Bipolar disorder is a disorder of mood regulation and has a number of known causes, there are also a number of theories that can help explain how the illness occurs.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
There are symptoms of mania and symptoms of depression.
Symptoms of mania are really associated with not only an elevated mood but a change in energy and sleep and impulsivity and those really are the hallmark symptoms.
Not sleeping, not tired energized productive sometimes creative and elevated sometimes an irritable mood those really are hallmark symptoms.
The flipside is really looking for a depression and this is where most patients with bipolar disorder live they spend more time depressed than they do manic or hypomanic.
That mood change depressed mood not enjoying things we look for a sleep pattern most commonly sleeping too much with a profound sense of feeling slowed down and depressed.
When thinking about the causes of bipolar is to appreciate that it is a very complex condition.
In fact many authorities recognize it is the most complex of all psychiatric conditions as a result of this complexity there are many known causes and theories to explain the condition.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
The brain is made up of very large numbers of cells that form a complex network of brain circuits.
These circuits have various functions and act together so that the brain as a whole functions as a complete mind consciousness.
Mood is complex and affected by many things both outside the body, inside the body and inside the brain.
day to day experience tells us this since bipolar disorder is a dysfunction of mood regulation it stands to reason that there are many brain circuits involved in this problem.
A simpler way of looking at this is to consider all of these brain circuits acting as a mood thermostat.
However unlike the thermostat of the house which tends to be in one particular room the mood thermostat is linked to many biological functions in the body and the brain.
The result of this is that when different circuits go wrong varying mood states can occur such as mania, hypomania, depression and all the associated feelings that can go with them.
Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that help brain cells communicate with each other.
The neurotransmitters involved in bipolar disorder for example dopamine has a role in both hyper mania and depression and as a result. drugs that affect dopamine levels can play a role in treating these.
Gaba and glutamate also play an important role.
Gaba is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter that acts to calm down brain cells, making it harder for them to fire.
Sedative drugs and anti epileptic drugs both affect gaba systems, glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain.
When glutamate levels are too high it is thought that the brain cells and brain circuits can become damaged.
Lithium and sodium valproate commonly used mood stabilizer influence the levels of gaba and glutamate.
The insides of brain cells are also extremely complicated , there are different structures within the cells that have particular functions such as protein generation, energy production and the reading of the genetic code.
There are chemical circuits within cells that act to communicate between these structures known as organelles and also act to communicate information through the cell when chemicals act on receptors in the cell membrane.
There are a number of different defects in a variety of these circuits and connections between them that are known in bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is passed between generations as a genetic illness how this happens is complex as there are a number of genes implicated in the condition.
It is also the case that different people with bipolar disorder may express these genes differently and this may be why there are different types of bipolar.
your genes do not act alone in determining who you are, they are also affected by the environment and how your brain is developed over time to determine how your mind works.
If you have a mental illness then it can be caused by any of these aspects. research in both animals and humans show that stress can have an impact on us from within the womb whilst we are babies and as we develop in childhood.
These are thought the epigenetic processes that become long-standing changes in our resilience throughout life.
Everybody with Bipolar knows that stress can play an enormous role in the illness, managing your stress is often the key to staying well.
Biology tells us that stress and our resilience to it is determined by genetic, epi genetic and environmental factors as we develop.
Adrenaline and cortisol of the most well-known hormones and when their production is excessive and chronic it can lead to both mental and physical problems.
The increased rates of heart disease strokes and cancer in bipolar disorder is probably mediated through this means.
Many studies have now shown that lots of chemicals called cytokines, usually produce in infections are markedly increased in bipolar disorder.
This inflammation is known to affect certain neurotransmitters and also how the brain grows.
The inflammation seems to affect certain chemical processes in the brain cells responsible for gluing the brain together as a whole. these are known as a glial cells.
Serotonin usually the main treatment pathway used by antidepressants are blocked by this inflammation and this could be the reason why antidepressants are so often ineffective in bipolar depression.