Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston conducted a study to take a closer look at how the brain is impacted by the presence of mood disorders like bipolar disorder. Through the use of magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, and other methods that measure brain volume, it was discovered that the hippocampus is impacted by the presence of conditions like bipolar disorder.
The brain’s hippocampus, which is believed to be responsible for the formation of memories and mood processing, was found to have less volume, or be smaller in quantity, when participants in the study were suffering from bipolar disorder. In fact, researchers found that those who suffer more manic episodes showed a greater decrease in the volume of the hippocampus when compared to individuals who suffered from more depressive episodes or those who were said to be diagnosed with a depressive disorder.
This study’s findings are especially helpful because it allows for more research to be conducted on how mental illnesses impact the structure and functioning of the brain. It is also hoped that through findings such as these, individuals will eventually be able to receive more accurate diagnoses for mental health conditions, and thus receive more effective forms of treatment. If it is possible to track the changes that occur in the brain when a person is suffering from an illness like bipolar disorder, it is possible that treatment providers will be able to monitor if certain types of interventions are beneficial or not when helping individuals find relief from their psychological strife.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition in which individuals experience significant mood swings that include bouts of mania, as well as periods of depression. Currently, the rate of bipolar disorder among Americans is roughly 4.4%.
It is important to know that there are multiple factors that can influence the onset of bipolar disorder symptoms. And while most individuals have some sort of genetic history of this illness, physical changes in the structures of the brain, certain chemical imbalances, and environmental stressors can trigger the onset of this condition.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a number of different symptoms that one can experience when bipolar disorder is present. Additionally, there are different types of bipolar disorder that can impact a person’s life. Depending on the symptoms present, an individual may be diagnosed with one of the following:
- Bipolar I – Bipolar I is an appropriate diagnosis for an individual who has experienced at least one manic episode that is either followed or preceded by major depressive episodes. A manic episode can involve heightened emotional excitability, decreased need for sleep, decreased appetite, and poor impulse control.
- Bipolar II – This type of bipolar disorder involves one major depressive episode that has lasted for a period of at least two weeks, as well as at least one hypomanic episode lasting for a duration of four days or more. Significant mood swings are a common sign of this form of bipolar disorder, though hypomanic episodes are said to be less severe than episodes of mania.
- Cyclothymic disorder – Cyclothymic disorder involves periods of depression and hypomania that last for at least 2 years. Those with this condition are said to not experience episodes of either of these mental states, but rather constant cycles of depression symptoms and hypomania.
When symptoms of these disorders are present, an individual is likely to experience a great deal of emotional upheaval if care is not sought. With treatment, however, a person can resume healthy functioning and acquire the skills needed to manage his or her symptoms more effectively.
The Importance of Research for Bipolar Disorder
Because bipolar disorder is such a common mental health condition, it is imperative that research is continuously being conducted so that a stronger understanding of this condition can be established. Thanks to the research team out of the University of Texas, more factual information and findings regarding this condition have been unveiled. With efforts such as these, those who are grappling with bipolar disorder might be able to receive an earlier or more accurate diagnosis, which would then allow those impacted by this illness to obtain the care they need.
In the meantime, as research continues, there are a number of treatment options available for those who are faced with this mental health disorder. Most commonly, those who have bipolar disorder will likely partake in some form of therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychoeducation, interpersonal therapy, social rhythm therapy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Additionally, medications are also often provided to help restore balance within the chemical makeup of the brain. These medications can include mood stabilizers, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and/or anti-anxiety medications.
At Cross Creek Hospital, we are here to help you or your loved one learn to manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and can offer the interventions and support needed to stabilize the symptoms of this illness. Let us help you or an important person in your life develop the skills and confidence needed to become well again.