Is Bipolar Caused by Inflammation

Question: Is Bipolar Disorder Caused by Chronic Inflammation?

Answer: Well that’s a short and sweet question.  Since I have written about my own bipolar off and on for a couple of years, I tend to get questions about the topic in the mailbag (or more commonly private message on Facebook) about the topic.  They tend to be a little more directed and/or individually oriented than this one but I do actually like questions like this.  Because despite the fact that I have bipolar (specifically bipolar II, the lighter form), I don’t really keep up with the developments in it.  I’m medicated, I’m stable, I’m happy and, honestly, I have other things on my plate.  So questions like this force me to get up my own butt and do some research and learn something new.  And in this case I got up my own butt to see if bipolar was in fact and inflammatory condition.

And the short answer is yes-ish.  Now here’s the long answer.

A Couple of Comments about Inflammation

Inflammation has become the new big buzzword in health and, like so many things, tends to carry the connotation of being nothing but a negative.  Most of the focus tends to be on the modern diet and whether or not certain components are or aren’t inflammatory to the body with the usual focus being on things like sugar or an excessive omega-6:omega-3 ratio being inflammatory while other foods are anti-inflammatory.

I’ve addressed the omega-6:omega-3 thing previously on the site and will only say that I think parsing out specific parts of the diet in terms of inflammation is a problem for a big reason: obesity is an inflammatory condition in and of itself (fat cells are actually part of the immune system which means that increasing amounts of bodyfat are part of this inflammation).

Which means that, given commonalities in diet that tend to be present in the obese makes it difficult in mind to separate out the impact of the diet from the fact that someone is obese.  That said, how studies typically do this is give some dietary component and measure the actual inflammatory response although differences are often seen between lean and obese individuals.  I’d be lying if I said I had looked into this in huge detail.

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Bipolar Recovery Year in Review

So it’s been exactly a year since I hit published one of the hardest posts I ever have made (that was on January 1st, 2015 apparently).  And while I’ve done a number of bipolar recovery updates over the past year with decreasing frequency (primarily because I didn’t have anything new to say) it seemed appropriate to summarize the past year to kick things off.

Winding up 2015

As 2015 had wound down, many things had happened, mostly positive.  Certainly I had been productive in my field in a way I hadn’t been in many years. My therapist had referred to this as MVP: meaning, value purpose and after several years of having none, it was nice to be working on something concrete.   I updated the website most weeks, wrote most of one book (currently on hold) which spun off into the book that is currently crushing my soul, the woman’s book.  Outside of my first book, it will likely be my hardest and most exhausting project.  Given the topic and what I hope it will represent to the field, it may be one of the ones I’m most satisfied with.  If it’s ever done…

A big part of this year was separating myself from some previously unhealthy environments.  In the early part of the year, I’d have the occasional urge to return to them.  Knowing how critical my sleep schedule was, I just forced myself to delay until it was bedtime.  Eventually even that dissipated.  Getting into a healthier interpersonal relationship (read: dating someone NOT from those environments) in the summer helped.  It had its own craziness (as these things do) but, overall, it was a much better place for me to be.

Mentally, I had one small blip, in the early spring where I almost spiralled off into hypomania.  That old thought process and mood started to come back.  But I caught that and, fighting a strong urge to lie to everyone, told my nurse practitioner (NP) and support system that I was feeling it happen which is a first for me.  Part of the insidiousness of bipolar is that, as it hijacks your brain, it tells you you are fine.  Actually you’re more than just fine.  YOU.  ARE. AWESOME.   It’s why many people with bipolar don’t want medication or ignore it in the throes of hypomania (when you’re depressed, you don’t have the energy to get help)   Who needs treatment for AWESOME?  But I noticed the behaviors, told everyone about it, we doubled my meds (I’m still on like 1/4th the maximum dose) and I was fine two days later.

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Bipolar Recovery Update 7

So I haven’t done one of these in a fairly long while simply because I haven’t had a whole lot to say and this will probably be fairly short for that reason.  But I figure it will be a nice break from my relentless discussion of women’s specific issues (as I continue to grind, reorganize and over-edit the women’s book).  So here’s a quick overview of what’s been going on in the last few months.

The Bipolar Itself

I know I have mentioned in previous updates that my bipolar swings seem to be very seasonal with my hypomanic upswing happening in the spring and my typical depression being when fall starts and the weather changes again.  Which means that the rest of the year it’s pretty boring and stable.  And this summer certainly was.  Honestly, it just sort of moved along as I was grinding along on editing and re-editing and re-editing the women’s book.

I’ve had my normal follow ups with nurse practitioner although we did move them to every 6 weeks for a while since I was intensely stable and every month seemed excessive.  The agreed upon idea was that as fall approaches, we’d go back to every month just in case I started to crater.

I did have one blip of depression about two weeks ago, conveniently right before my followup with my nurse practitioner.  Certainly the time of year didn’t help but there were a lot of situational issues going on.   A big part of it was book related, I had ground to a halt re-editing a chapter dealing with birth control and right about the time I was trying to figure it out there was a death in the family (it’s why I didn’t update two weeks ago).  On top of the travel and everything else, I spent three days stressing about the chapter I was stuck on.  I also had a bit of a social/personal issue that was weighing on me and certainly the time of year didn’t help.

But the chapter got unstuck, I dealt with the personal issue and I started to feel better almost immediately.  I told my NP about it but she didn’t see any reason to change anything about my meds or treatment.  I just needed to keep an eye on it and look for a downward trending mood line.  At this point in my life, I certainly know what it feels like.

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Bipolar Recovery Update 6

First a quick announcement, despite my overly optimistic hopes that the new book would be ready this week, well…it was overly optimistic.  Editing is taking much longer than I had originally hoped and at this point I am going to stop giving estimates.  It will be finished when it is finished and I am happy with the final product.  I wouldn’t do it any other way.

So it’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these and, since I can’t really come up with anything else to write about at the moment, it seemed like a good time to do another bipolar update.  The last one of these was done quite some time back so it’s really overdue. I figure at this point most people have read earlier parts of this, if not you can find them all here.  But I’m not going to recap everything over and over again even if it pads out the word count.

The Bipolar Itself

I’ve mentioned previously that both my hypomania and depression tend to be excruciatingly seasonal.  I have typically ramped up around April/May (when the weather changes I think) and sink back down in November (when the weather changes and I run out of gas from hypomania).  The good of this is that I’m at least better able to watch out for impending signs; at the same time it made approaching that time a bit terrifying. Like seeing a train coming at you. As I entered, I think it was late April or early May, I did start feeling a bit of a ramp up.  Some of it was probably due to a lot of caffeine use since it usually went away in the evenings but I noticed a change. It was subtle but it was there.

Entering May or so, the biggest difference I really noticed was a set of stereotyped thought processes.  I’m not sure how to describe this exactly but there is a certain way of thinking along with a certain type of thoughts that I remember from previous episodes and they were starting to intrude a bit more.  My old obsession had also come back in spades over the book project; something that hadn’t been present.  Along with that came something else that I’ll mention in a second.

Now, I have repeatedly mentioned that I have a number of safety nets put in place, friends I see at varying intervals so that they hopefully catch the problems.  And for some weird confluence of reasons, I ended up not seeing them around this time.  I was supposed to have a birthday dinner with a friend; something came up. I hadn’t seen my two female friends in a while although I was scheduled to see them the week after this started.  And I hadn’t gone to DBSA meeting that week.

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Bipolar Recovery Update 5

So it’s been since Februrary that I updated the ongoing recovery from last year, having been diagnosed with bipolar, etc.  I imagine everyone has noticed regular updates to the site, I’ve had a number of people comment on my not being an out of control belligerent a-hole online and anybody on my Facebook feed, page or whatever has seen a variety of excerpts from a current mega-project that I’m in the process of trying to finish (TWO MORE WEEKS GUYS!  HA HA!)

Even when I disagree or argue with people, I make an effort (not always successful to be honest) to be constructive rather than just raging at people pointlessly.  Make no mistake, the old habits are still there and I’ve lost it with a few people (usually who were just being utterly ignorant and pushing my buttons) and/or found myself reflexively writing stuff that I shouldn’t but I try to catch it before hitting post or sending the email.   Twenty years of habit doesn’t change quickly but I’m working on it.

But since it’s been a few months, I figured it was about time to go ahead and do another bipolar recovery update, for reasons that I’ll actually elucidate below.    The short version for anybody who doesn’t want to read is that things are going well.  I’m mostly stable although I find stimulants will tend to push me towards aggression ville, sleep is good, I’m halfway into my normal trouble spot and everything seems on track, etc.  So far so good.  Now, some details.

Gym, Eating, Lifestyle

Having described probably the most boring training program in the history of ever, I thought I’d comment on this first.  Over the past few months, my weight training has been moving up gradually.  I’m pretending once again to be an Olympic Lifter, gradually brought back in snatches to my training and have put more focus there and less on the general strength stuff.   I also added a third day of training.

I’m still doing some of it but the first half of my workout is always Ol’ing including the competition lifts, squats, pulls and even the occasional deadlift.  Follow that up with some basic upper body, arm, core work.  Last workout, I’m maybe 5kg off my previous (admittedly sucky) bests from years back so we’ll see.

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