Bipolar Disorder


Block: 5


10-25-02


Bipolar disorder is a fairly common disease among people today. Bipolar can be simply explained as an inability to control extreme mood changes. Bipolar has many contributing factors and is a very serious disease that can lead to death if untreated.


Bipolar disorder occurs in 75% more women than men. Usually bipolar disorder can begin as early as age 5-6, but the average surface age is around 30. Bipolar only has a lifetime prevalence of 1.2%, meaning that only 1.2% of bipolar people have been bipolar all their lives. Bipolar disorder is very genetic, and in 50% of cases, the patient has a parent with a mood disorder.


Manic/depressive Illness (another name for bipolar disorder) can stem from many different roots. Trauma in childhood, or adulthood, alcoholism and drug use by the patient or parents, and genetics. Severe depression can also evolve into bipolar disorder. Your emotional health is combination of attitudes, personality, support systems and your brains neurotransmitter levels. Some one with bipolar disorder has trouble with chemical balance in their neurotransmitters. This is often referred to as a chemical imbalance. Neurotransmitters carry out the functions of the body and mind. Without them functioning properly, serious problems can occur. The neurotransmitter that mostly contributes to bipolar disorder is norepinephrine.


Norepinephrine is located inside the neurotransmitter cells. Norepinephrine in the brain goes through a cycle, which determines moods. A normal person’s cycle dumps the right amount of norepinephrine into the blood stream, keeping a constant equilibrium of the chemical inside and outside of the cells. In bipolar patients, the brain does not know how to do this. It either dumps too much into the bloodstream or too little. Also another problem that the brain has with the neurotransmitters is that this defect in the cycle is not able to quickly be regulated, resulting in quick changes in extreme moods.


Bipolar disorder is made up mainly of two kinds of moods. Mania (extreme highs) and Depression (extreme lows). Mania is a type of behavior exhibited by a bipolar patient with too much norepinephrine in their blood stream. Norepinephrine is also known as the “feel good chemical”. This is so because when you have a lot of it in your blood stream, it causes a rise in moods. In bipolar cases, this is not always a good thing. Mania can be described as being in too good of a mood. It’s extremely hard to explain what mania is like unless you have experienced it first hand, but, when experiencing mania, a person’s visions of right and wrong are completely blurred. Characteristics of mania include: increased energy, extreme euphoria, restlessness, rapid speech, increased irritability and distractibility, and poor judgement. It’s hard to imagine being in “too good of a mood” But sometimes the increased euphoria is so foreign, it makes one uncomfortable.


Depression is the exact opposite of mania, and usually follows mania. Depression occurs when there is too much norepinephrine inside the neurotransmitter cells. When not enough of this chemical is circulating through the body, the person is sent into a deep depression. Depression often follows mania because the body recognizes the imbalance of the chemicals when the person is experiencing mania, and tries very hard to correct it. More often than not, the body works so hard that it over corrects it. This restores too much norepinephrine in the cells, and not enough in the blood stream causing the person’s mood to fall. Some characteristics of depression are: persistent sadness, anxiousness or empty moods, loss of interest for things that used to be enjoyed, decreased energy, increased fatigue, change in weight, and thoughts of suicide.


One of the most stumping things about bipolar disorder is that not only are these moods so extreme, but they have no trigger. Usually with a normal person, a good mood is triggered by something good happening, such as a good grade on a test, and like wise with bad moods. In bipolar patients, these mood changes can occur within 5 minutes of the opposite mood, and for no reason at all. For example, a person can be in a normal mood, just watching TV, and can all of a sudden be overwhelmed with extreme energy or the opposite, feel a great wave of sadness come