Researchers have recently found a way to measure neural signals across regions of the brain that decode patterns that represent a person’s current mood. They did this by using the intracranial electrodes already inserted in seven patients who have epileptic seizures. They tracked brain signals across the electrodes and asked the patients to report mood symptoms. From this they developed a decoder that will predict mood variations over time based on brain signals.
Their hope is that from these findings a closed loop system can be developed to treat individuals with depression and anxiety who are treatment resistant to SSRIs, other medications, and standard therapies. This closed loop system would in theory be able to stimulate the appropriate neural regions of the brain needed to affect mood in a positive way in real time.
They think this decoding technology could even be useful for other conditions that are not localized to one area of the brain and are spread out through various regions like depression and anxiety are. Some examples include chronic pain, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
New research shows those with depression have a five percent larger hypothalamus than those who don’t have the illness.
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), is the system that responds when we are under stress by releasing cortisol into the body, giving us more energy to react to a challenge, and then returning the body to its natural state when the stressor has been removed.
In those with mental illness, the HPA axis is dysfunctional and releases cortisol even when no real stressor is present due to the over activity of the hypothalamus. It is unclear whether the increased hypothalamus activity is leading to its increased size or not.
Regardless, the larger size could explain the increased levels of cortisol and the periods of tension often experienced by those with depression.
Source: Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. “In depression the brain region for stress control is larger.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 September 2018.
Not barely one month ago I wrote here about my mental illness, and praised the universe for my glorious period of stability. Months of relative non-dramatic and chaos and anxiety-free days left me to do as I pleased with family and friends; with hobbies and productive work. I even made money doing something I absolutely love to do! ME! Someone on disability, making a dime doing a creative job for people that I would be doing anyway on my own. It was a dream come true this summer, I tell you, a dream come true! And then IT happened.
One day, all of a sudden, I dreaded the next paid gig that I was so eager to do just weeks prior. The thought of having to do it; of being obligated to do it now weighed so heavily on me I started feeling panicky. I was overwhelmed at the thought of all it entailed and so, so unmotivated to go through with it. All I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and hide for the next … well, indefinitely. I couldn’t focus on the amount of steps the whole job called for and I especially couldn’t cope with the social interactions it forced me to have.
Then two weeks later, the kids went back to school and things only got worse from there. My depression plummeted to another level as I spent every day at home alone in bed with no purpose other than to get up when they came home seven hours later. I came across this awesome mental health pain scale put out there by Rori, the Graceful Patient, and thought, “By God, I am already at a solid 6 going on a 7 here, and I was a fricking 1 five weeks ago!”
As an aside, before my stable period this summer, I was in a mild depression for several months through the end of spring. This is me. This is the life of rapid cycling bipolar disorder. It is not pretty or fun or predictable. Although, many times the depression does coincide with transitional events like the kids starting school in the fall and ending the school year in the spring, so there is some predictability in that sense. But, for the most part it is riding a mood wave that ebbs and flows over the course of weeks or months, sometimes even days when it gets really ugly.
So, here I am, turning to the thing I always turn to when I start to feel crazy: writing. I get into that darkness and I write myself out (i.e, “write into the light” = this blog’s name.) I also went and saw my doctor, of course, and told her what was going on. So, I’m starting yet another new med this week.
I have been on so many medications I couldn’t even name them all. No joke! I seriously wouldn’t remember all of them that I’ve tried over the last 17 years. I do know we make changes or adjustments at least a couple of times a year due to my rapid cycling. She told me one time she has some patients with bipolar that go years without a med adjustment but not me and my rapid cycles. I’m what they call “hypersensitive”…to people, to meds, to situations, to changes, to seasons, to temperature, to noise, to lights, crowds, to smells. I also fall under the description of an “empath” as well, which explains a lot of my ills after being around certain people and large crowds. It also explains my excellent intuition.
All of this just makes me realize this whole mood disorder, sensory system, personality thing is very complicated and intertwined. Who’s to say what one thing is and what’s another or where one thing begins and another ends? People are complex. Don’t judge or compartmentalize, if you can help it. We are all so much more than our labels. Kind of makes me want to retitle my post. But, for Google’s sake I won’t. Google search likes labels. 🙂
Do you or anyone you know experience rapid cycling moods? How do you cope with it? What helps you manage?
I was sitting here thinking about how I haven’t thought about the fact that I have bipolar disorder in a while. About two weeks ago I had a day or two of feeling depressed and it reminded me of the “old days” of when I was in a true clinically depressed state of being unable to get out of bed or eat or shower for weeks on end; of when I didn’t know how I was going to make it through another day of living; of how I hoped I didn’t make it through alive. I just wanted to die.
Thankfully, I don’t get that low for that long anymore. I also don’t get high enough to be up until two or three (or four) in the morning writing or painting or working on any other various creative projects that always turned out to be a waste of time. Many of the projects I start these days I finish, and they have some sort of functional goal or purpose to them as opposed to being just some sort of random jibberish.
Some major medication trials until the right combo was found and a complete overhaul in therapy to treat my childhood traumas both played a role in the stability I am enjoying today. It takes work, effort, and the help of good and caring doctors and therapists, but mental stability can happen.
I am fully aware that one of these days I may wake up and find myself in a depressive or hypomanic state once again that lasts more than a day or two as they have been. I dread the day if it ever comes. However, luckily, my anxiety disorder is also under control enough that this thought is something I can let go of and simply go on living my life as is until further notice. Thanks be to God!
Mental illness is “any of a broad range of medical conditions (such as major depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, or panic disorder) that are marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, or emotions to impair normal psychological functioning and cause marked distress or disability and that are typically associated with a disruption in normal thinking, feeling, mood, behavior, interpersonal interactions, or daily functioning.*”
I listened to a talk today by a behaviorist who proprosed that mental illness is not a medical condition but rather a dysfunction of our subconscious programming mostly likely which occurred during childhood. He stated that in order to change our moods and negative behaviors, such as anxiety attacks, depression, anger, lack of motivation, sadness, etc. , we don’t need medication or therapy. What we need is to change our subconscious programming, which will in turn improve our state of being and positively affect everything in our life.
He said we must also develop an attitude of acceptance (versus resistance.) The more you resist something the stronger it becomes. Accepting doesn’t mean you don’t try and change things that need changing. It just means you aren’t resisting it as it is in the moment you are in.
For example, I am trying to lose weight by changing my eating habits. I am accepting where I am now with my weight by not beating myself up about how far I have yet to go and by saying to myself that it is what it is and I accept what is without judgement, while still making changes. If I was resistant to my weight as it is now, I would be filled with frustration and self-loathing and would probably give up on my goals fairly quickly. In fact, I have done this many times in the past.
He didn’t really explain how to change the subconscious programming except to plug his own life coaching services for further help in this area. I think his ideas on acceptance are very useful and beneficial to everyday living. I highly recommend living life in a state of peaceful acceptance.
I felt very discouraged by his claim that people don’t need medication or therapy to eliminate stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental conditions in their life. He even said migraines could be eliminated immediately using the above techniques.
It scares me to think that people are advising others to go without treatments that could potentially save their lives. One thing does not work for everyone. So, please if you are reading this, be open to all possibilities when it come to mental illness treatment, because mental illness IS REAL and it may take all types of treatments to address it.
*”Mental Illness.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 15 May 2018.
She said, “You’re fine and then you’re sad. Then you’re up and then you’re depressed. Then you’re fine and then you come back and your anxiety is out of control. Then you’re fine again and then you’re sad. You are a rapid cycler.” When my doctor summed me up in that way I couldn’t help but feel deflated, almost hopeless, and at the very least, more ill than when I walked into her office.
Then I realized I’ve been dealing with this illness my whole life and the ups and downs have been such a part of my daily living that I hardly think twice about them. To someone like her, observing from the outside with a critical eye, I must seem extremely unstable, but to me, everything feels completely normal, and believe it or not, my life does not have major disruptions due to my mood swings.
This is not to say we aren’t always trying to achieve stability because we are. Tweaks to medication and coping skills are constantly being made. It is a dance of fine tuning that takes the skill of a seasoned and caring specialist and the patience of a willing and compliant patient. She said there are some people she sees with bipolar disorder who go three or four years without needing a medication adjustment. She adjusts my medication several times a year.
According to WebMD, rapid cycling is described as having four or more episodes of mania, hypomania or depression in one year. For many people, this is devastating and wreaks havoc on their life. For me, it’s just another day in the life of me.
You get to the point of acceptance after living with an illness for so long and you learn that it is not going to kill you and it doesn’t have to control you either. It doesn’t scare me anymore. I know what I need to do to deal with my symptoms and I know that I won’t have my symptoms forever. It is the very nature of cycling: the symptoms are constantly changing. I think the vigilant tweaking of my medications keeps my symptoms from getting too far off-balance, so I am fortunate in that respect, but the cycling is still there.
Do you rapid cycle? What does that look like for you and how do you cope?
As an aside, I just received news that Write into the Light was selected by Feedspot’s panelists as one of the Top 100 Bipolar Blogs on the web. What a nice surprise! I always thought you had to pay to be on those lists, but I was wrong. 🙂 Check out the list at https://blog.feedspot.com/bipolar_disorder_blogs/
A new issue of Turtle Way, Write into the Light’s online mental health journal, was just published. Check it out here!