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March 2nd, 2011
12:24 PM ET

Sheen has us asking: What's bipolar?

Over the last couple days, I have found it interesting how many people have watched the antics and interviews with Charlie Sheen, and immediately diagnosed him as either being on drugs or in the middle of a manic episode. Could be – but who knows, maybe it is all a big ruse. His erratic behavior is not in question, but arriving at a diagnosis based on a TV interview is impossible. In fact, my colleagues in the psychiatry community say it can be challenging even after completing a full assessment.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by the occurrence of at least one manic episode during the patient’s lifetime. Most patients also, at other times, have one or more
depressive episodes. In the intervals between these episodes, most patients return to their normal state of well-being. This is according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). When looking for evidence of mania, doctors often cite symptoms like being overly euphoric, agitated behavior, racing speech and impulsive behavior to name a few. Just reading that gives you an idea of why arriving conclusively at a diagnosis can sometimes be so difficult.

That is why I was so interested in a paper I recently read. Scientists at UCLA took on the goal of peering deep into someone’s brain, while the person was in the middle of a manic episode, to better understand what was happening. Now, as you might imagine, getting someone who is manic to agree to sit still in a functional MRI scanner wasn’t easy, but eventually the researchers recruited 18 patients into the study, nine of whom met the criteria for a manic episode, and nine other patients, who were healthy and served as controls.

What they found was fascinating. When given certain tasks to perform, the manic patients had a decrease in activity in part of the frontal lobe. Think about that - the frontal lobes are sort of your behavioral filter, and the activity there was much lower than in a healthy person. It is the part of the brain that makes you think before you speak or evaluate before you act. If there is low activity, those filters are turned way down, and you may start to see the impulsive, racing behavior associated with a manic episode. Those same patients also had higher than normal activity in the amygdala, which is associated with emotion.

When you look at these brain scans, consider this - you are seeing evidence of what a manic episode really looks like. And, in another study with depressed patients, the findings were very nearly the opposite. The filters were turned way up and the frontal lobe area shined brightly, whereas the emotional part of the brain had lower activity.

For now, patients with true mental illness can get outstanding diagnosis and treatment. This is a glimpse, though, of where the mental health field may be headed. Could we be approaching a day when a person with concerns about mental illness could get a special scan to find out? And, might that information also answer the question about the best treatment options as well? What do you think the pros and cons are, if scans like this became available?


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soundoff (212 Responses)
  1. planetx

    You know whos Bipolar? sheeples Don't take the drugs

    March 2, 2011 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. lily9382

    They say it either gets the liver or the brain and all the years he has been on the stuff, and the way he looks and acts, sorry to say it may be both. I say this because I have been down that road. I've been sober for over twenty-five years.

    March 2, 2011 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Bill

    Bi-Polar is a made up word with no scientific proof to back it up, except from the drug dealers that want every American on the so called drugs that allegedly are a remedy. It's complete BS, just like manic depression, restless leg syndrome, etc etc etc.

    March 2, 2011 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Annie

      You are ignorant. Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are NOT BS. They are incapacitating organic brain disorders. Yes, BD is currently over-diagnosed and people who don't truly have the disorder are being medicated, due to the pharmas. But if you actually have it, the drugs can and will save your life. The true incidence of bipolar disorder is 0.4 – 1.6% of the general population. It is a relatively rare disorder.

      March 2, 2011 at 16:50 | Report abuse |
    • KritterKat

      Bill – you've apparently never met anyone with bipolar disorder.

      March 2, 2011 at 16:58 | Report abuse |
    • bethree

      Maybe you mean adhd? Bipolar is one of the very few mental illnesses recognized as biological in origin.

      March 2, 2011 at 17:18 | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Whether or not drugs are always the best way to treat it, bi-polar is a real problem, Bill. Now if only there was a pill to treat ignorance, maybe there would be some hope for you.......

      March 2, 2011 at 17:34 | Report abuse |
    • Questioning

      I think what Bill might be trying to suggest is that Bipolar Disorder is, like any other medical diagnosis, only a collection of symptoms that doctors eventually made note of and referred to with a certain name. In the case of Bipolar Disorder, one of the people who first made note of that collection of symptoms was none other than Charles Krauthammer, the political pundit, during his psychiatry residency in Boston.

      March 2, 2011 at 17:38 | Report abuse |
  4. Sarah in Texas

    This kind of speculation is insulting to anyone with legitimate mental illness. I have struggled with depression for a decade, beginning in my teens, and have suffered tremendously from it. Through strength, reslove, courage and the love and support of family and friends, I deal with this handicap that has the power to affect and influence nearly every aspect of my life. It is the hand I was dealt. I did not earn this illness through rampant abuse of drugs and alcohol and irresponsible handling of many opportunities and situations. Charlie Sheen – ill or not – is not representative of the millions of hardworking people who deal with mental illness in their every day lives.

    March 2, 2011 at 16:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bethree

      Yes it is insulting, Sara, and bless you for sayng it! Many of the posters here are running scared from the subject and would prefer to shame the victim, as did society cancer for decades, and before that, epilepsy.

      March 2, 2011 at 17:21 | Report abuse |
  5. mangoz

    Please stop insulting those who are bi-polar...Sheen's problem is his brain is short circuiting from enormous amounts of drugs and booze over the years coupled with an over indulgence of Viagra. Douse that with his ego and you have the "perfect storm". Keep moving...this is not the one your looking for.

    March 2, 2011 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bethree

      I wouldn't cut him short shrift just because he's famous and has had opportunities. He's talented and rich, yes, and sick too, obviously. And hardly the first to try to brazen through the illness with drugs as a shortcut to feeling better so he can do what he does best. It's catching up to him, that's all. Hard to say what any of us would do if we could get away with so much.

      March 2, 2011 at 17:27 | Report abuse |
  6. Frank

    "doctors often cite symptoms like being overly euphoric, agitated behavior, racing speech and impulsive behavior to name a few" Boy, I can't wait for a objective test instead of the DSM subjective nonsense.

    March 2, 2011 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. jen

    as someone that suffers from a more rare bipolar - ultra ultra rapid cycle since childhood, i spent years trying to understand what was wrong with me - i'd tried many different Rx drugs over the years, NONE worked - my life did not change until i started using medical marijuana - i use every day, nearly all day long, and finally have reached "normal" - most Rx drugs do not work on people with my kind of bipolar.... look to the MJ, it could save your life

    March 2, 2011 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bethany

      I am Rapid Cyling Mixed Bi-Polar,Schizoaffective,Generalized anxiety disorder might even be Acute jury is still out on that one and also have OCD and Panic Attacks fun times. I feel your pain

      March 2, 2011 at 16:42 | Report abuse |
    • KritterKat

      Long term use of marijuana can cause panic disorders – probably not a good mix with bipolar.

      March 2, 2011 at 16:59 | Report abuse |
    • bethree

      Like you say, rare. For most bipolars, a quick trip to mania.

      March 2, 2011 at 17:29 | Report abuse |
    • Questioning

      Interesting. Not all MJ is the same, though, even among strains. Sativa is often more activating and has been bread for higher THC and lower CBD, but that's also what can bring on psychotic-like symptoms. Indica has a more balanced ration of THC to CBD and generally makes people much mellower.

      March 2, 2011 at 17:32 | Report abuse |
  8. Maybe

    I'll bet that the Scientologists are just drooling to get their hands on him...

    March 2, 2011 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. ja

    charlie should be in jail

    March 2, 2011 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nelle

      Jail is not a theraputic enviroment. Charlie has serious problems, (drugs or mental illness, maybe both) and needs therapy. Jail would just be temporary and solve nothing.

      March 14, 2011 at 01:54 | Report abuse |
  10. lolita from Rhode Island

    shee is making news on CNN, Christina Aguilera is making news and Lohan too. Who's next? Britney Freaking Spears!!

    March 2, 2011 at 16:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Bethany

    Never give up is what I tell everybody I know what it is like feeling the pain and dismay on finding the right medication. That will possibly save there lives.It's hard I have had so many horrible Side effects from medication but I hung in there, even when my body after 3years without my knowing decided to metabolize my medication to fast.I went through a medication that made me black out for 2mnths.Went through another medication that made me rage and threaten the ones I loved.I never gave up.I fought and faught for my life and the life of my family.My hubby has gone through so much because of me and even worse so has my children but none of us gave up.A year later after sheer hell I found myself again yes did I have to give up alot of thing's for my med's hello gotta give a little to get alot(my memory is way off,hard time spelling and such) but it is worth it!!!!!! I wouldnt stop takeing my medication for any amount of money.I get so mad at people who judge and dont understand.Is the world over medicated yes.Can these drugs give you worse side effects yes.Are there bad Docter's YES.All I have to say is never give up.If the first,second,third medication fails dont lose hope! I was on 6 diffrent med's not all at once, before I found the one's that gave me my life back!!!!! So I am in favor of any research wrong or right we need knowledge to battle these awful disorder's..........

    March 2, 2011 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Ed

    Any tools that can help with diagnosis and treatment should be welcomed. As someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder, currently medicated and feeling better than I have in close to 25 years, I am very apprehensive about anyone who says that medications should not be given and 'other' treatments used. We need to develop and enhance all available treatments and get to the point where we address the cause not the results of the disease. Until then, let's keep treating the symptoms.

    March 2, 2011 at 16:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. wowlfie

    Sheen may not have biploar disorder but he is obscene, insane, and badly in need of electro shock therapy to reset his delusions of grandeur.

    March 2, 2011 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bethree

      ECT might help him, andit might not. Everyone has different brain chemistry.

      March 2, 2011 at 17:32 | Report abuse |
  14. MWM

    Medication helps a lot of people..I think you'd be amazed how many high level executives, politicians, etc. are medicated in some way. I personally have been bipolar most of the last 2 years, just crazy mood swings that have definitely negatively affected my professional and social lives (unemployed still but working hard to find a job). A combination of adderall during the day and klonopin when I need to sleep well have helped me since I got the prescriptions 2 months ago. Take away point: get help if you need it and don't suffer needlessly. If you get lost in your own head, which I've been a lot of the last few years, it's pretty much impossible to carry on normal social relationships. I'm much more focused and levelheaded the last month.

    March 2, 2011 at 16:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Christopher Alan Fields - Muncie Indiana USA

    Judge your own self CNN, not Charlie Sheen, you are just mad because he has pointed out that 911 Was An Inside Job. Help Fight the InfoWars on PrisonPlanet, check out Alex Jones of Austin Texas USA.

    March 2, 2011 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Lisa

    I would welcome something like this. I suffer from clinical depression and I would like for them to figure things out with me. My son took his life almost three years ago and I believe it was triggered by something when he was four years old and of course he didn't know how to tell me until 9 years later. I've learned that we all have the potential for depression. We may never get it. I t just may take one episode in an otherwise person who may never get it and wham... they've been changed forever. With a mother and yes, a father with one form or another of mental illness it was almost inevitable. I never even thought of it happening. He was the happiest baby and child until the age of four. I feel if it had never happened he would still be here today. I heard of such things long ago and yearned for a procedure like this to be done for him. He had so much promise and I will forever, eternally miss and love him. So for the people who poo-poo this procedure just imagine my situation and you may just see this in a brighter light.

    March 2, 2011 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bethree

      I too have lost a son, to a combination of bipolar and autoimmune disease. Tho he didn't take his own life, the bipolar left him with little emotional resources to combat the uphill climb of a rare and painful disease. I am so sorry. It is an unspeakable loss.

      March 2, 2011 at 17:36 | Report abuse |
  17. toddat

    in charlie's case it's not bipolar it's cocaine

    March 2, 2011 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Bill Lazzarini

    So you are implying that Chucky has a brain in the first place, not necessarily a prerequisite for being an actor! How do you know he is not acting? Perhaps he realized he has backed himself into a corner and the only way out is over the top, go so nutz people might feel sorry for him. I could care less if the viewing public forgives him as long as the sponsors drop him. I can already tell you that everyone I know who watches his show will never watch again, it is just a start but I will rally America to join in if the show comes back. I say it is about time we quit forgiving these people, in Charlie’s case numerous times, and just send them on their way. So he just became bipolar or no one cared until he started ripping on his show and his bosses? So if CNN thinks he may be bipolar why do they keep interviewing him? Should they not be concerned for his well being then interview him after treatment? Oh that’s right there are no ratings if they go that route. What does the brain scan show for someone on meth or crack, does it look the same as a bipolar brain, I’m just saying.

    March 2, 2011 at 17:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. nsarah

    the fact is, bipolar is a disease. those who don't agree, try stepping in someone else's shoes with bipolar and see. No, medication isn't the answer to everything, but if you get the right one/ones, it can help those of us who are bipolar. Because of my medication i can live a pretty normal life. i raise my two children, hold a great full time job and yes, go to see my psychiatrist every few months so he can see how i'm doing and if any adjustments need to be made on my medications. it also does not mean we are crazy. like others said, it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. it's far more than mood swings.

    March 2, 2011 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Marky

    If you (or your "collegues") don't think Charlie Sheen is manic then you're the worst doctor on the face of the earth.
    I have know a couple people who were bipolar or had drug induced mania and psychosis. It is SO OBVIOUS to me just listening to Charlie talk for 10 seconds. Yammering on about Jews and how "special" he is.
    Sounds like this article is more meant to try and squash criticism that the media (including cnn) is ignoring Charlies obvious clinical issues so they can take advantage of his mental state for some great footage!

    Dr. Drew certainly didn't seem so indecisive about Charlies condition now did he? From day one he's been saying Charlie Sheen is manic and it's going to get worse if he doesn't get help. You just choose not to listen.

    March 2, 2011 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bethree

      Thank you, Marky! You are so right. Dr Drew has been the only one to call spade a spade.

      March 2, 2011 at 17:46 | Report abuse |
  21. John

    I've been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and truthfully I don't think it's a problem. Yeah I get depressed every now and then, but b/c of my manic episodes I'm in incredibly great shape. During a manic episode I can lift more and run faster and for longer distances. I also can complete a lot of tasks. Basically when I'm manic I'm ready to take on the world. It's all about learning to live with it and controlling it for good rather than letting it control you. That's the biggest problem. It can be a blessing rather than a curse if you learn to let it work for you rather than against you.

    March 2, 2011 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Questioning

    What world does Dr. Gupta live in where people get top notch, cutting edge medical treatment? Is this the same world portrayed on House, MD, where each patient has a team of overachieving diagnosticians tending to every need and leaving no stone unturned in finding the answer. As I thought, it's just fiction.

    March 2, 2011 at 17:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bethree

      It's the same world where the rich guys convince the average Joe that 'Obamacare' is a communist plot, let the sick cure themselves. It's called the US of A.

      March 2, 2011 at 17:48 | Report abuse |
  23. american boy

    I think where the bipolar behavior of Sheen comes from........tooooooooo much money at ones for a m0ron...... the solution to his problem?...... Put him in jail for couple of years and fined him few million and case resolve....neeeeextt!!!

    March 2, 2011 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Barry

    We live in a very dangerous world because of the violence and cruelty humans constantly prove themselves capable of. As an extreme example, look what happens when there are no or ineffective governmental controls (Somalia, Nazi germany, etc.). Even highly developed societies can be dangerous if one stumbles into the wrong neighborhood. Wouldn't it be nice if all humans were capable of a high level of empathy and the human race was very resistant to violence and acts that endangered other humans? In my opinion this is indeed eventually possible. Much has been written recently about the relationship between the size of the amygdala and the ability of a person to feel empathy. There also appears to be a relationship between how well the amygdala is connected to the front of the brain (Frontal Cortex?) and how likely an individual is to commit a violent act. In other words, from the recent articles, it seems a person with a relatively small amygdala feels little or no empathy and is prone to commiting violent acts. If the small amygdala is well connected to the Frontal cortex, it seems there is enough control to keep these individuals mostly out of violent trouble. However, a small amygdala and and weak connections to the frontal cortex appear to define a dangerous psychopath. I may not have this exactly right (I am an Engineer not a neurologist) but it seems to me, eventually, we might be able to accurately predict, at birth (or maybe even before) those who are short on empathy but not likely to be a serial killer and those who will likely be serial killers. I know this is not something many people will agree with but I do think society has an inherent right to protect itself and eliminate these individuals prior to or right at birth.

    March 2, 2011 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      What a revolting comment. You seem to criticize Nazi Germany, the offer a final solution similar to Hitler's. If we eliminate everyone with a capacity for future crimes, there won't be anybody left.

      March 2, 2011 at 17:43 | Report abuse |
    • Bi-Polar Person

      Barry, your analysis pegs you as a sociopath. Will you self-abort?

      March 2, 2011 at 19:44 | Report abuse |
  25. bethree

    This is ignorant. A hallmark of bipolar is a state of agitated depression which interferes with the ability to work or carry on relationships. Some turn to cocaine to bust out of the depression and at least maintain enough of a manic state to continue to produce creatively. It's not simple.

    March 2, 2011 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. walt

    I use a stavia in the mornings to help get outta bed and a indica at nite for my insomia i have adhd combintive type with anixity disorder, i have tried taken adderall and lexapro they do help but they didnt help with insomia and becuse of the adderall doctors wouldnt give me anything 2 make me sleep and without proper rest i ended up havn a manic breakdown, but scince useing medical cannabis i feel confident enough to try going back on the adderal, treatments for ppl with mental illness or disorders which ever word u prefer 2 use, i lost my job cuse of a false accustion and couldnt take a drug test, it came down to tat i had mental illness tat effect my judgement and i had 2 use a powerful narcotic 2 control it, Even from these comments u can see the acceptence and acknowledgement of mental health and its treatment, it is nice to see all those come forward and those who have given encourgment, one key element to mental health is being around ppl who accept u and r supportive and do not tear u down

    March 2, 2011 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. AB

    I would be thrilled if there would be a scan to better diagnose 'mental illness,' which is better called a brain illness or disorder. It took me 10 LONG years to find what appears to be an accurate diagnosis of my bipolar and to receive treatment that works. As for Charlie Sheen, it certain looks like a manic episode with everything else we know he's done. But my personal bipolar manifests itself very differently than what Charlie's looks like. While we can't say for sure, it's likely it's a mental illness, and instead of the media (and the public) completely exploiting him for shock value and laughs, it would be nice to see some sustained recognition, understanding and acceptance of mental illness (like breast cancer maybe?). It gets thrown about every time a celebrity gets ill or when a shooter kills people at a school or supermarket. But then people seem to forget again what a serious illness it is, affecting not just celebrities and true psychopaths, but pretty normal people every day.

    March 2, 2011 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Erin

    "(description of f MRI scanner)"
    LOL – Nice editing job.

    March 2, 2011 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Rochelle

    I can't possibly know if Sheen is bi-polar or not, he is certainly exhibiting extreme mania.

    Until I was diagnosed as bi-polar I didn't understand why I behaved the way I did. From my early teen years on I thought if anyone really knew me they'd see I was crazy and lock me up somewhere...it was a really scary thought. I've suffered from clinical depression since I was a young child, but was unaware that my spending sprees, bouts of phenonemal creativity, talking, talking, talking, and rages were also part of an illness. I received a correct diagnosis after my grown son was diagnosed as bi-polar and his therapist suggested it might run in families. My therapist agreed to have me evaluated by a psychiatrist and I too was diagnosed. That was 8 years ago. I'm on four medications and all has been well for some time. I went off the meds once and the results were disastrous...no more of that for me. I have since mised a day or two and didn't think it affected me, however my bi-polar grandson lives with me and he and I have real trouble if miss doses and he does too. I can't create my poetry anymore and I do miss it so much, but I don't make my living by writing and so I just have to accept not being able create. The diagnosis was met by a lot of skepticism by my grown daughters, who simply didn't believe it. The older felt I was making excuses for my past actions and current ones as well. The younger felt the same and that if I really wanted to I could control my symptoms. That was very hard for me, as many here said, if you haven't been me don't try to tell me it is an excuse. Unfortunately, when my grandson, who has had mental problems all his life (he's 22 now) was diagnosed as bi-polar his mother, my younger daughter, began to accept my diagnosis. My grandson was more recently diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrom on top of the bi-polar and some other disorders...he has a hard row to hoe.

    Oh, before i forget. One of the things I hate the most about bi-polar is that I become euphoric and announce I'm going to do such and so, for example, go to college, write a book, become an scholar on ancient tombs, the list goes on and on...and of course it never materializes. People have thought I was lying or simply lazy and never followed through on anything I said I'd do. I've learned not to obligate myself on the spur of the moment to do anything. I've learned not to trust myself...which is NOT a good thing, but I think it is necessary to keep a lid on my self-expectations. When the euphoria leaves so does all motivation to do whatever it was i said I'd do. I've made a lot of poor decisions, some of them very large ones, while I was absolutely certain I was doing the right thing. In hindsight, I lost a lot of things and people that way.

    Life is hard, but the other option is unthinkable.

    March 2, 2011 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Glenn McGahee

    As a person who's significant other has bi-polar disorder, you cannot imagine how difficult this illness is to treat, much less diagnose. It took a very long time to find out what was wrong with my partner and was extremely difficult to get medical help when the other person doesn't think anything is wrong. It was only the fact that we were so close that I knew this wasn't normal behavior for this person. Treatment was hit and miss, with meds thrown at us by trial and error. Finally we found a great doctor and after apprpropriate treatment, we are living a normal life again. But just 1 day without the meds throws our lives into a tailspin all over again. Don't listen to people like Scientologist Tom Cruise. He doesn't know what he is talking about.

    March 2, 2011 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. charles in charge

    The smearing if this man continues. There really is no such thing as bi-polar, look up the definition. Everybody would be diagnosed as soon as they talk to a so called doctor known as a psychiatrist. Mr. Sheen is anti-nwo and the elites are going to try to ruin his life because his outspoken views of 9/11 being an inside job by the American government.

    March 2, 2011 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. rswatergirl10

    " His erratic behavior is not in question, but arriving at a diagnosis based on a TV interview is impossible"
    My bipolar husband was stuck with a depression diagnosis for half his life until I figured out he was bipolar, and he got his revaluation and what do you know.

    The people who live with those with bipolar, understand it far more then the medical community ever could. I have seen Psychiatrists who prescribed prescriptions dangerously to bipolar patients, giving them anti-depressants that sent them into a severe manic state.

    Those of us who live with the horrors of bipolar, can spot someone with it in five minutes. Not the person who has only spent 15 minutes questioning the patient, who probably isn't giving accurate answers.

    Yes, many of these diseases are extremely similar, borderline, Narcisstic personality disorder. They are all the same underneath.

    Instead of poo pooing bipolar behavior, maybe it is high time people are educated on the scary facts.
    Bipolars have a 90% divorce rate.
    25-30% of bipolars commit suicide.
    Bipolars have a shorter lifespan on average of 20 years due to medications and stress.

    If there was a virus that had these kind of statistics, everyone would be on lock down.

    It is about time they have paid more attention to it.

    A diagnosis of bipolar is a diagnosis for the family, or the couple. We have had our lives crippled from this disease. All we have to do is look someone in the eye to see the bipolar monster within.

    And most of us have seen it in the face of Charlie Sheen.

    March 2, 2011 at 18:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Bi-Polar Person

    The video mentions the difficulty people have with bi-polar persons. However, not mentioned is the difficulty bi-polar people have with the discriminatory behavior non-bipolar people inflict upon the bi-polar. Don't expect everyone to have a consistent mood. We're not all the same. Don't expect everyone to put out 100% all the time – bi-polar people put out 150% some of the time and 50% some of the time, but in the end it averages out. Most of all, stop using "bi-polar" as a term of disparagement. No one uses the world "diabetic" as an insult. Why use "bi-polar" as an insult? Google "famous bipolar people". You will see that we are an asset to this world. Learn to love us because we're not going away.

    March 2, 2011 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alisha

      It is an easy way to simply dismiss someone, isn't it? Oh, they are 'bipolar'..... I have seen it first hand, and while I am not bipolar, I have a child with a man who is, whom I love, and my biggest fear I suppose whilst pregnant, was someone discounting him based merely on a diagnosis, and how that would effect our daughter sometime in her life. Instead of offering assistance, situations are brushed off as hopeless as well, we have that handy dandy diagnosis, and there is no hope and all.. It's enough to drive a sane person crazy. And really, even that is relative.

      March 2, 2011 at 19:29 | Report abuse |
    • Bi-Polar Person

      @Alisha, the more you and your finance understand the disorder, the easier it will be to deal with it. I've learned to be a keen observer of my own behavior and have learned when to distinguish those times when I am not in the right mind to make important decisions and those time when I am in the right mind to do so. If he can learn to defer to you at those times, things will go well.

      Given the discrimination bi-polar people face in this society, it is probably best if you and your husband do not let everyone know of his disorder. Employers will use it against him. Coworkers seeking to displace him will use it to back-stab him. I've learned to keep my own condition under wraps. People in our society are not ready to use the information that someone is bi-polar in an ethical way. These articles should focus as much on what is right about bi-polar people as how to identify them.

      March 2, 2011 at 19:35 | Report abuse |
  34. FloridaDave

    Why should I care if Charlie wants to end up like River Phoenix, Or John Belushi, or Janice Joplin, or Jimi Hendrix or Elvis or James Dean or Nick Adams or John Entwistle orChris Penn or any of the myriad of others who think (or thought) it's cool to play chicken with dangerous substances.

    March 2, 2011 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bi-Polar Person

      You don't have to care, Dave. Sociopaths generally don't care about others. Finally, who says his problem is drugs?

      March 2, 2011 at 19:25 | Report abuse |
  35. Alisha

    As someone who lives with someone who is Bipolar, I think any solid research is fantastic. I do not have the disorder, but my fiancée' however does. He is un-medicated, and with careful moderation (something as simple as making sure he has eaten, goes to sleep, stays asleep, goes back to bed, a normal 9-5 job, and much stability) we weather his manic episodes maybe two to four times a year, some lasting a mere week, some lasting up to three or four. I know we are lucky, as the only times he dips into depression is during the "manic episode" itself, as he cycles between the two, and for the most part, he can hold his own. He needs emotional support however to make it through, as most bipolar people I would think need as well. Without the stability, and the support, he would cycle more often, and for longer periods of time, such as he had before he had a family (us). In the five years I have been with him at times I have thought I would lose my mind as well, during those brief times where his brain changes the game up, but those are fleeting. He was medicated after a psychotic break at 18 or so, and a stay at the hospital, and afterwards, chose not to continue on them. Medication truly is a shot in the dark, as I have worked in the mental heath field, and I have watched vibrant people have their medications changed, and begin to drool, and sleep excessively. If he chooses to begin medication, I will support him, and if not, I will do my best to keep him as stable as possible. We are in our early 30's now, so time will tell. Just like every brain is different, and unique, as is every person with bipolar, and how the disorder presents itself.

    March 2, 2011 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. myconcernis

    that my experience has been that there are those in the chemical industry and with the medical community's tacit support go to great lengths to induce these mental illnesses in the community airfreshener411 blogspot. toxic posure101 blog involuntary human experiments synthetic telepathy & no it's not worth it no matter how much of a shortcut you think you are taking doing this to people, because the final shake out is they are left with no life at all.

    March 2, 2011 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. geoffrey

    Interesting. In many of my experiences with what some call mania, i do feel the filter function off. Not like it's not there, but the voice is smaller, easier to ignore. I've looked at it more in traditional medicinal terms, Ayurvedic in particular, and found that it seems the flow in my feminine, receptive channel is excessive – ie, i AM more sensitive to other peoples emotions and yes even thoughts sometimes. Plus there are times when the filter on what I express from the creative-associative parts of mind is dim. Or, the (forgive me if I misremember but I think pingala is male) male analytical energy is running low, the integrative, rational, assessing parts. When those two combine – excess sensitivity plus decreased filtering, it can be overwhelming. None of which goes to say I think I have clinical bipolar or manic episodes, or that such is a disease within most common Western historical meanings of the word. It is verging on the world where wave energies and particle forms intersect – the brain's electrobiochemistry is so fine, yet still material. Anyways, ramble a bit. Not a big fan of the psych profession's limited view of what I've experienced; still, this article was interesting at least in sharing new 5-sensory information. Did germs or x-rays exist before we had the machines to measure them? So too, likely, are thought waves and the like. Intentions. Good or bad. Anyways anyways, thanks for sharing the info, and hope you and the psychiatric profession open to a bit more of the truth. Sooner than later.

    March 2, 2011 at 20:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. bpstudent

    As an individual with bipolar disorder, I was offended by the news anchorwoman's choice of vocabulary: how to "deal with" bipolar people in the midst of a manic episode, and how hard it is to "deal with" us in that state. You wouldn't complain about having to "deal with" a handicapped person, would you? Or let's just say, if you would, you certainly wouldn't do it on national television...

    March 2, 2011 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Ken

    In 1982, I happened to check a book out of the library called Mood Swings. It turned out to be about bipolar disorder and it seemed that it was all about me! The next day I found a psychiatrist in the phone book and made an appointment. He was skeptical of my self-diagnosis, but after he screened me, he put me on medication. Since that time, knowledge about drugs and dosages have evolved, and as they evolved, I got better and better. I was afraid that I would lose my creativity. That never happened. I thought I could supplement my treatment with my own mind, that never worked. Herbal supplements would have made it worse if I had not stopped my dabbling in time. Now I only take what the doctor prescribes, in the dose he prescribes, at the times he prescribes. I am almost robotically in compliance. He has lowered the dosage to the lowest level that is effective for me. I still have mood swings, of course, but they are within the normal range. My only problem is that health insurance companies are terrified of bipolar disorder, and I am barred from having health insurance, even though my annual medical costs are less than a typical monthly premium. I have to pay all my medical expenses out of pocket. I guess I just have to drive north and sing the lyrics to "O Canada."

    March 2, 2011 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Maybe

      Ken,

      Great that things worked out for you.

      As a side comment - your inability to get health insurance is probably not due to the bipolar diagnosis, per se. Almost nobody over 50 can get it if they have even the tiniest condition. I have a very small, harmless heart abnormality and I was rejected also. I finally had to find employment only at companies which would let me sign up with their group policies (even if I had to pay the premiums myself).

      March 2, 2011 at 22:52 | Report abuse |
  40. Ken

    I might add that I am also offended by the talk of "dealing with" people with bipolar disorder. If my family were a tent, I'd be the center pole. Everyone consults with me before doing anything, everyone brings their problems to me, I mediate all family disputes, I care for the sick and house the elderly. I wonder if miss smarty-pants anchorwoman would do a segment on what it's like being a bipolar person who has to "deal with" normal people.

    March 2, 2011 at 22:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Lisa

    "For now, patients with true mental illness can get outstanding diagnosis and treatment."

    Those who can afford a psychiatrist, therapist and all the required medications can get outstanding diagnosis and treatment. I deal with individuals daily from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who have difficulty affording medications, therapy and psychiatry sessions. It sometimes takes months to see a psychiatrist and/or therapist. They run out of meds before they can get a new prescription filled.

    Diagnosing via brain scan is exciting. However, if it is difficult for some to maintain their disorders now, how can we expect these individuals to be able to afford such a costly procedure in the future?

    March 3, 2011 at 01:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Michael Davis

    Ok, so this all seems logical until you realize that in the article they tell you about the reasoning abilities of the frontal lobe, which is depressed when in a manic state and enhanced when in a depressed state. So why does a depressed person do harmful things, including suicide, if the reasoning centers of the brain are enhanced?

    March 3, 2011 at 02:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bethree

      The article was garbled and overgeneralized. There is a much higher suicide rate for bipolars than for those with unipolar depression, who can barely get dressed and take a shower, let alone consummate the planning & execution of a suicide. With bipolar, you suffer like hell from depression more and more of the time as you get older, wishing only for relief from the constant pain. When you finally get the upswing into mania, you've got the energy to put yourself out of your misery.

      March 3, 2011 at 17:43 | Report abuse |
  43. Kathryn Susbauer

    As someone with BiPolar it is interesting explanation of manic episodes. Lucky for me, quaulified gor prescription assistance for newwer version of drug I take for mania so that I could take a smaller dose. The older version I get for free through the VA due to NSC disability due to BiPiloar and other.

    Without my coverage through the VA I likely would bw atruggling to afford getting treated or trying to tell my self in a good period when I am going good that I am the sane one in the family. Diagnosising with Brain scan is interesting is interesting because my dad's sister killed herself with her bi polar meds, I am bi polar, my brother has mental illness, and my dad is a recovering addict ( over 20 years ) Talk about family Brain scan on that family tree.

    March 3, 2011 at 02:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Ken

    To "Maybe": the insurance companies offered me insurance with reasonable premiums until I answered "yes" to their question about bipolar disorder. Then they said their underwriting rules prohibited them from insuring any bipolar person. The attorney general of my state is working hard to protect my right to get sick and die, so I don't think this will change. I could get healthcare if I emigrate to any other western industrialized nation. I also have my choice of a few third-world countries, too.

    It is far too early to use brain scans for diagnostic purposes. At present it is just a research tool. We know the treatment, but we don't know the cause, mechanism, and dynamics of these diseases, and that is why this business with frontal lobe activity and depression doesn't seem to make sense. The data isn't complete. The research is in its beginning stages. These diseases can be diagnosed and the patient's progress can be assessed from interviews and observations of behavior and treated with drugs. How and why it works is presently unknown, but it does work.

    The main problem in psychiatric treatment is patient compliance, as one can derive from this conversation thread. A psychiatrist can put nearly anything into remission if the patient complies by taking what is prescribed when it is prescribed and not trying to be smarter than the doctor with self-prescribed remedies. Herbs are drugs. There is a case of a normal person who had to be hospitalized for a severe manic episode caused by St. John's Wort and people dying from ephedra tea. Unless the patient is compliant, the doctor has no baseline to determine what the prescribed drugs are doing. The patient boobytraps the treatment, then blames the psychiatrist instead of himself. Treatment takes time; when the patient's impatience can render treatment ineffective.

    It's possible to find a doctor who charges on a sliding scale, and it is possible for the doctor to factor the cost of the medication into the treatment. I have a bipolar friend with a very low income who is in just that situation. He could afford the doctor and the treatment, but the treatment wasn't very effective until he was compliant.

    March 3, 2011 at 07:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bethree

      In 2008 the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equality Act was made law, and just over a year ago regulations were passed as to how to apply it. In a couple of situations where my son was not being treated appropriately in a general hospital, all I had to do was mention the "law" about "mental health parity" & we got quick action. Maybe if you try again with insurance now you'll have better luck, & if not try a lawyer.

      March 3, 2011 at 17:49 | Report abuse |
  45. alan pennock

    Why do some people go overboard about the Brain Scan research? Usually I am skeptical about research that goes against what my reasoning tells me is logically true, and I am usually justified in my skepticism. When research has a sound logical basis then I am "more inclined" to trust it. Therefore I have a high degree of confidence that the activity levels as measured in the Brains of these people does tell us something important and we should listen. It is only measuring activity and no one is claiming a diagnosis by machine. But the increased activity definitely is a clue to what is happening in the brain.

    March 3, 2011 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. jUST SAYIN

    I am all for diagnostic ultrasound of the brain to diagnose mental illness. When will the individual genome test dictate what medicine an individual can take instead of being a guinea pig to big pharma. If the medicines weren't so harmful to people and the sigma wasn't so prevalent in our society, we could move foward instead of confusing mental illness with incarcaration.

    March 8, 2011 at 03:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. MW

    A lot of the comments I see on here take light of this condition.
    Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness. There are medications out there to help, but there is no cure. As a student, I did a rotation at a psychiatric hospital. When you see someone who truly suffers from bipolar disorder, you recognize how debilitating it can be and how it really affects all aspects of someone’s life. I don’t know if Charlie Sheen really is bipolar or not, that’s up to a psychiatrist to decide. I wonder if many celebs try herbal remedies. According to Natural Standard’s database, there is strong evidence that sage can be used for mood enhancement. Has anyone reading this tried this before?

    March 11, 2011 at 10:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Balaji Ramamurthy

    there is a exercise in psychology to talk what ever comes to mind as it is without filtering.It is called telling truth of inner world.society prefer people filter their opinion and tell.That will synthetic view.lies too.this will develop double faced personalities

    March 15, 2011 at 12:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Richard Waldman

    I believe we have entered a new era of understanding.

    A missing part of our education has been found. There is a reason why we humans, the most intelligent animal on the planet can be so extraordinary on one hand, and on the other, having to suffer, for example, the pangs of bipolar; a brain disorder that causes severe ups and downs that effect mood, energy, and ability to function.

    The reason can summed up this way. We humans pay a price for having a highly creative brain that has created, without our knowledge or permission, an image of who our brain thinks we are. This image (the ego) consists of our beliefs and has a gatekeeper, the “chatter in our head” whose purpose is to protect, and if necessary, to create new beliefs that support the ego’s agenda.

    The ego is clever, and knows that our intelligence affords us the opportunity, unlike other primates, to project into the future and past. Our chatter high-jacks this talent, turns it into a weapon and uses it against us. For example, our chatter loves to drag us into the future and beat us up with what-if questions, we can’t answer. “What if you fail, what if you’re rejected, what if you don’t get the job, what if, what if, what if?” When our chatter finishes, bouncing us up and down in the future, it will haul us into the past to remind us of our failures and mistakes, hoping we will slide further into the abyss, which raises a question. How do we manage this “thing in our head” that has run us all of our lives?

    Click on this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjA2Nr6LEZk to learn the answer.

    A note regarding the “chatter in our head.” Those taking a psychological drug(s) may not be aware the drug is intended to moderate the “chatter in their head.” Improper medication may turn up the volume. Patients, who are unaware of this fact, may attempt to quiet their “inner noise” through means that may have, unintended consequences.

    March 16, 2011 at 09:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Maggs1

    This MRI can definitely be a way to diagnose. We need to also think about the costs of these tests as this becomes a 'norm' for testing and the impact on Medicaid, etc.. The questions recently brought up to as to whether or not diagnostic tests have been overly used to diagnose different diseases. This may turn out to do just that.

    Another issue that should be looked at before someone decides to go through with this test to diagnose mental illness is the labeling/ stigma. If a legal issue of some sort arises after being diagnosed as bipolar, it seems that a diagnostic test will hold against you stronger than a doctor's diagnosis through questioning and behavior analysis.

    March 31, 2011 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
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