Most of the time, a person's first thought when they think of bipolar disorder, is mood swings and being in a manic state. Bipolar disorder is not just having unexpected mood swings. It is trying different medications until you find the right one, seeing so many doctors until you find the right treatment plan, it is frustration, and it is exhausting.
Bipolar disorder is a debilitating brain disorder that causes shifts in your mood, activity levels, energy, and the ability to do every day tasks. (Bipolar Disorder, 2016) Bipolar has four different levels of severity starting with bipolar 1 disorder, bipolar 2 disorder, cyclothymic disorder, and other specified bipolar disorder. This is a very hard disease to diagnose and is often mistaken for ADHD. Fluctuations in ones mood, called mood episodes, are vastly different from moods or behaviors that one without bipolar would experience.
Bipolar 1 disorder is defined by manic episodes that last at least seven days. (Bipolar Disorder, 2016) Sometimes these symptoms get so severe that a person ends up seeking medical care from a hospital. Along with the manic episodes, there is usually a depressive episode that soon follows, and at times these are at the same time. Bipolar 2 disorder is similar, as it still has a pattern of depressive and manic episodes, but the manic episodes tend to not be as severe. Cyclothymic disorder, also called cyclothymia, is a lot of hypomanic symptoms that last for at least two years. If someone is experiencing bipolar symptoms but they don’t match the other three categories, they would be other specified or unspecified bipolar and related disorders.
Someone who has bipolar disorder is more likely to see medical help from a physician when they are experiencing a depressive episode rather than a manic episode. Along with being mistaken as ADHD, medical professionals need to keep a close eye on a person's medical history to make sure that bipolar is not mistaken as major depression. When one has bipolar, usually they also have another mental health disease that accompanies it, such as anxiety or an eating disorder.
There are, of course, many other risks that are a possibility once diagnosed with bipolar. There have been some studies that have shown that the brains of those with this disorder may be different from the brains of those with no psychiatric illness. It is also suggested that both a person’s genes and family history can contribute to the likelihood of them having bipolar. They have been looking at identical twins, since they share the exact same genes, and have found that even if one twin develops bipolar it does not mean that the other twin will. (Bipolar Disorder, 2016) Bipolar disorder, along with many other mental or physical illnesses, then to run in families. Although those with a parent or sibling that has bipolar are more likely to develop it, it is not always guaranteed that they will.
There are many treatment options out there, and the success of the treatment depends on the person receiving the treatment and how they react to it. It usually takes a lot of trial and error until you find the proper treatment option. Medications is the most common treatment option. Because bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness, medications are also a lifelong commitment. Along with medications, people usually seek out psychotherapy, or talk therapy. Psychotherapy can be very helpful, as you can talk to someone about what you are feeling and they are able to teach you coping mechanisms and get you in touch with other support groups. Some other options of treatment to try would be herbal supplements, sleep medications, keeping a record of your emotions and thoughts, and electroconvulsive therapy.
Vincent Magnotta, Ph.D. has been doing research on if people with bipolar disorder have disrupted visual processing. He has been using MRI imaging to visualize brain activity and to better understand visual processing and how it is affected in people with bipolar disorder. This research has shown that people with bipolar experience impaired visual processing during periods of both mania and depression. (Magnotta, 2018) During their study, they used forty people that have diagnosed bipolar disorder, and thirty-three people who have no history of a psychiatric illness (controls).
Magnotta had found that those who were in an euthymic state, or normal mood, reacted to the checkerboard pattern shown on the screen in front of them the same as the controls did. He noticed key differences in the brain response when he tested those who were experiencing depression or mania. Many different regions of the brain that are responsible for sensory processing, such as the visual cortex, were much less active during the different mood states than those of the controls.
B. Frey, MD, has also been constructing research on bipolar disorder. His research is focused around if there are links with white matter patterns to cognitive performance in those with bipolar. He believes that those with bipolar experience deficits in verbal learning, memory, attention, and processing speed whether they are in an episode or in an euthymic state. Researchers have more recently found that the condition of the white matter in the cerebral cortex can predict verbal memory performance in individuals diagnosed with bipolar. (Frey, 2018)
Tomas Hajek, MD, has been trying to train computers to identify a biological signature related to bipolar disorder. Researchers have been trying to do this for many years, and have already found signatures to other mental illnesses. If they are able to identify these markers, and have them scientifically validated, it is expected to made diagnosis and risk assessment more objective. (Hajek, 2018) There is a very large international team working on this research led by Frey, and they have now gotten results of an effort to use machine-learning methods to identify diagnostic markers of bipolar. They are gathering these results by using MRI imaging. They are currently working towards the goal of the accuracy of diagnosing to be at eighty percent.
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