Posts tagged ‘research’

Good News Regarding Depakote

If you are one of the many bipolar individuals who, like me, take a form of Depakote (valproic acid or VPA) to manage your moods, here’s some potentially good news. A recent research study on mice indicated that valproate may prevent and/or treat Alzheimer’s disease. A hallmark finding in Alzheimers is the presence of plaques on brain cells. These plaques are made of amyloid beta-protein, a substance that is not fully understood at this time. However, the research with mice suggests that VPA inhibits the formation of this protein.
If this finding holds true for humans as well, then those of us who take Depakote will get an extra bonus as it reduces our chances of developing Alzheimer’s!


November 6, 2008 at 3:31 am 1 comment

Bipolar and Anxiety Disorders

A study conducted in Ontario, Canada indicated that the co-occurence (technical term “comorbidity,” which sounds worse than it really is) of multiple anxiety disorders with bipolar disorder may be more common than expected. Of the 138 individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder, over half had at least one anxiety disorder, and almost a third had two or more.

Using the DSM-IV (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), researchers assessed participants for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (see bottom of post for more info). The participants were re-evaluated over the course of three years to determine their clinical progress.

You might expect that having multiple anxiety disorders would result in worse outcomes, but the study showed that the type of disorder was more important. Generalized anxiety disorder and social phobia had the most negative impact (given the importance of social support in bipolar, the latter doesn’t surprise me). However, when participants with at least one anxiety disorder were compared to those without, any type of anxiety disorder resulted in a poorer outcome.  For example, anxious participants spent more of each year ill and their symptoms were more severe.

Those of us who are bipolar need to be proactive to ensure that we are assessed and treated for other disorders we may have. Although it is intensely annoying to have a string of diagnoses (and a bag of pills to go with it), failure to adequately treat one problem may hold back progress in another area.

Similarly, many physical disorders occur with or even cause psychological problems. If financially possible, get regular physicals and blood work to check for problems such as anemia, hypo/hyperthyroidism, diabetes, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and others that will complicate a mood disorder.

Anxiety Disorders in a Nutshell

Panic disorder — Attacks of terror, accompanied by frightening physical symptoms (pounding heart, shortness of breath, faintness, dizziness, nausea) and an overwhelming sense of impending doom, occur with no apparent provocation.  The most crippling aspect of panic disorder is the fear of another attack, especially while driving, in public, or in another difficult situation.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder — If you watch the TV show Monk, you are familiar with this one. Persons with OCD have disturbing thoughts that will not go away unless they perform some sort of ritual. However, doing the rituals is like doing crack; over time more and more is required until the person spends most of the day doing rituals.

Post-traumatic stress disorder — First identified in war veterans, this disorder was soon recognized in the context of many other terrifying experiences that involved death or the threat of death. Natural disasters, terror attacks, rape, child abuse, car accidents and many other events can cause the symptoms. These include flashbacks (reliving the event), nightmares, watchfulness, inability to trust, and startling easily.

Social phobia — If you become overwhelmingly anxious and self-conscious in social situations, you may have social phobia. Persons with this disorder may be bothered by certain types of social situations or by any contact with people.  When they are in the frightening situation, they may experience rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness similar to a panic attack. They feel that everyone around is looking at them and judging them negatively. When forced to attend a social event that they usually avoid, they may dread it for weeks and begin feeling panic long before reaching the actual situation.

Generalized anxiety disorder — GAD rarely occurs alone; instead it is usually comorbid with another anxiety disorder, a mood disorder, or substance abuse. It is diagnosed when an individual spends most of the day worrying about everyday concerns. They can’t relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Sleep disturbances and physical problems are also common symptoms.

September 16, 2008 at 6:26 pm Leave a comment

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