Mania, the horrible mistress of bipolar disorder. We sometimes take it for granted in it’s early stages, hypomania, but in a full blown out manic episode, everything can go to hell. Many people accidentally kill themselves in manic episodes. But did you know, that during an episode, you’re killing your brain?
“Episodes of mania and depression may cause damage to learning and memory systems”(1)
Long term patients showed more cognitive impairment than those younger, or newly diagnosed. Bipolar disorder and time are not your friends. After 5-7 years, the newly diagnosed showed some cognitive impairment.
It can be blamed on medications, but that’s untrue. They can cause cognitive slowing but they aren’t a culprit. Some medications even repair parts of the brain, and are considered to have neuroprotective properties.
The brain breaks down as the disease goes on, and it isn’t able to process information the way it used to. (Remember, bipolar is a kindling disease, if left untreated, it just gets worse and worse, and the damage increases per episode)
“People with bipolar disorder suffer from an accelerated shrinking of the brain”(2)
Gray matter in the brain is lost during an episode, in the areas of the brain that control memory, face recognition and co-ordination.
“Evidence has been overwhelming that bipolar disorder is a disease of the brain, like Parkinson’s or MS”(3)
Those with bipolar disorder have enlarged ventricles in the brain and extra white matter, for example. Impaired awareness (50% of those with bipolar disorder are aware of their disease, diagnosed or not) is because of decreased activity in the pre-frontal area. This is similar to a stroke victim.
Results of MRI’s from the mentally interesting and people without mental illness show that those without mental illness had more gray matter in their brains.(4) Gray matter is consisted of nerve cells. An essential amino acid, called NAA, was monitored in bipolar patients and the amount decreased as the illness progressed, which indicates damage to neurons. These findings are comparable in Alzheimer’s.
In conclusion, if you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and want to make the best of your life, take your medications, live a healthy lifestyle, don’t drink or do drugs and learn some insight to get proper treatment before an episode happens.
And just remember this: What goes up, must come down.