Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar spectrum disorder (BSD), previously known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that results in significant and severe changes in mood, energy, activity levels and ability to carry out routine tasks. These shifts are more severe than the normal ups and downs that most people experience. There is no single cause of bipolar, yet it tends to run in families.

Core symptoms include episodes of both depression and mania, in a cyclic pattern.

Depressive episodes are characterized by:

  • Persistent sad or negative mood
  • Loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness
  • Sleeping too much or too little, or early morning awakening
  • Decreased energy, fatigue or feeling “slowed down”
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

Manic episodes are characterized by:

  • Abnormally elevated mood and/or inflated self-esteem
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Increase in goal-oriented activity
  • Grandiose notions, ideas or plans
  • Increased talking or pressured speech
  • Racing thoughts; inability to “turn off the mind”
  • Poor judgment and risk-taking behavior
  • Irritability or aggression

There are at least four distinct types:

  • Bipolar I disorder
  • Bipolar II disorder
  • Cyclothymic disorder
  • Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (NOS)

The distinction between the types is related to the severity of the symptoms; some people experience mild mood swings while others have trouble staying out of hospitals and/or jails.

Left untreated, bipolar disorder wreaks havoc on self-esteem, relationships, job performance and school performance

  • 39% of people with bipolar disorder end up being hospitalized—more than any other mental illness
  • People with bipolar disorder are 15 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population

Misdiagnosis And Improper Treatment Is Common

Bipolar disorder is often mistaken for (exclusive) depression and/or ADD/ADHD because some of the symptoms are very similar. A physician’s ability to make the distinction is critical. For example: when someone with bipolar takes the wrong medication, such as a stimulant for ADD, their symptoms and cycling can be dramatically worsened. This makes it very important to “look” at the brain with SPECT imaging. If we don’t look, how do we know exactly what we’re treating?

Unsurprisingly, many people with bipolar disorder wind up “self medicating” with alcohol and/or drugs, which further damages their brain while aggravating behavioral and relationship issues.

The Importance Of Brain SPECT Imaging In Bipolar Spectrum Disorder

Even though bipolar disorder is usually quite responsive to treatment, people with this condition typically have poor compliance with their treatment regimen. Often when their symptoms improve, many feel so normal they do not believe they ever had a problem to begin with and stop taking their medications or supplements.

Brain SPECT imaging helps:

  • Enhance one’s understanding of bipolar disorder
  • Increase treatment compliance by providing actual pictures of brain activity changes
  • Reduce emotional pain by showing that symptoms and behaviors are biologically based, not imaginary
  • Identify co-existing problems or other conditions that need addressing; some research studies suggest that as many as 50% of those with bipolar disorder also have ADD/ADHD
  • Monitor treatment progress over time

Why We Are Different And How We Can Help People With BSD

The Amen Clinics Method—developed through 26 years of clinical practice—uses a detailed clinical history, SPECT imaging to understand brain function, neuropsychological testing and laboratory studies to target treatment specifically to your brain using the least toxic, most effective means.

85% of patients treated with the Amen Clinics Method experience improved quality of life after just 6 months of treatment!


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