Friday, February 15, 2008

Bipolar disorder is chemical disorder

According to the National Institute of Mental Health approximately 2.6% of Americans 18 years or older have bipolar disorder. Significantly, there is now further evidence that it is a brain chemistry disorder.

A study in Molecular Psychiatry reports that specific chemical abnormalities can be demonstrated, unfortunately at this point that testing seems to be confined to post-mortem. It would seem that in the future this may yield some sort of testing for diagnosis of bipolar disorder. That would be a great step forward. Those same researchers were also able to demonstrate improvement in the chemical milieu with treatment, documenting that these drugs do provide benefit. These results may also point the way for new, innovative treatments.


Anonymous said...

My unscientific observation is that bi-polar is the ADHD of adults, meaning it is a highly overused diagnosis and undermines the need for people to take responsibility for poor life choices and not chalk it up to "altered brain chemistry." This is not to say that it is not a real disease. I see bipolar diagnosed in many of the women who come to the homeless shelter where I volunteer as a nurse. Almost all of them have had histories of abuse (all kinds) and/or substance abuse (all kinds). Perhaps they have bipolar because of the substance abuse, maybe it's because they have never experienced a healthy relationship, or maybe it is indeed a chemical imbalance. (Probably it is a combination of all of those problems.) But throwing drugs at bipolar is not a true fix if you ask me. People with bipolar disorder need intense therapy/counseling to help them learn to manage their emotions and, in many cases, learn to make good life choices. And so, once again, we need better coverage for mental health issues. I fear it will never come. - Laura Hertz

Dr. Richard Keller said...

Ms Hertz

I know from personal experience that many of your statements are incorrect. Bipolar disorder is a real, profound disordering of brain chemistry and through that a profound disordering of life and life functioning.

There may be some diagnosed as bipolar who are not in fact bipolar, but to paint it as a group of people who need to “take responsibility for poor life choices” is wrong at the very least. Many of these individuals use and abuse drugs as a form of self-medication, that use and abuse does not cause the disorder. While people with bipolar disorder need “intensive therapy/counseling”, it is so they can mange their lives and brain/psychic functioning, not their “emotions”.

Yes, we do need better coverage for mental health “issues”. We also need better informed public and professionals, as well as a lessening of stigma associated with mental illness.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Keller,

I truly believe that most, children with bi-polar disorder are very intelligent, have high I-Q's, very creative and are completely bored in school!

It may be that these children make poor choices as they are not challenged enough to reach their full potential of talent or ability.

Do we just ignore this as it!
Is it to much of a hassle to deal with!

Do we deny these children the help they need, or do we let them fall by the wayside?

When they turn 18 how can a parent be proactive in their well-being, when they cannot be privy to their medical information.