Over 5 million Americans have bipolar disorder, a serious mental illness. Its severe mood swings begin in adolescence or early adulthood usually, but it can start from early childhood to the late 50s. This psychotic illness is an extreme roller coaster ride of emotions. Manic phases involve delusions of grandeur, increased drive, and decreased need for sleep. Deep despair to the point of suicidal thoughts typifies depressive episodes. Researchers continue to unravel the secrets of the mysterious condition. Now, an unparalleled worldwide investigation has found that genetic factors play a large role in causing bipolar disorder.
Decoding Genetic Causes
Thanks to a collaboration of international researchers and an unprecedented numbers of subjects, scientists have linked two new gene regions to bipolar disorder. Science professors Dr. Markus M. Nöthen, director of the Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Bonn Hospital, Dr. Marcella Rietschel from the Central Institute of Mental Health of Mannheim, and Dr. Sven Cichon from the University of Basel Hospital directed the investigation. Nature Communications published the results, which also confirmed that three additional suspect genes contribute to this prevalent disease.
Researchers analyzed data on the genetic material of 9,747 bipolar patients and 14,278 mentally healthy people. They achieved this grand scale by merging new genetic data from 2266 diagnosed subjects and 5028 controls with existing data sets from the Institute of Human Genetics’ previous research that associated several genes with bipolar disorder. This massive search for candidate genes, suspect regions that indicate the disease, is a very challenging process. Individual genes’ contributions are so minor that scientists can’t identify them in the background noise of genetic differences normally, Cichon explained. Comparing the DNA from a very large number of bipolar patients to the genetic material from an equally sizable group of healthy participants is the only way to confirm differences statistically.
Using automated analysis methods, the researchers recorded about 2.3 million different regions in the genetic material of patients and comparators. The subsequent evaluation that used biostatistical methods revealed five DNA risk regions with bipolar disorder associations. This new investigation’s two new discoveries are the ADCY2 gene on chromosome five and the MIR2113-POU3F2 region on chromosome six. It also confirmed the connections between bipolar disorder and ANK3, ODZ4, and TRANK1 risk regions better than the prior studies that discovered them.
The researchers are especially interested in their new ADCY2 gene region finding. It codes an enzyme involved in the conduction of signals into nerve cells. This matches previous observations that bipolar disorder impairs the signal transfer in certain regions of the brain. With their successful search for genetic regions, the scientists are clarifying bipolar disorder causes.
Nöthen noted that many genes work together with environmental factors in a complex way to create severe mood changes from being on top of the world to sinking into the depths of despair. “Only when we know the biological foundations of this disease can we also identify starting points for new therapies,” he said.
Comparing Bipolar Symptoms
Bipolar disorder causes dramatic changes or extremes in mood, energy, and activity levels that interfere with your ability to carry out daily tasks. Manic periods can last for several weeks or even months. Depressive symptoms are present for at least two weeks. Usually, each of these stages subsides for a while before the other one commences. Dr. Syed Qadri, M.D., an Alegent Creighton Clinic physician specializing in psychiatry, differentiates bipolar symptoms (See video below).
Manic phases: When you experience major highs, you mood is irritable, agitated, elated, or euphoric. You may have an inflated feeling of power, greatness, or importance. Because your mind races, you’re easily distractible, can’t focus, and your attention switches quickly. You may have excess energy, exhibit grandiose behavior, and be unable to sleep. Another symptom is talking so fast that others can’t follow your thinking. Common signs also include exhibiting risky and reckless behaviors such as hypersexual activity, gambling, and shopping sprees without concern for the consequences. Impulsive behaviors including alcohol and drug abuse also may occur.
Depressiveepisodes: During major lows, your depressed and hopeless mood causes significant impairment in functioning. You may feel sad, blue, down in the dumps, or lose interest in things you enjoy normally. An inability to concentrate or make decisions is typical. You may feel slowed down or tired with low energy levels or be too agitated to sit still. Feelings of worthless, guilt, or very low self-esteem may plague you. A decreased appetite can cause weight loss. Or an increased appetite may lead to weight gain. You’re either unable to sleep or sleep a lot. Continuous symptoms may lead to thoughts of suicide or death.
Mixed episodes: Combined symptoms include mania’s excitability or agitation while feeling irritable and depressed at the same time. Or these mood swings may alternate frequently during the day.
When bipolar disorder is out of control, you’re more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs and struggle with work, school, relationships, and/or legal problems. Job loss, separation, and divorce are prevalent. Your risk for hurting yourself or others is high. Luckily, bipolar disorder is treatable. Your doctor may prescribe Zyprexa Zydis (Olanzapine) to regulate the chemical balance in your brain. It can help you avoid drastic mood swings and dangerous complications. You may take this mood stabilizer in conjunction with other antipsychotic treatments or antidepressants so you can resume a happy, healthy life.