Research hopes to improve understanding of bipolar disorder

A new study claims to have pinpointed the ‘key characteristics’ of bipolar disorder.

According to researchers from the University of Michigan in the USA, bipolar disorder is often experienced differently by each individual patient.

However, the researchers claim that regardless of how or when an individual is affected by the condition, their symptoms and experiences will usually fall into certain types of ‘characteristics or phenotypes’ – which to a certain extent can be seen as ‘risk factors’

The University of Michigan’s study has identified these as:

  • Changes in cognition (i.e. reasoning, thinking and the processing of emotions).
  • Psychological dimensions (i.e. changes in personality or temperament).
  • Motivated behaviours (i.e. behaviour affected by substance use or abuse).
  • Personal factors (i.e. traumas, relationships and their effect on mental health).
  • Sleep patterns (i.e. changes in circadian rhythms).
  • Changing symptoms (i.e. how they are affected by time and treatments).

The research assessed some 1,100 people over a period of 12 years before drawing these conclusions. 730 of the test subjects developed bipolar disorder during that time, while the remaining 277 did not.

Researchers analysed trends in those who developed the condition and also found that those with bipolar disorder were more likely to experience other health issues, such as eating and anxiety disorders.