Bipolar disorder

Essay by roxnotded2000University, Bachelor'sA+, May 2004

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One question that comes up over and over again -- a question asked in email, in chats and in the forum -- a question we have all asked at one time or another, is What causes bipolar disorder? I once heard a member of a listserv suggest that it is caused by a shortage of Lithium in the brain. One forum participant said he vaguely remembered reading an article that tried to link dog bites in childhood with bipolar disorder! In short, there is a great deal of misinformation out there.

To compound the confusion, legitimate scientific research continues to publish new information and hypotheses. A newly published study in the American Journal of Psychiatry that reports "in those with bipolar disorder, two major areas of the brain contain 30 percent more cells that send signals to other brain cells." This report theorizes that "the extra signal-sending cells may lead to a kind of overstimulation, which makes sense considering the symptoms of bipolar disorder" (U.

Michigan, 2000). Perhaps another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place ...

But what is the bottom line? What does cause bipolar disorder? It would be wonderful to say that X or Y was the cause. However, the answer is just not that simple. According to Durand and Barlow, most scientists believe in "an approach to the study of psychopathology that holds that psychological disorders are always the products of multiple interacting causal factors" (2000). As it relates to bipolar disorder, these causal factors are usually divided into biological and psychological explanations. What's all that in plain English? Well, psychopathology is the study of significant causes and processes in the development of mental illness. So all this means is that scientists believe there are both physical and mental / environmental / emotional causes for...