Bipolar Disorder is a treatable mental health disorder, marked by extreme changes in mood, thought, energy and behaviour.
It was previously called manic depressive disorder because a person’s mood can alternate between extreme highs and extreme lows, which may last for hours, days, weeks, or months. A third presentation, called mixed state, comes with the negative feelings of depression, alongside the agitated, restless or “wired” state of mania. Mixed State is often experienced as the very worst state of Bipolar Disorder. In any of these states, a person with Bipolar Disorder may experience delusions or hallucinations.
Bipolar Disorder affects between 1 – 2.5% of the North American population annually. The most common age of presentation is in the early 20’s, but it may present in childhood or as late as the 40’s or 50’s.
It is found equally in men and women, across all races and social classes. Women are more likely to have more depressed and “mixed” episodes than men. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. In general, people with Bipolar Disorder face up to ten years of living with symptoms prior to receiving an accurate Diagnosis.
- Bipolar Disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world.
- Bipolar Disorder results in an approximately ten year reduction in lifespan.
- The suicide rate is very significant – up to 20%.
- There is a wide range of medications available in several different classes to treat Bipolar Disorder – (mood stabilizers, lithium, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics).
- Many forms of therapy are helpful, especially in conjunction with medication.
SPECT Scanning is extremely helpful in the diagnosing of Bipolar Disorder. It is a medical imaging technique which allows physicians to see how the brain is functioning, and notably, the different levels of functioning in different parts of the brain.
Other forms of imaging such as computerized tomography (CT) scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) provide anatomical pictures of the brain. But they do not provide information about a psychiatric illness that is the product of brain function. By contrast, a SPECT Scan captures this abnormal function.
In Bipolar Disorder, SPECT Scans are …..
1. Helpful in early diagnosis, especially prior to a manic episode, or without recognition of a hypomanic episode;
2. Aid in choice of treatment;
3. Aid in understanding the response to treatment;
4. Help assess disease progression; and
5. Assist in psycho-education and encourage compliance, as individuals are able to see and understand their personal brain function
Interpreting SPECT Scan Images
Surface View: This smooth view shows all activity that falls within 55% of the brain’s maximum function. Bumpy areas and places that do not ‘fill in’ are areas of low activity.
Active View: The transparent (wire frame) blue matrix shows activity that is 55% of the brain’s maximum function. This gives us a basic outline of the brain’s anatomy, and it allows us to examine internal structures of high activity: Red areas show activity falling in the upper 15% of the brain maximum, and white areas are in the upper 8%.