Does anyone know if doctors can really measure chemical imblances in the brain? I have had bipolar type 1 rapid cycling for ten years now, and that's all I hear about. If you look at the package inserts of the meds we take some of them state that the "mechanism of action is unknown" What a great comfort (not!). Anyone else sceptical?
Neurological research has identified over fifty (50) neurotransmitters in the brain. Research also tells us that several neurotransmitters are related to mental health problems – Dopamine, Serotonin, Norepinephrine, and GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid).
As research in neurotransmitters continued, studies between neurotransmitters and mental conditions revealed a strong connection between amounts of certain neurotransmitters in the brain and the presence of specific psychiatric conditions (like bipolar). Using an everyday example, our automobile operates by using a variety of fluids such as engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and coolant (anti-freeze). Every automobile has a way to measure the levels or amounts of each of these needed liquids such as the dipstick for oil and transmission fluid and marked indicators for anti-freeze and brake-fluid levels. Using our dipstick to measure engine oil, for an example, we can find our engine to be found one, two, or even three quarts low. After a recent oil change, the dipstick may also tell us that we have excessive oil in the engine. To work properly, all fluid levels must be in the "normal range" as indicated by the dipstick. When we receive a blood test, values of certain blood components are given with the "normal range" also provided, indicating if a blood chemical is below or above the average range.
For many years, mental health professionals have used the term "chemical imbalance" to explain the need for medications that are used to treat mental health conditions. This simple and commonly used explanation recognizes that the condition is a medical problem and that it can be treated with medication. The "chemical imbalance" explanation also reflects the overall theme of treatment – identifying what neurotransmitters are involved in the clinical symptom picture and with medication, attempting to return that neurotransmitter level back to the "normal range".
Going back to the automobile analogy, when I am manic it feels like the 'accelerator' is working full force, but my 'brakes' have stopped working = neurotransmitters out of sync with each other. The reason medication WORKS for me is because it restores the equilibrium.
That is an excellent response and description of how the brain chemistry works and even the body for that matter. I hope a lot of BP members here read your post and find that one doesn't have to be so afraid of the disorder and how it is diagnosed and treated. With KNOWLEDGE comes POWER to ASSERT ONESELF to reach the GOALS they need and want to get the RESULTS they hope to have. Thank you for your wise description and teaching. K
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