Bipolar Brain Chemistry
The central nervous system is a collection of cells within the brain specialized to send specific signals throughout the body in order to relay the messages necessary for proper functioning. The way these cells, also called neurons, communicate with one another is through the process of releasing neurotransmitters. A balanced proportion of neurotransmitters are crucial for a healthy functioning mind. In situations where the neurotransmitters get out of sync by becoming too prevalent or sparse within the synaptic clefts, a wide spectrum of mental illness can be the result.
Manic-Depression, also known as Bipolar disorder, is an example of the malfunctioning neurons responsible for the regulation of certain neurotransmitters. Through a critical analysis of this glitch in the system, one can attempt to further understand one aspect of the bipolar brain, as well as understand how certain medications may work to alleviate symptoms.
In order to understand the effects of said malfunctions, it is vital to brief crash course in what it means to be bipolar. This disorder is typically characterized by periods of intense mania, followed closely by deep, unadulterated depression with “mixed” periods sprinkled throughout. Manic periods are characterized by intense feelings of euphoria. This may seem like a positive, however these phases typically lead to bouts of impaired judgment. Behaviors can become grandiose in nature and look extremely hyperactive. The person may have raised libido, want to stay up all night, and exhibit overall decreased inhibition. The depression that follows these bouts of ecstasy comes quickly, and they are both dark and unforgiving. Individuals with bipolar disorder lack a middle ground; so if left without treatment they have no place that is not all good or all bad. Due to the risks taken during mania, and the heightened risk for suicide with mania, bipolar patients are actually expected to live 9.2 years less than the average person (National Institute of Mental Health).
It is the periods of deep, dark depression that often lead to misdiagnoses of severe depression. Out of the context of the prior manic state, the depression appears to be nothing more than depression. However, if bipolar disorder is treated as depression, the severity of the manic state, which can often be just as incapacitating as the depression, is being completely ignored. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may help with the symptoms of depression in bipolar cases, however it will not entirely alleviative them, and will also not take into account the other symptoms. It is crucial to consider all facets of the disease, because without pervasive, effective treatment, the illness can lead to suicide in nearly 20% of cases (Goodwin, 1990).
A study published by University of Michigan found that people with bipolar disorder have an average of 30% more of a vital class of cells responsible for relaying...