Monday, February 18, 2008

Chemical Signature of Bipolar Disorder

Genetic research continues to explain mental illness.
Recent news of findings from the University of Cambridge in the UK and the National Institutes of Mental Health in the US found that people with Bipolar Disorder have a distinct chemical signature in their brain.

For those individuals who experience Bipolar Disorder, the origin appears to be in the balance of "excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters", which malfunction in sending signals to the brain. The study also explains why certain medications like Lithium and Depakote work by restoring the balance of these neurotransmitters.

The article is here in the journal of Molecular Psychiatry .

I think in time, mental illness will be renamed something like "Neurobiological Illness".

What do you think?


Beachwriter said...

I have read somewhere that bipolars tend to deal with neurological pain. It took 7 years for me to be diagnosed. I was told that I had MS, Lupus, and Fibromyalgia due to the complaining of severe chronic pain.

Then diagnosed with bipolar and how depression hurts - I still think that there is a chronic ailment there somewhere. I lost my mobility to walk at one time, Couldn't lift my right arm and so on.

I had an MRI and am fine. Go figure!

Laura Collins said...

I think it is already time to start calling all mental illness neurobiological illness!

OHN said...

I have never understood why any mental illness is thought of as anything but biological or molecular. To me it is obvious that some wiring or pathway or whatever isn't connecting or transmitting or something. The key is to find what corrects that, whether it is medication or therapy or WHATEVER! I would love to see someone spend a little money to do honest research into the components of the brain that cause different disorders and remove the stigma of "mental illness" from our society.

patientanonymous said...

Love it, love it, love it!

Well, you know I don't love my Bipolar, Deb. However, I am loving more research in this area. Bring it on.

If I may be somewhat egregious and mention something to beachwriter, there is an issue with the Mind-Body Connection where Psychosomatic Illnesses can occur.

My sister has Fibro and has also dealt with Depression as an example. There have also been noted links between several physical conditions and Apsergers/the Autistic Spectrum, the latter being Neurological Disorders.

For some things--we just may have not come that far yet.

Personally, I have dealt with gastrointestinal problems all my life. There has been no known cause medically for this (well, nothing diagnosable as illness-based.) Mind-Body Connection? I do not know.

Indeed, it is neurobiological. Bipolar is one of the greatest mental illnesses where heritability is also a factor.

Raine said...

Thats awesome news to read.Thank you for posting it. I think I will be printing this one out. I have a new blog. feel free to link it after reading the first post

Casdok said...

I think it would be great if mental illness was called something else as people hopefully would have a better understanding and manybe not confuse it so much with mental/learning disability.

Meow (aka Connie) said...

I agree with Casdok ... the title "Mental Illness" give these illnesses a stigma, and they should all be renamed.
What an interesting article.
As you may or may not know, my Sister in Law has Bipolar, so this subject has a special interest for me.
Hope you are well, Deb.
Sorry I haven't been by for ages.
Take care, Meow

Barbara said...

I don't know what to think, but I am uspet that my niece has had my great nephew, age 5, diagnosed at bi-polar and a few other things. SO now he's drugged. I spend a few hours a week with him and he is, in my opinion a very normal, yet strong-willed, boy. It breaks my heart that he's been labeled this way so young when in reality its most likely his mother who has issues. :(

Anonymous said...

This article does not prove a 'genetic' element for bipolar disorder at all. There are huge limitations to the study as there always are; namely, medication-history of the patients could not be controlled for with the available samples, and the mood state at the time of death was unknown.

If I'm happy today and sad tomorrow, how much do you want to bet my NTs would look different if compared between days. Chicken and the egg.

The fact that patients would like to find an outside source or reason for their difficulties [and I don't discount that they have difficulties in any way] does not surprise me, nor does it surprise me that biology is the trend right now. It is so much easier for research to be funded, for patients and their families to absolve themselves, and for psychiatrists to feel like legitimate scientists.

I recommend reading "Daggers of the Mind", by Dr. Gordon Warme. It is very enlightening.

Nancy said...

Dr Deb,
if beachwriter is right..then could I now be 'bipolar'? It's been one year since my back surgery and just got the devastating news I have permanent sciatic nerve damage due to the delayed needed second surgery one year ago this next month.
I am sick of being in pain...I don't know if it 'bipolar or depression' but I know I need to find a therapist to pull me out of this dark whole. Do you think anyone in this CRAZY world is immune from 'mental illness?

Deb said...

Dear Beach,
The mind and the body are so interconnected. But I am glad that you are all right now. The important thing is to know how emotions, neurobiological illness and medical issues can connect.

Dear Laura,
I agree.

Dear OHN,
Yup, would help take away the stigma - and make it a REAL medical illness.

Dear PAtient,
Seems more and more these days mental illness is finding links to genetics, biology, chemistry and physiology. All things medical!

Dear Raine,
Will check your new home out.

Dear Casdok,
Sometimes names *are* misleading.

Dear Meow,
Always wonderful to see you my dear. I agree, changing names would help take stigma out of the picture.

Dear Anon,
I disagree, but to each his or her own. Technology and research show us more and more that mental illness is neurobiological.

Dear Nancy,
I think for you, your back pain is the primary source. As a result of your slow healing and limitation, depression comes as a result. It might not be a bad idea to see if some antidepressants can help with the depression. And in turn, maybe that could help the back pain. I assume you are working with a back specialist...perhpas he or she can recommend a pain management specialist or psychologist to try to address the secondary depression. I think we are all open to mind and body issues. I just hope you can find relief.


Mel Avila Alarilla said...

It's nice to read articles about bipolar disorders. It sheds new light to this intriguing disease. Thanks for your informative post. God bless you and your family always.

The Lone Beader said...

Bipolar?? Hmmm... I don't know ANYone like THAT. LOL.

Nancy said...

Dr Deb, I am working with a back specialist and pain managemant but you are 100% right with finding someone who can help me with 'secondary depression'. We are one the mind and the body..i just started a meditation CD. It is new to me, I like it and I think it will help.

Scott said...

Interesting! And it's strange because I just wrote a post on bipolar a few days ago, called "Dear Professor Kraepelin,"

Marj aka Thriver said...

Yes, I vote for a new name. And out with the stigma!

dawn said...

I hate the word mental illness. There are so many negative connotations associated with that word. A re-name would definitely be a step in the right direction to extinguishing stigma.

Lily Strange said...

Lithium is the only med I can tolerate. And even with the damn weight gain which I needed like a hole in the head I'll stick with it. It's good to not be so paranoid all the time and to not feel like my head is full of buzzing, angry bees.

Michael D. Miller, MD said...

Hi Deb - I like your blog and this post. Explaining to people the biological basis for many psychological conditions is something I've done for many years. It is something that I expect to discuss on my blog as it relates to health coverage and policy decisions. (I’ve started a new blog - - as a forum for discussing health policy topics, with an emphasis on the intersection of clinical and economic factors in the US healthcare system. From looking at your blog, I think you may find some of my posts interesting.)

Also, I’ve put your blog on my “blogroll” -- and if you want to put my blog on your site, that would be great too.

Thanks & Best Wishes, Mike

Deb said...

Dear Mel,
Anything to help take stigma is good by me.

Dear Lone,
It's good info to know.

Dear Nancy,
I hope you can get some relief. So hard to be in chronic pain.

Dear Scott,
I'll have to swing by and check it out.

Dear MArj,
Yup, it's time.

Dear Dawn,
The old way of describing neurobiological illness is very stigma producing!

Dear Lily,
I also suffer with weight gain with my antidepressants....but my depression is nearly non-existent, which is life enriching. Sometimes we have to find trade offs, y'know?

Dear Dr. Mike,
Welcome and thanks for you comments. I will definitely blogroll you and visit as well. Always fun to find a like minded professional with which to network.


sara said...

I would much rather a name involving "neurological" than "mental," which still implies a weakness of will or something.

STAG said...

The problem with a name is that it ALWAYS becomes stigmatized. I once refered to a clock as "retarded", and people around me thought I was saying the clock had a mental illness of some sort. No dudes, the clock needs to be turned ahead!

At least saying somebody is "neurobiologically unbalanced" is a step up from saying they are "crazy". I give it a decade before kids in the schoolyard start calling other kids out of step by phases like, "you are NBU man!".

So what's in a word? Well, Adding "clinically" to a complaint somehow makes it more socially acceptable. If you are depressed, then snap out of it. If you are clinically depressed, then you have a problem which can be solved. A prisoner who is "unstable" gets treated a lot diffently than a prisoner who is "clinically unstable."

Anonymous said...

Great that you raised the possibilty of renaming so called mental illnesses or not calling them anything at all.

It is an apalling stigma and any individual who says they have "bipolar disorder", "cyclothymia", "ultradian" or other rapid cycling disprders must apologetically explain their symptoms.

Bobgsmith said...

I think it is already time to start calling all mental illness neurobiological illness!

the very first time I have even heard of "neurobiological illness, but i like it

been treated for about 9 years now.