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Healthline Connects

Bipolar Spectrum Disorder Updates



While depression is the leading cause of disability in the world, new studies coming out of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggest that we need to readjust our thinking about bipolar disorder. As a multi-dimensional problem, they suggest it should be considered a spectrum disorder (like Autism). Reporting the results of a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, NIMH reports that up to 97% of the 9,282 adults participating in the study had co-morbidities of anxiety, depression, or substance abuse disorders and were in treatment for those problems rather than the bipolar disorder.

Researchers reported that many participants were receiving the wrong treatment for the illness: only 40% were receiving a mood stabilizer, anticonvulsant or antipsychotic. NIMH researcher, Kathleen Merikangas, Ph.D., stated that such a "...high rate of inappropriate medication use among people with bipolar spectrum disorder is....potentially dangerous because use of an antidepressant without the benefit of a mood stabilizer may actually..." make things worse. Dr. Merikangas and her colleagues fear that bipolar spectrum disorder is masquerading as other illnesses in clinics around the world and clinicians are missing opportunities to treat people appropriately.

Even with underreporting and lack of recognition, NIMH estimates that 5.7 million US citizens suffer from bipolar disorder. While all of us suffer mood swings, the changes in personality, behavior and energy are disabling in people with the disorder, especially children. Not everyone responds to the medications described above. Researchers are hoping that new findings from the first Genome-Wide study of the illness will yield promise for individualizing treatment options. Researchers involved in the NIMH Genetics Initiative Project report that "...the likelihood of developing bipolar disorder depends...on combined effects of many different genes in the brain..." Researchers are focusing on the DGKH gene that is active in the pathway where lithium works its magic in the brain. Advances in genetic technology are allowing researchers to scan thousands of genes at one time to detect variations. The variations influence the likelihood of a person getting an illness. Genetic researchers can compare test subject variations against healthy subject variations and against another gene pool of similar ancestry in a different part of the world to test the validity of their findings.

Finally, five famous bipolar people to think about today:
  1. Hugo Chavez, Presidente of Venezuela
  2. Kurt Cobain, suicide (maybe) musician
  3. Florence Nightingale, nurse and health reformer
  4. Jimi Hendrix, (Seattle has a high suicide rate)
  5. Vivien Leigh, actress

Thank you otfrom, for use of the photo, Mad Multi Manic Camera Toss.
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The Healthline Editorial team writes about the latest health news, policy, and research.

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