Bipolar disorder (manic-depression) is a neurological disorder influencing mood. Without treatment, people afflicted by this disorder demonstrate extreme emotional fluctuations throughout their lives. Yet despite (or perhaps as a result of) the unusual intensity of the bipolar emotional roller coaster, many people with this disorder have been widely regarded as leaders and high achievers in a variety of fields of endeavor. A closer look at bipolar disorder seems to reveal a cycle of extremes from almost "superhuman" endeavor to utter voids of activity or motivation.
Emotional states associated with this disorder differ in magnitude and severity when compared to "normal" emotional states. "Happy" and "sad" do not seem to be the appropriate terms to describe what a person with manic-depression feels. A person with this disorder can swing from profound feelings of elation (mania) to feeling a little less elated (hypomania) to desperate feelings of hopelessness and helplessness (depression).
An important characteristic for true Bipolar Disorder is that individuals have episodes of severe clinical depression as well as having the highs. In the depressed phase, people tend to develop melancholic or psychotic depression. In such episodes, the individual feels a profound lack of energy, an inability to get out of bed or even have a bath or shower. They lack any sense of pleasure in life and they can’t be cheered up. Their concentration is impaired and they often report their brain as feeling ‘foggy’. They’re commonly physically slowed or agitated and they generally experience their mood and energy levels to be far worse in the mornings.
Now we’re going to talk about the causes of Bipolar Disorder. So, why do we need to know the cause of Bipolar Disorder? Knowing will clearly help prevent the illness, aid diagnosis and hopefully, provide us avenues for better treatment. The causes of Bipolar Disorder can be considered in two groups: those that work their way out from inside, and those that work their way inside from without. Considering the first, we can list these as: genes, chemistry and the hormones in our bodies. The cause that we most often hear about is that of genes. These provide the recipes for the make-up of proteins. Proteins ultimately affect the brain, body and our behaviour – in essence, us. Similarly, the body and the environment can, surprisingly, alter genes. In Bipolar Disorder, the fraction of risk that can be attributed to genes is probably around 50% or less and the remainder is made up by environmental influences. A number of possible genes have been identified and the effects of treatments are also being explored. Many exciting developments have occurred, particularly in Bipolar Disorder and now we’re moving on from examining genes that cause the illness to, perhaps, specific aspects of Bipolar Disorder itself, perhaps even, being able to predict response. Environmental and demographic factors that are important...