As you may know, May is mental health month.
And as such, it’s a good time to talk about symptoms of mental health disorders, don’t you think? We want to increase understanding and dispel stigma which will help people who suffer gain better access to the help they need. Stigma is steeped in ignorance about something someone doesn’t understand. In addition, the global circumstances of these last few months have impacted the mental health status of so many. So let’s use this month to broaden understanding and better equip us to respond to ourselves and those around us. So here’s something to talk about: A new way to differentiate bipolar depression vs. unipolar depression may be emerging.
Leading Cause of Disability
The leading cause of disability in the world today is not heart disease or cancer…it’s depression. Depression is that common. We talk about severe depression and we talk about bipolar depression. When you see someone with either of these conditions, they may look rather similar from your vantage point, but they’re actually two distinctly different conditions.
When we diagnose someone in this depressed state, it can be difficult to determine whether they suffer from major depression or bipolar depression, unless they have a history of mania or hypomania to determine the difference.
Unipolar depression and bipolar depression don’t feel the same…but they do sort of look the same.
Which is why a doctor asks whether you’ve had times when your mood was elevated, you felt energetic, hyperactive, maybe irritable, angry… and overly confident…all at the same time?
For this reason, so many with bipolar disorder are first diagnosed with major depression, especially those with bipolar II disorder, since their symptoms include far more depression than hypomania.
When you first see a psychiatrist about your depression, it’s important to be patient. Because some of your symptoms may not have emerged yet…and you may appear to have unipolar depression. Then later, mania or hypomania emerges, and your doctor may change your diagnosis to bipolar disorder, along with your prescriptions.
Because of the challenge of diagnosing someone accurately who has a low mood, researchers have been seeking a means of using some sort of biological markers to determine scientifically the proper diagnosis and character of the depressive symptoms.
Something that would differ in patients with unipolar depression from those with bipolar depression. Possibly brain activity. Or maybe proteins in the blood? Possibly genetics?
Exploring Bipolar Depression vs Unipolar Depression
An interesting study conducted by Brain and Behavior Foundation researchers, led by Mary Phillips, Ph.D., performed with a relatively small group of subjects, suggests a way your doctor might differentiate the two disorders clinically to aid in accurate diagnosis.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), full brain scans were conducted on a group that included 18 bipolar patients who were in bipolar depression, 23 depressed patients who’d been diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD), and another 23 who were healthy without a diagnosed disorder.
It’s unfortunate that their study involved so few, and also that 90% of those with bipolar disorder were diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, leaving only 10% who had bipolar I disorder. A more evenly distributed group might have told us more.
Even so, they did make some significant observations.
The working memory system is used by the brain to maintain, manipulate, and update information that is associated with tasks that are presently at hand. When the networks of nerves in this system are damaged, learning – reasoning – and decision- making ability can be disabled.
This is particularly true in those with mood disorders, like depression.
So, the researchers gave each participant an easy task and a difficult one, while the participant was undergoing an fMRI brain scan. The design of the tests was to highlight that people form expectations about a task before they fulfill it.
A person might feel the task will be easy, so there’s little stress in performing it. But if he expects the task to be difficult, his stress increases before he begins.
It turned out, that there were patterns of neural (brain cell) activation in the medial and lateral areas of the prefrontal cortex, that were related to how easy or difficult a task would be.
Mechanism Defends the Person with Bipolar Depression From Emotional Pain
The researchers reported that people with bipolar disorder may actually block anticipation of a negative experience to avoid experiencing negative emotion while performing a task. That basically people with bipolar disorder seem to have a built in defensive mechanism to help protect them from negative emotions.
So enlightening. People with unipolar depression don’t do this. They feel what they feel. But those with bipolar experience such damage from their negative emotions.
Let’s add to that, that both of these disorders can often end in suicide, unfortunately. Even so, it’s more common in bipolar disorder.
There are traditional medicines for people with these disorders. And those medicines do help a lot of people.
But not all.
For that reason it’s important to seek help until you find treatment that helps you feel better, function better, and live a rewarding life.
IV Ketamine Doesn’t Differentiate Between Bipolar Depression vs Unipolar Depression – It’s an Extraordinary and Robust Depression Treatment
At Innovative Psychiatry, we offer IV ketamine treatment to help you experience relief from severe depression that prescriptions haven’t helped…. And for bipolar depression that is unrelenting in spite of prescription medications.
IV ketamine treatment isn’t effective with mania or hypomania. But the mania or hypomania is easier to manage and treat without bipolar depression. This treatment can be exceptionally effective for both unipolar and bipolar depression. In fact, it can be utterly life-changing.
And… in regard to the risks of suicidal thoughts, IV ketamine treatment can erase those thoughts in an afternoon. A few hours. And if you’re not plagued by thoughts of death and dying, you’re a great deal freer to work toward healing, restoration, and joy.
In this current global crisis, suicides have been increasing, among those with disorders, healthcare workers, physicians, and more.
IV ketamine can save lives by removing thoughts that lead to suicide.
Let us help you find your joy again, and your hope. The current global crisis is temporary, but it has affected the outlook of millions. The good news is that joy can be restored, and hope can return. You can feel resilient, and equipped for what life has in store.
We’re here for you, and we’re working within a safety protocol so you can be treated without fear.
Better days are ahead.
To the restoration of your best self,
Lori Calabrese, M.D.