolar disorder have less gray matter in certain parts of the brain, including the temporal and frontal lobes.
These brain areas help regulate emotions and control inhibitions. A lower volume of gray matter may help explain why emotion regulation and impulse control become difficult during mood episodes.
Gray matter contains cells that help process signals and sensory information.
Research has also linked the hippocampus, a part of the brain implicated for learning, memory, mood, and impulse control, to mood disorders. If you have bipolar disorder, your hippocampus may have a lower total volume or a slightly altered shape.
These brain differences may not necessarily cause bipolar disorder though. Still, they offer insight on how the condition might progress and affect brain function.
Family history can certainly increase the likelihood of developing bipolar disorder, but many people with a genetic risk never develop the condition.
Various factors from your surrounding environment offer another point of connection to consider. These might include:
- personal experiences
- external stress triggers
- alcohol or substance use
Research shows that childhood trauma is a risk factor for bipolar disorder, and is associated with more severe symptoms.
This is because strong emotional distress in childhood might affect your ability to regulate your emotions as an adult. Childhood trauma can include:
Other possible environmental factors might include:
Possible Genetic Causes Of Bipolar Disorder
Over the historical course of bipolar research, scientists have mostly concluded that bipolar disorder is an inherited disease. The data shows that the following aspects of bipolar run in families:
- Same history of psychiatric hospitalizations
- Bipolar and obsessive-compulsive disorder occurring together in individuals
- Same approximate age of onset
- Same approximate number of episodes characterized by mania
- Same approximate frequency of manic episodes
- When one twin has bipolar disorder, the other twin has a 70% chance of having it.
- With one parent having bipolar, the chances of the child having it goes up 10-15%, but with both parents having it, the child’s chances are 30-40%.
With these familial similarities in mind, scientists have been looking for exact genetic markers that always show up when someone has bipolar disorder. A genetic marker is simply a gene that has a known location on DNA and can be used to identify inheritable traits. While no specific gene stands out so far as the one that always causes bipolar, the following genomic variants each have been identified in groups of people who have the disease.
Currently, tests available online are promoted as answers to the question of whether you have bipolar. At this time, there is no scientific evidence that these tests do any such thing. They do identify whether you have a specific gene, but that gene may or may not find expression in bipolar or any other psychiatric disorder.
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Any Other Factors That May Contribute To Developing Bipolar
As we described earlier, experts have good reason to believe that biology is mainly to blame for bipolar disorderin particular, specific areas in the brain that over- or under-produce particular brain chemicals.
However, its possible that certain environmental factors may trigger the disease in those who were already susceptible. Thats not to say that youd get the disease if you werent predisposed to it in the first place.
But its conceivable that bipolar could lie idle, only activating if certain factors arise. These may include:
Stressful events. Highly disturbing happenings like divorce, experiencing a death of a family member, or losing a job can set off a bipolar incident. Also, people whove experienced a traumatic event like sexual or physical abuse, neglect, or death of a parent early in life have an increased risk of bipolar later.
Sleep disturbances. Research found that 25% to 65% of people with bipolar had experienced a social rhythm disruptionscience speak for daily routines that can impact the sleep/wake cyclebefore an episode of mania.
Drugs and alcohol. More than 60% of people with bipolar disorder abuse alcohol or drugs. The classic chicken/egg questions arises here , and the answer is, its likely bidirectional. That is, people with bipolar take more risks, which allows for more alcohol and substance abuse, which may lead to brain and social stressors that increase the likelihood of the disorder.
Conditions That Can Co
Many people with bipolar disorder also may have other mental health disorders or conditions such as:
- Psychosis. Sometimes people who have severe episodes of mania or depression also have psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions. The psychotic symptoms tend to match the persons extreme mood. For example:
- Someone having psychotic symptoms during a manic episode may falsely believe that he or she is famous, has a lot of money, or has special powers.
- Someone having psychotic symptoms during a depressive episode may believe he or she is financially ruined and penniless or has committed a crime.
Some bipolar disorder symptoms are like those of other illnesses, which can lead to misdiagnosis. For example, some people with bipolar disorder who also have psychotic symptoms can be misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. Some physical health conditions, such as thyroid disease, can mimic the moods and other symptoms of bipolar disorder. Street drugs sometimes can mimic, provoke, or worsen mood symptoms.
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Possible Biological Bipolar Disorder Causes
Scientists who study the biological causes of psychiatric disorders assume that they are caused not only by genetic variations but also by brain chemistry and structure. In short, they see the biological roots of the disease as a genetic predisposition as acted on by the forces of nature. It’s still unclear how much is determined by the genes and how much by what happens to the person through their lifetime. However, researchers have identified the following associations between biological differences and the presence of bipolar disorder.
Neurotransmitters are the chemical substances that carry messages within the brain. They include serotonin and norepinephrine, among others. When these neurotransmitters aren’t functioning properly, they can lead to the onset of bipolar disorder.
Onset or Flare of Certain Medical Conditions
A few medical conditions have been closely associated with bipolar disorder. People who have these conditions are much more likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. For example, bipolar seems to precede or occur simultaneously with multiple sclerosis in a significant percentage of people with MS. Another disorder that seems to be preceded by bipolar disorder is Cushing’s syndrome. Cushing’s is a metabolic disorder that also features high blood pressure and obesity.
Hormonal changes, such as those following pregnancy may also be associated with the onset of bipolar disorder.
Alcohol or Drug Use