A recent study suggests that brain scans may someday be able to more accurately distinguish bipolar disorder from major depression. The researchers used an MRI machine to study how patients’ brains reacted to seeing various kinds of facial expressions. They were particularly interested in the amygdala, an area of the brain–technically two areas–which is responsible for, among other things, processing emotions, including those related to fear, anxiety, and aggression. They found that the amygdala responds differently, depending on whether you have depression or bipolar disorder. In people with bipolar disorder, the left part of the amygdala was less active in general, and interacted less with other parts of the brain. This was true in about 80 percent of cases. As it stands, about 60 percent of people with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed as having major depression and treated accordingly. It takes an average of 10 years for these misdiagnosed people to receive the correct diagnosis, and meanwhile, they are getting the wrong treatment. The similarity between depression and bipolar disorder makes bipolar very hard to diagnose. Most people only seek help when they feel depressed, not when they feel really good. Unfortunately, although the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder look very much like major depression, the treatment is different for each. Both have been shown to benefit from psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, but they are medicated differently. While SSRIs are often effective for people with depression, there is a chance that an SSRI by itself could cause a manic episode in someone with bipolar disorder. People with bipolar typically require some combination of antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, such as lithium, and anti-anxiety medication. Of the more than 16 million American adults who suffer from some kind of depressive disorder, about 5.7 million suffer from bipolar disorder. What’s more, bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as unipolar major depression. Bipolar disorder often looks very much like major depression, with long episodes of depressed mood, disturbed sleep, poor concentration, slow movements, feelings of worthlessness, and thoughts of suicide. What distinguishes bipolar disorder is the manic, or hypomanic episodes that are the complete opposite of depression. These include little need for sleep, excess energy, delusions of grandeur, paranoid delusions, anxiety, and beginning ambitious projects that are often never finished. Sometimes these manic episodes are so intense they require hospitalization. However, many people experience milder, hypomanic episodes that feel more like the depressive symptoms have lifted and they have more energy. It might just feel like a welcome good mood, which no one feels the need to report to a doctor.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or bipolar disorder, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.