Bipolar Disorder

Excerpts taken from:

WBD will be celebrated each year on March 30th, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was diagnosed as probably having a bipolar condition.On this day, people are asked to gain a better understanding of bipolar disorders with the aim of reducing the stigma around this condition.

Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

A team from the University of Michigan (2017 Prechtor cohort study) 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.

Evidence from family, twin and adoption studies has previously provided strong evidence of the genetic predisposition to bipolar disorder. For example, if one monozygotic (identical) twin has bipolar disorder, the other twin has a 60% chance of also developing the condition.

Some of the key findings the U-M team made in the Prechter cohort include:

  • Migraine headaches are 3½ times more common among people with bipolar disorder than those without. Eating disorders, anxiety disorders and alcohol problems are also more common in those with bipolar disorder, as is metabolic syndrome.
  • More people with bipolar disorder have a history of childhood trauma than those without the condition. It is associated with changes in self-control and attention.
  • People with bipolar disorder had higher levels of saturated fats in their diets, and the research also found associations between levels of certain fat molecules in the blood of patients and their mood or level of symptoms.
  • Looking at the microbes living in the gastrointestinal tracts of patients and comparison volunteers, the researchers found lower levels of a key bacteria type and less diversity of microbes in patients taking antipsychotic medications.
  • Poor sleep appears to play a key role in bipolar disorder, with links found to severity of depression and mania in female, but not male, participants with the condition. Other gender differences emerged in other aspects of the study.
  • People with bipolar disorder who have a strong neurotic tendency in their personalities are more likely to have severe illness, especially among men.
  • A range of cognitive abilities — including memory, executive functioning and motor skills — were poorer in participants with bipolar disorder than those without, in general. The study also found a link between the cognitive abilities of people who carried a particular genetic trait and were taking newer antipsychotic medicines.
  • Two genes, called CACNA1 and ANK3, appear to play a role in susceptibility to developing bipolar disorder. But many genetic variations have been found to be associated with bipolar risk, and more recent findings have explored the role of having a mix of these variations in the chances a person will develop bipolar disorder.
  • Stem cells grown from skin samples taken from participants, and then coaxed to grow into nerve cells called neurons, have proved useful in studying cellular aspects of bipolar disorder. For instance, neurons derived from bipolar patients’ cells were more excitable than comparisons — but calmed down when exposed to lithium, a common treatment for bipolar disorder. Also, the cells show differences in how they interact and function.
  • Key features of speech patterns predict mood states and may be useful outcome measures to predict the need for intervention to prevent episodes of mania or depression.

Some myths about BD:

Myth No. 1: Bipolar disorder is a rare condition.

Not so, according to statistics and research. In a given year, bipolar disorder affects about 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population 18 and older, according to the National Institute of Mental health.

Myth No. 2: Bipolar disorder is just another name for mood swings.

Not so. The mood swings associated with bipolar disorder are very different than those of people without the condition.

Myth No. 3: Aside from taking medication and engaging in psychotherapy or “talk therapy,” a person with bipolar disorder has few options for controlling the condition.

Not true. Medication and therapy are important. But paying attention to lifestyle can help, too. Active “strategies, such as getting regular aerobic exercise, keeping a regular bedtime, eating a healthful diet, and paying attention to personal warning signs that a shift to depression or mania is coming can all help a person manage bipolar disorder better.