Archives for 

suicide attempts

Bipolar Disorder and Suicide Risk

Physical Proof and a Big Shocker – Bipolar Disorder and Suicide Risk

Bipolar HeadI read a lot of news about bipolar disorder and other psychiatric disorders (OCD, ADHD, chronic depression, borderline personality disorder, etc.).  In my reading, I came across an article that describes brain scan abnormalities in teens and young adults who have attempted suicide but I found a lot more.

A study conducted at Yale School of Medicine examined brain scans of 26 young adults and teenagers with bipolar disorder who had attempted suicide.  These were compared with scans of 42 bipolar patients who had not attempted suicide and with 45 non-bipolar subjects.  The results were not really surprising – as many research studies are not.

The bipolar patients, who had attempted suicide, showed abnormalities when compared to the other two groups, specifically in the  which showed “less integrity”.

Frontal lobe animationThis means that the frontal lobe (which controls impulses) is not as “connected” to areas that control emotion, motivation and memory.  Researchers indicate that the brain abnormalities may disrupt the ability of the impulse control mechanism to filter emotion and motivational messages appropriately.

In short this means that those patients can’t stop negative emotions and impulses to do something drastic… like attempt suicide and not surprisingly, less integrity or more abnormality – likely means more suicide attempts.

While it is good that they are discovering some physical proof of actual defect, eventually to move bipolar disorder into a category that can be scientifically documented, it doesn’t offer a lot of real-life solutions.  Most of us who are bipolar or know someone who is bipolar, know that there is something wrong or at least different about our brain…and it only makes sense that a person, who is trying to kill himself, is probably a little worse off.

As usual, I found myself thinking “…and… the point is…” which I often do when I read a synopsis of a largely inconsequential research study but then something caught my eye.  It was something that was a lot worse than I thought – statistics.

About 4 percent of Americans are afflicted with bipolar disorder, though sometimes we feel like it is others who are afflicted.  That is not surprising either.  Some groups show a slightly lower percentage at about 2.6 percent of the population.

Bipolar SuicideWhat surprised me was the statistic regarding suicide.  The article – that is from a reputable source – indicates that 25 to 50 percent of people with bipolar disorder are likely to attempt suicide and that 15 to 20 percent are likely to succeed.  Wow.  I didn’t know that.  Funny thing that I didn’t know since of the 20 or so bipolar people I have been close friends with at one time or another – at least four of them are dead.

When searching for confirmation (which I found from the NIH that about 1 in 5 bipolar patients complete suicide), I also found a number of additional shocking statistics:

  • Bipolar disorder results in a 9.2 year reduction in lifespan
  • Bipolar disorder is the 6th leading cause of disability, worldwide
  • Bipolar disorder is found in all races, ethnicities, ages, genders and socioeconomic groups
  • A child with one bipolar parent has a 15-30% chance of having the disorder
  • A child with two bipolar parents has a 50-75% chance of having the disorder
  • There are 3.4 million CHILDREN with depression in the US but up to one-third of those kids may actually have bipolar disorder
  • Bipolar disorder criteria have likely been met for at least 1 percent of all adolescents

Maybe these aren’t shocking for you.  Maybe you already knew all this – but maybe you didn’t.

I have known I had bipolar disorder for a long time – and have known a lot more people with bipolar disorder and I didn’t know all this stuff or maybe like everything else, I chose not to remember.

Food for thought; Take your medicines!

Melissa Lind

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

So, what causes Bipolar disorder?

It appears to be an interplay of genetic and physiological factors, coupled with stressful triggers, that causes Bipolar disorder…

Bipolar doctor

Manic depression, also called bipolar disorder, causes severe mood swings that can last for weeks or even months.

Everyone feels happy or sad sometimes. For someone with manic depression, however, these mood swings are much more intense. Scientists have not identified a single factor what causes bipolar disorder. Instead, it may have one or more of several different causes. These may be broken down into genetic, environmental and physiological causes.

There are three types of manic depression.

Bipolar Type I is characterized by at least one manic episode. A manic episode is a feeling of intense elation, restlessness and loss of inhibitions and over-activity. Sufferers during a manic episode may sleep for only three or four hours a night if at all.

Bipolar Type II, where there may be frequent episodes of depression with only mild manic episodes (called hypomania). Rapid cycling involves four or more mood swings over the period of a year.

Finally, there is Cyclothymia, where the mood swings last longer but they are less severe.

Genes is considered to be a contributing factor.

If one of your relatives has manic depression, there is a reasonable chance that you will develop it, too. Chromosome numbers 6 and 8 appear to have been implicated. Children of bipolar parents have an eight percent chance of developing the condition, compared with one percent in the general population.

A chemical imbalance in the brain may cause the disorder. Nerve signals travel from one neuron to another by way of chemicals called neurotransmitters. These include norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. It is possible that excess levels of norepinephrine may cause a manic episode.

During a depressive episode, levels of this neurotransmitter may be excessively low. The picture, however, is not that simple, as there are other neurotransmitters involved.

Mood swings can also be triggered by stress. Abuse; either physical, emotional or sexual, may trigger an episode. Bereavement or the breakdown of a close relationship may also be a trigger.

Not all stressful triggers are negative experiences. A positive change, such as a marriage or a birth can also make a contribution.

Once diagnosed, the condition can be treated or controlled, although certain risk factors may trigger a recurrence. Failure to comply with medication carries a high risk of recurrence, as do alcohol or drug abuse. Other risk factors include poor support systems. For example, the lack of caring friends or relatives or an erratic lifestyle.

Manic depression can lead to psychosocial disturbances.

For example, Bipolar Type I and Bipolar Type II are associated with a high absentee rate at work. There is also a higher rate of suicide attempts and hospital admissions with these conditions. While both conditions have high rates of attempted suicides, Type II sufferers seem to have fewer hospital admissions than Type I, and consequently miss fewer days at work.

So, what causes bipolar disorder? It appears to be an interplay of genetic and physiological factors, coupled with stressful triggers.

Complying with medication, adopting a stable lifestyle, and developing healthy coping strategies, may all keep the condition under control.

It is essential to consult a medical professional and not attempt self diagnosis.