What Causes Bipolar Disorder? New Study Sheds Light

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What Causes Bipolar Disorder? New Study Sheds Light

bipolar causes

Bipolar disorder has been recognized by mental health professionals as early as the first century. Originally known as manic depression, experts changed the name of the illness in the 1980s when it was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The mental health condition, characterized by dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, energy and ability to think clearly, affects nearly six million Americans. And up to 56 percent of all bipolar patients have experienced substance use issues at some point in their lives.

Yet despite these numbers, there’s still a lot of unknowns and misinformation about bipolar disorder. For instance, many experts link bipolar disorder to genetics, brain structure and brain functioning; yet the exact cause is still unknown.

After a 12-year-long study, scientists at the University of Michigan have found not one, but seven possible risk factors. Of particular interest, the researchers discovered that people with bipolar disorder were more likely to have co-occurring eating disorders, anxiety disorders and substance use issues. And many study participants with bipolar disorder also experienced some sort of childhood trauma.

Here’s a look at the seven “phenoclasses,” as the team dubbed them:

  • Changes in cognition, including thinking, reasoning, and emotion processing.
  • Psychological dimensions such as personality and temperament.
  • Measures of behaviors related to substance use or abuse—called motivated behaviors.
  • Aspects of the person’s life involving family, intimate relationships and traumas.
  • Patterns of sleep and circadian rhythms.
  • Measures of how patients’ symptoms change over time and respond to treatment.

“There are many routes to this disease, and many routes through it,” said Melvin McInnis, MD, the main author of the paper and University of Michigan Professor of Bipolar Disorder, Depression, and Psychiatry, in a press release. “We have found that there are many biological mechanisms which drive the disease, and many interactive external influences on it. All of these elements combine to affect the disease as patients experience it.”

Addiction and Mental Health Help
When both bipolar disorder and addiction are present, treatment for both disorders is essential. 
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