Thanks to a new study, two patterns of symptoms among young people could provide a better warning system for bipolar disorder’s future development.
Bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose. While early depression and other mental health issues can come even years before bipolar disorder, there is a lack of information on specific precursors.
There is some good news on this front: a new study in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry reveals two patterns of symptoms among young people that could lead to a bipolar disorder diagnosis.
The findings come after the team poured through nearly 40 previous studies of symptoms that could precede or build to bipolar disorder.
HOMOTYPIC Symptom Pattern: Similar to Full-Blown Bipolar Disorder
The first pattern of signs is defined as “homotypic.” It includes less-severe aspects of a full bipolar disorder diagnosis, including mood swings, somewhat mild excitement and major depression that can worsen with psychotic symptoms.
It is important to point out that researchers described these conditions as having “low sensitivity” meaning most young people who show these, in general, won’t develop bipolar disorder.
However, they are also described as having “moderate to high specificity”—this means many patients with this symptom pattern were later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
HETEROTYPIC Symptom Pattern: Less Expected Signs
The second symptom pattern discovered is quite different from the first. This pattern is defined as heterotypic, which means the symptoms that go along with it are unlike those that are typically associated with bipolar disorder specifically.
Anxiety, attention disorders, and behavioral disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are all included in the heterotypic behavior pattern list.
Again, with this behavior pattern, just because a young person exhibits these symptoms does not mean that he or she will develop bipolar disorder. The study says both sensitivity and specificity were low for the second pattern of symptoms.
Not Foolproof, But Why There’s Hope
What makes these pattern discoveries significant is researchers say they are “encouragingly similar” to those of preceding studies.
Researchers say their “statistically significant” findings increase the confidence of “a wide range of symptoms, behavior changes and exposures” associated to a potential bipolar disorder diagnosis.
Other factors found to be connected to a bipolar disorder diagnosis include:
• Physical or sexual abuse
• Exposure to drugs (especially cocaine)
• Head injury
• Preterm birth
• A variety of additional life stressors
The hope is that this study, along with further research, will lead to new ways to identify young people who may be susceptible to bipolar, and ways to be proactive with their treatment.
Bipolar disorder is not an emotional illness. Our mood swings are the result of chemicals in our brains––not because of the way we are. When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 31, a friend of mine said, “Wow, now maybe you can deal with your problems!” I remember being very shocked by...
When a partner denies their bipolar disorder diagnosis, it’s easy to get frustrated. But, take a moment and view the situation from their shoes––and adjust your approach accordingly. How can I get my partner to accept their diagnosis? You can’t. It simply doesn’t work this way. Trying to get another person to do anything is...
Bipolar disorder is part of my body, and it is also part of my life. So, like paying for an unexpectedly expensive lunch, I have to live with it. Have you ever been to a restaurant and been shocked by the bill when it arrives? Just the other day, my nephew and I went to...
Are you trying to make the decision to disclose? First assess—and address—your own opinion about bipolar disorder. Your feelings about bipolar affect how and when you tell a potential partner. Note from the Author: This blog is about sharing a bipolar diagnosis with a new love. Although I talk about my experiences telling people about...