Friday, October 08, 2004

It's Not Me, It's My Brain!

Check out this news story from the university of Michigan. The highlights:

"ANN ARBOR, MI - People with bipolar disorder have an average of thirty percent more of an important class of signal-sending brain cells, according to new evidence being published by University of Michigan researchers.

The finding, in the American Journal of Psychiatry, solidifies the idea that the disorder has unavoidable biological and genetic roots, and may explain why it runs in families.

The discovery is the first neurochemical difference to be found between asymptomatic bipolar and non-bipolar people. It could help the understanding and treatment of a disease that affects as much as 1.5 percent of the population. Bipolar disorder has in the past been known as manic depression.

"To put it simply, these patients' brains are wired differently, in a way that we might expect to predispose them to bouts of mania and depression," says Jon-Kar Zubieta, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and radiology at the U-M Health System. "Now, we must expand and apply this knowledge to give them a treatment strategy based on solid science, not on the current method of trial and error. We should also work to find an exact genetic origin, and to relate those genetic origins to what is happening in the brain."

You know, Zubieta is on to something here. This whole trial and error method of treatment doesn't breed the best doctor-patient relationships. I mean, it's one thing to manipulate your hair style and something entirely different to fuck with your brain chemistry.

I wonder if, years from now, somebody will look back in horror at how mental illness was "treated." Will the future looks on us as barbaric? In some ways, I certainly hope so. I hope medicine will advance to a state where people can legitimately manage being bipolar instead of suffering through years of medication changes misdiagnoses.

One of the women on my listserv said that it took her 11 years to find a tolerable cocktail that actually controlled all of her symptoms without causing some hideous side effects. That's more than a decade. That's unacceptable.

Of course, I'm on my way to joining her in the long quest for some good medications. It'll be 3 years this month that I've been searching.