Research Topic: Bipolar disorder
Collaborators: Vincent, Cecily
Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that consist of emotional highs (e.g. mania) and lows (e.g. depression). Between acute episodes, the majority of patients return to normal moods, but a number of patients continue to exhibit troubling symptoms.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health:
● Average onset for men - 25 years old
● Usually diagnosed during late adolescence to early adulthood
Bipolar I disorder: The patient has had at least one manic episode that may be followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes.
Bipolar II disorder: The patient has had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode.
Cyclothymic disorder: not as extreme as Bipolar I & II disorder; the patient has had at least 2 years - or at least 1 year in children and teenagers - of multiple periods of hypomanic symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms
Mania and hypomania:
Mania is more severe and it causes more noticeable problems at work, school and social activities (e.g. poor decision making, unusual talkativeness, decreased need for sleep, increased energy, etc.)
Major depressive episode: Depressive symptoms that are severe enough to cause noticeable difficulty in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships. (e.g. depressed mood, loss of interest, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, etc.)
Causes & Risk Factors
Several factors influence the likelihood of bipolar disorders, including
● Biological differences: Those with bipolar disorder appear to have physically different brains
● Genetics: Bipolar disorder is more common in those who have a first-degree relative with the condition
● Pay attention to warning signs: Address the symptoms early, so you can prevent the episodes from getting worse.
● Avoid drugs and alcohol: The use of drugs and alcohol can worsen the symptoms.
Lithium: In the 1940s, researchers found that when injecting guinea pigs with Lithium, the pigs would immediately relax and calm down. Consequently, when given to manic patients, their manic symptoms subsided and the moods of patients stabilized, allowing them to return to relatively normal lives. Lithium itself may not have a strong enough effect though; additional treatments may be required for other symptoms and conditions.
Valproate: Originally designed as an anticonvulsant to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder, valproic acid has been found to be effective in treating bipolar disorder. It is thought to reduce and alleviate manic episode by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) present in the brain, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that blocks certain brain signals by attaching to a protein in the GABA receptor, decreasing activity in the nervous system and producing a calming effect.