Bipolar is a Brain, not Behavior Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong battle that often goes misdiagnosed. Doctors are not certain as to the cause of bipolar disorder, but they do know that brain structures differ from that of a “normal” brain in patients — containing lower levels of the “feel good” chemicals (dopamine, neopinefrin and seratonin) that regulate the body’s sleep, impulses, eating, and sexual activity.

Nearly 6 million people have bipolar disorder. The popular misconception is that it is a behavioral problem. Bipolar disorder is a disorder of the brain, a medical problem that has an effect on learning and the ability to concentrate and focus. Memory and storing information are difficult.

Medications and therapy are necessary in order to live a happy and healthy life. The problem is that often a patient will think they are cured because they feel better, and will discontinue treatment, when in fact there is no cure and medications are a lifelong condition.

A bipolar person has highs and lows in their temperament. Medications will keep the attitude more balanced, and there will not be the drastic swings associated with the disorder. Since pressure is a trigger, medication will make it so the stress does not signal a violent reactive episode.

The condition is called bipolar because there are two separate forms the condition takes — mania and depression. The mania has the person on a very high and positive emotional condition — almost like euphoria. The depression is like a black cloud and everything is negative and overblown. The emotions can swing very rapidly, with one minute a positive person who seems to have things under control, and the next minute a person who is hypersensitive and takes everything said as a personal assault. Living with a person with uncontrolled bipolar is extremely stressful.

Ancient Greeks treated those with the condition by having them soak in a lithium salts bath. Later treatment consisted of shock therapy, electric eels, and lobotomies. Often bipolar patients were placed in insane asylums, where there was often physical, mental and sexual abuse.

It wasn’t until the late 1960s early 1970s that bipolar disorder was changed from a mental to a manic depression illness, and safeguards were put in place to protect psychiatric patients under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

Surprisingly, the Greeks weren’t too far off track. Studies have found that lithium treatment can help to slow down the symptoms and reverse some of the structural changes that have taken place in the brain. Scientists also have found that anyone, if they work at developing their memory and other cognitive skills, can possibly be able to change the structure of their brain.

Bipolar patients often find visual aids easier when trying to improve their memory. By writing things down and taking notes (which is a good practice for anyone, not just people with bipolar disorder) they can improve their memory. There is no shame in working on managing the effects bipolar plays on memory. Bipolar disorder is treatable!

Bipolar children seem to forget the events that are taking place when they go into a rage. Adult rages seem to be more seizure-like, and not simply acting out. Seizures could account for the memory lapses. Adults who had been treated as children for bipolar have also told their therapists they have memory gaps of events that took place during highly charged emotional times.

Bipolar disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, and seeking treatment and working on managing the effects bipolar plays on a person is no disgrace. One famous person who has come out and admitted she struggles with bipolar disorder is television reporter Jane Pauley. She told in interviews that she has been able to come to terms with her illness and sought treatment. The therapy and medications has allowed her to live a happy and productive life.

About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at


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