If you struggle with bipolar disorder, and the symptoms that seem to dominate your life, it may help you to know that many psychiatric disorders don’t really come with a list of predictable symptoms.
If you have times when you’re short-tempered, highly energetic, sure of yourself, and quick to argue, you may have a mood disorder…or you may have had a frustrating week at work… And so goes the conundrum. You may feel like you’re low on energy most of the time, or find it hard to identify purpose for your life. How do you know if you’ve got something going on? How can you get a clue? It may seem far-fetched, but can genetic clues really predict bipolar disorder and schizophrenia?
We look for clues all the time–little signs and symptoms that herald bigger problems to come. If you have all that going on… and it seems to run in cycles… depression interrupted by periods of energy, over-confidence, a strong drive to win arguments… then periods when you can only think about dying…or ending your life yourself… Well, chances are, this may be more than a bad week at work. In fact, you should probably see a good psychiatrist in your area to help sort it out — because you may have a disorder. And if you do, treatment can help.
So, let’s say maybe you feel intrigued to talk someone you just met into having risky sex with you…or maybe you’ve lost touch with the limits of your credit cards and feel inspired to do lots of shopping or travel and splurging. Maybe spending money gives you exhilarating feelings, but you feel like you’re accomplishing so much– and …you don’t notice this is out of character for you. You think it’s great.
Your Disorder May Display Different Characteristics Than Someone Else’s
People with bipolar disorder don’t usually display all the symptoms, but they do display some of them. Whether it’s something like getting frustrated that leads to a major blowup and rage…and display of super human strength… or something like feeling untouchable and indestructible that leads you to do things that are so risky (so incredibly fun!) that the adrenaline just courses through your veins. Rather than feeling fear per se, you feel exhilarated — and want more of that feeling.
Let’s look at it this way…
If you contract a virus, something like the common cold, it’s easy to predict your symptoms, isn’t it?
Sneezing and a runny nose is how it starts.
If it’s a particularly nasty cold, you might even have a fever. Then, the runny nose gives way to a stuffy head, maybe a cough or a scratchy throat, and you just feel awful. So predictable. We can pick up on the first inklings
But some psychiatric disorders aren’t quite so easy to pick up on.
So Many Symptoms – Who Can Tell?
Sure, there’s depression. Everyone knows what that is…right? Or maybe not… If you broke a nail right before a black tie event, that may seem depressing. But we’re not using the word appropriately when we say that. Because major depressive disorder (MDD) is a disorder… i.e., an illness. Grab your file and smooth out that nail. It won’t interfere with your fun at all. But if you have MDD, it’s not likely you’ll be able to have a very good time. Depression just takes the fun out of everything.
At the same time if you shopped for the event, spent your entire month’s earnings on an outfit for the affair, and left yourself with pretty much nothing to live on or pay bills with until your next paycheck, it’s pretty clear you used poor judgment. And poor judgment is not a disorder. It’s merely doing something risky that seemed like a good idea at the time …but a tough decision to live with the rest of the month. On the other hand, poor judgment can be a symptom of a disorder.
Oh. Like when?
So can explosive outbursts. Fits of rage. Or destruction of property. Again, they can be, but of themselves aren’t necessarily signs of a disorder. So it begs the question: are there clues that predict whether a disorder is in the making? Are there genetic clues that really predict bipolar disorder and schizophrenia? Well… the answer is sometimes. And maybe.
(This is where we tear our hair out.)
You do need a psychiatrist to figure all this out.
Thirty years ago, a psychiatrist may or may not have been able to help. But chances were much better than they were 100 years ago, you know? At that point, psychiatrists stumbled in the dark and devised theories to explain patients’ behavior, with little scientific evidence. There was so little we knew about the brain. Sometimes they helped their patients, but often they couldn’t.
In the absence of neuroscience discovery, psychiatrists did what all scientists do: they hypothesized. And they looked for evidence to see if they were right.
Is it any surprise this branch of medicine was cloaked in stigma?
Can Genetic Clues Really Predict Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia?
So, let’s talk about where we’ve come in psychiatry.
Now we can separate the genes on the chromosomes.
You know what chromosomes are, right? Your DNA. But that tiny microscopic structure – that’s a map of who we are – is made up of genes. Now those are really tiny.
We know what many of the chromosomes actually do. We also know that a tendency to develop various diseases can be found in specific positions on certain chromosomes.
By the same token, certain clusters of genes in certain locations on the chromosomes can indicate personality traits that emerge in someone who has not yet developed a disorder. Genetic clues that can perhaps predict the later onset of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia… and the list goes on.
Nicholas Pediaditakis, M.D.’s article in Psychiatric Times under the title, “The Dog That Did Not Bark,” explains how this might work. Sometimes, certain clusters of genes are missing… like if the “barking” genes are missing, it could result in a dog that doesn’t bark.
When that happens in people the genes that express themselves as personality traits, can create a “lopsided” personality, as he put it. So the genes that would express themselves as socially outgoing may be missing or sparse, which can show up in the person as aloofness or an aversion to social situations along with a sense of autonomy.
Of course, this is an oversimplification for our purposes in this post, but the point is that this person is “premorbid”(in the sense that he doesn’t have signs of a disorder yet), but his “lopsided” personality can be a signal of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder that may be lurking in the future.
Dr. Pediaditakis goes on to say that this premorbid asocial trait may result in a group of individuals who may be vulnerable and later turn out to develop schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It’s sort of like a preview in the developing brain. He says,
“This synchrony is an emergent property of complexity. This probabilistic shift heralds the expression of the disorders and results in the development of characteristic symptoms for both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.”
The Give and Take That Leads to Gifting and Brilliance
He also says that while both of these disorders tend to include psychosis at some point, there is also some trade off with traits that can be quite favorable.
For instance, since their personality doesn’t include social traits, it’s as though they’re able to think in terms of unconventional alternatives and distinguish original and revolutionary patterns …whether scientific, mathematical, artistic, or musical.
Basically, since they have some freed up space in their head, they can also be remarkably gifted. Sound familiar?
It brings to mind the book and movie, “A Beautiful Mind,” about John Nash, Jr., the gifted mathematician who suffered from schizophrenia. And Vincent Van Gogh, the brilliant but tormented artist. And entertainers like Carrie Fisher, Mel Gibson, and Mariah Carey (to name just a few) who’ve struggled with bipolar disorder along with their creative brilliance.
There’s a physiological reason, one only identifiable by neuroscience, that these great talents are simultaneously struggling with a severe disorder, while also displaying their creative gifts. The two might actually be linked, if indirectly.
Neuroscience Leads the Way to Understanding More About These Disorders
Molecular genetics, functional neuroimaging, and translational neuroscience has made great advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of both bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Stigma about disorders like these is dying a slow death… we hope, in time, it will disappear altogether.
And we hope that time comes soon.
Modern medical and neuroscience breakthroughs are exploding. And they raise the question: Can genetic clues really predict bipolar disorder and schizophrenia? There’s so much more we’re learning about brain circuitry, the hippocampus, the amygdala, the lateral habenula… and what is called translational neuroscience, where we take basic science research and translate it into clinical applications that help people. Like you, and the people you love.
In the meantime, if you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and if the medicines prescribed for you haven’t helped, you need treatment that works.
You Deserve to Feel Better
Ketamine treatment can make a dramatic difference in managing your bipolar disorder by wrangling bipolar depression. Scores of people in your position have been relieved to discover the difference ketamine treatment makes.
If your medicines are helping, you’re in a wonderful position. You’re finding you’re able to live your life with less difficulty and build upon the things that matter to you. But if your medicines aren’t working, if you’re tormented, living in chaos, and unable to invest in your job or relationships because of your symptoms, call us.
At Innovative Psychiatry, we see people with bipolar disorder get much better all the time. Because lifting them out of depression that just hasn’t wanted to budge is a game-changer. When ketamine relieves depression, there is so much more time and energy left for managing your life.
We’re here to see that you get the help you need to enjoy your life, build up what’s broken down, and relish your friends, your family, and your work, as well.
It can get better for you. You’ll see.