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Bipolar Disease in Utah: Current Practices and Services

Bipolar Disease in Utah: Current Practices and Services

As we currently understand it, bipolar disease is not a disease at all but a mental disorder. To be classified as a disease, a health condition must have clearly understood causes. With bipolar, we’re just not there yet. But what we do have is a pretty clear picture when it comes to the prevalence, symptomology, and potential outcomes for bipolar disorder.

We know, for example, that these individuals all seem to struggle with extreme mood swings that persist for several days, weeks, or even months at a time. We know that about 2.6 percent of people are affected by bipolar disorder each year. And judging by the rates of major depression, the prevalence in Utah is probably quite comparable. The condition is most often diagnosed somewhere between adolescence and middle-age. We know that many people can manage the symptoms with treatment, some even to the point where the disorder goes into remission. Depending on severity, early and accurate identification, and the strength of the person’s support system, there can be a wide range of disruption to the individual’s personal life. And, unfortunately, approximately one in five people who struggle with the disorder end up taking their own lives. Additional facts can be found at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.


The Study of Bipolar Disease

While we know many of the characteristics of the disorder, we still know very little about bipolar disease. But this does not mean there’s nothing we can say about the physiological processes associated with the condition. Much like major depression, we recognize that bipolar disorder has something to do with the dysregulation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine, but we don’t know why or exactly how this dysregulation occurs.

Thus, although we don’t understand the underlying causes of a would-be bipolar disease, we do suspect there is a biological underpinning. We’d love to be able to say that we’re close to solving the puzzle—as presumably this increased understanding would lead to more effective treatments. But the truth is that it would take a major breakthrough—or, more likely, several—if we ever do get there.

In Utah, research is also being done on treatments that may help alleviate bipolar symptoms and improve mental health outcomes. The Brain Institute at the University of Utah, for example, is conducting a study on the possible benefits of uridine for adolescents and young adults with bipolar disorder. A nutritional supplement, uridine is found in breast milk and most infant formulas. It has already shown promising antidepressant effects in preliminary studies.


Get Help in Utah

It can be instructive to put our knowledge of the disorder into perspective, but if you are currently struggling with intense and sustained mood swings, you can’t wait for the science to catch up. Although we can’t cure bipolar disease, we can certainly treat bipolar disorder. A psychological assessment will help determine what, if any, mental disorder is present. Talk therapy can help an individual mitigate the harm that’s often caused by periods of mania and depression and lower the risk of suicide. Prescription medications can have an effect on the dysregulation of neurotransmitters in the brain. There are also a host of nutritional supplements, noninvasive, and experimental procedures available for more personalized and advanced treatment options.

Moreover, in an ideal scenario, not all help needs to come from mental health professionals. Family members and community resources may provide additional layers of support, while a therapist can also recommend support groups and different types of community involvement that are most likely to produce a positive effect. Don’t let any stigma, real or perceived, stop you from getting the help that can make a positive difference.


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