Wednesday, May 25, 2011

what causes bipolar

Does Bipolar Involve the Brian Alone?
Or a Brain/Body Nervous System?
What Causes Bipolar Disorder? From:
When we look for the cause of bipolar disorder, the best explanation according to the research available at this time is what is termed the "Diathesis-Stress Model." The word diathesis means, in simplified terms, a physical condition that make a person more than usually susceptible to certain diseases. Thus the Diathesis-Stress Model says that each person inherits certain physical vulnerabilities to problems that may or may not appear depending on what stresses occur in his or her life. Durand and Barlow define this model as a theory "that both an inherited tendency and specific stressful conditions are required to produce a disorder."

So the bottom line, according to today's thinking, is that if you are manic depressive, you were born with the possibility of developing this disorder, and something in your life set it off.

From: Experts do believe that bipolar disorder often runs in families, and there is a genetic component to this mood disorder. There is also growing evidence that environment and lifestyle issues have an effect on the disorder's severity. Stressful life events or alcohol or drug abuse can make bipolar disorder more difficult to treat.

From: Evidence suggests that environmental factors play a significant role in the development and course of bipolar disorder, and that individual psychosocial variables may interact with genetic dispositions. There is fairly consistent evidence from prospective studies that recent life events and interpersonal relationships contribute to the likelihood of onsets and recurrences of bipolar mood episodes, as they do for onsets and recurrences of unipolar depression.

There have been repeated findings that between a third and a half of adults diagnosed with bipolar disorder report traumatic/abusive experiences in childhood, which is associated on average with earlier onset, a worse course, and more co-occurring disorders such as PTSD. The total number of reported stressful events in childhood is higher in those with an adult diagnosis of bipolar spectrum disorder compared to those without, particularly events stemming from a harsh environment rather than from the child's own behavior.

Early experiences of adversity and conflict are likely to make subsequent developmental challenges in adolescence more difficult, and are likely a potentiating factor in those at risk of developing bipolar disorder. Many gifted and talented children (and adults) are mis-diagnosed by psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, and other health care professionals. One of the most common mis-diagnoses is Bi-Polar Disorder. This type of mis-diagnoses stems from an ignorance among professionals about the social and emotional characteristics of gifted children which are then mistakenly assumed by these professionals to be signs of pathology.


All the official explanations I've read make good sense and have always eased my immediate concerns at the time, feeling somewhat understood and with some kind of identification for the cause of my bipolar condition. Yet like so many others my ongoing private experience of mental illness has not really matched the confident public pronouncements. I'm not one of the lucky ones who's experience matches the description of a brain disease that can be managed well with psychotropic drugs, I belong to a group which some sources claim is as high as 40%.

Perhaps it is true that 40% of people receive no significant ongoing relief from medication, or perhaps its the false impression of anecdotal evidence. Although all studies into mental illness are a subjective impression on the real meaning of what constitutes symptoms. In the past when I have been symptom free, it largely meant I was not disturbing others with unusual behaviors and that my cyclic biorhythms were relatively stable. That did not mean that I was happy and anguish free or that I wasn't still troubled to identify the cause of my dis-ease. What studies don't show is how constricted many people become to maintain a rational stability, how much they consciously restrict their behaviors.

Do the public pronouncements on mental illness match your private experience?

Public pronouncements or official conceptions of bipolar and its causes are all objectively sound and rational when viewed with cause and effect logic. The universal, one thing causes another, sense of life that we all share. Yet we need to be aware that the history of mental illness is as much about our reaction to it and how we manage it than what it really is.

There is no current science that can tell us what mental illness is, with the common chemical imbalance notion arising from the accidental discovery that certain chemicals affect brain function and help manage symptoms. "Help manage symptoms," that's were we are up to in the historical journey to discover the causes of mental illness and what causes bipolar. Measuring what happens inside the brain under certain circumstances only shows what happens, or what affective disorder looks like in the electrochemical machinations of the brain.

There is no cause and effect research that is capturing the stimulus to these highly complex electrochemical reactions to life. These days the great faith placed in gene research is dissolving with the passage of time, along with a false cause and effect logic that blames the brain alone and ignores the nervous system's role in symptom expression. The millisecond feedback signals between brain and autonomic nervous system are intricately involved in how symptoms of bipolar manifest, and cannot be grasped using an objective, cause and effect logic.


Mind you, the latest science from the top of the tree suggests that our everyday sense of life is a little too simplistic for a real grasp of our underlying reality. Some say that cause and effect thinking is like comparing a black & white movie experience to the 3d movie Avatar, and that we are now beginning a paradigm shift in human perception. Only when we theorize what we cannot prove do get the nuanced glimpse of underlying reality that famous theories like Einstein's produce. Only when we trust in the theories derived by those not motivated by profits and the need to get paid by diagnosis pronouncements.

Human progress has never really been advanced through the material armies of gain, whether that be land gains or financial gains. Its always been a lone individual with the courage to think outside our common misconceptions and the denied motivations to our behaviors. Stephen Porges is such an individual and his concept of "neuroception" is as groundbreaking and epoch changing as any of his famous predecessors and along with his "The Polyvagal Theory" his hard won insights will advance our progress into the future.

Porges discovery of a third branch of the autonomic nervous system comes along in a period in history when systems theories of chaos are deepening our perceptions of underlying reality. Allan Schore "the Einstien of neurobiology" as some have called him, shows how chaos theory can explain the nature of psychopathology or mental illness. Along with Peter Levine's work in deepening our awareness of trauma and just how susceptible we humans are to its affects, a picture of chaos chance and circumstance is emerging as the genesis of "mental illness."


In my own need to identify what causes bipolar I now understand the chaos of a birth trauma circumstance, along with the chance intervention of removal to a mechanical crib straight after a violent mechanical expulsion from the womb, were the genesis of my lifelong dissociation, and my eventual mental illness. Only through education into my own biology/neurology did I gain insights into what causes bipolar, and only by practicing a felt awareness of my unconscious nervous system activity did I heal my bipolar condition.

What causes bipolar, is trauma experience with its conditioning of the autonomic nervous system and its stimulation of a freeze response, which like death is one of the great unspeakable subjects in human affairs. In 2006 I wrote a 12000 word essay about the differentiation of self, as part of my therapist training. The title of that essay was "Don't talk about emotional stuff, you might upset somebody," it described my journey to date and research into three generations of my family. It followed Murry Bowens therories and in particular his concept of a "multigenerational transmission of emotionality" a family system.

In "Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development" Allan Schore describes the impact of "affect" on our maturing brain/nervous system during the critical first three years of life, when our emotional software is programed into the hard drive of our brain, to use a computer like cause & effect analogy. It is "affect" that we are busy regulating every second of our existence in what neuroscience now describes as "affective states," the neurobiology of Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now" Tolle describes the genesis of his famous journey as a spiritual guru, the night he awoke to a different sensory experience, the descending calm and heightened awareness of a new affective state.

In the nature of chaos chance and circumstance Tolle goes on to become a world famous teacher while others experiencing such a sudden re-balance of the autonomic nervous system go to hospital and become labeled as a mental health statistic. I describe my own genesis to the mental illness journey in a previous post here and the driving force for my concerted effort to understand what causes bipolar. What causes bipolar is nature, raw instincts and traumatic experiences, with our denied animal nature at the root of our shallow object orientated cause and effect thinking. Cause and effect thinking is nuanced instinctual reactivity, with our famous sense of objectivity now being exposed as a lack of insight, not the presence of it.


Seven months ago in the middle of "psychosis", as objective logic likes to describe these non mainstream experiences. I wrote the post below on "the icarus project" in an impulsive urge to 'come out' of my life long defensive posture and my dissociated intellectualism.

What was matter like within the first second of the Universe’s life?

Read about the amazing men and women who are seeking knowledge on a Grand scale by creating the conditions that existed at the beginning of time and space, hoping to find a missing element (higgs boson) or God particle as some have named it. This largest ever experiment will change our understanding of the universe dramatically, perhaps leading to another paradigm shift in our perceptions similar to Galileo's discovery. And as we discover this kind of awareness, what does it say about what we are to the universe itself.

Are WE the universe perceiving itself?

As that six week psychosis subsided I boarded a plane back to Australia looking for the counseling I needed to integrate this experience, just as I had on the evening of my first manic experience in 1980. I was looking to talk out this recent manic episode with the additional understanding gained from my ongoing education thrown into the mix. Similar to a previous experience in 2007 though I met with familiar resistance, "don't talk about emotional stuff, you might upset somebody," no rational discussion can entered into with a "mental," they have no insight. Instead of the warm welcome home from family and friends, I met with a brutal rejection from my oldest son and the sneering pity of old friends in the pathetic rank and status game that we all instinctively play.

Again chaos, chance and circumstance seemed to have contrived against me, with the hearth my exhausted heart needed, no where in sight. After six weeks of psychosis our current model of mental illness confidently predicts that I should follow this experience with a crushing depression, and my sons preconceived attack on me, less than 30 minutes after I'd landed was a perfect trigger for plumbing the depths of despair. Armed though with my new educated insights which continue to reshape my experience, I knew better than previously how to cope with these circumstances.

The one thing I did not do was seek medical help, I allowed myself to feel the rejection and took care of myself by seeking the familiar isolation that had always guided my life. What I had insight into though is the natural/instinctive nature of this response, and I allowed myself to experience it minus the well meaning fearful concern of others. In the past the fearful concern of family and friends has compounded the density of my own fear and helped stimulate the feelings of helpless despair to trigger instinctive withdrawal.

It is this natural instinct for conservation/withdrawal that underpins depression and the cumulative affect of denial that maintains and increases the strength of this response. Our posture of intelligent awareness, our objectivity, ensures we suffer all manner of mental anguish because we hold onto the natural freeze response of traumatic experience, rather that process it as other mammals do. Peter Levine's "In an Unspoken Voice" illustrates perfectly the folly of our hubris and our pretense that we are not an animal. It is the raw power of instinctual energy that stimulates the emotional firing of synaptic connections in the frontal cortex, that allows intuitive creativity. As Phil Collins once remarked about his creative talent "Shit I don't know man. It comes out of the ether." Well somewhere along the line our much vaunted intellect has to meet up with wider nature and connect and looking within to the power of our sensations might provide more insight than looking up with wishful thinking.

The science of systems theory is now joining hands with spiritual awareness to usher in a new awakening. Deepak Chopra writes in his book "Buddha" about the life of a much venerated spiritual leader and explains how time and legend distort truth for the sake of dramatic impact. Deepak's book explores the life of Gotama Buddha and his real life identity as the Prince Siddhattha, and how this family name becomes confused over time with the meaning of Buddha, which translated means 'awake.'

There are thousands of people across the globe who feel their experience of bipolar or mental illness, as a spiritual awakening or crisis. What science and systems theory is now uncovering is the biology/neurology of this natural experience. We now understand the principle of feedback underpinning chaos theory and its 'affect' within the nervous system. In an effort to articulate this meeting of science and spirituality I wrote a previous post about Buddha and Feedback Fired Neurons in the brain.

The journey through space and time is not a linear one as cause and effect logic perceives, there is a wobble to reality as we swing between the competing stimulus of our unconscious nervous system motivation. Like the Earth's gravity induced wobble in its journey around the Sun, we wobble through history with a mix of insight and instinct, like the many falls from Renaissance periods into darker ages. Never before though has there been a mass education experience like the one we in right now, when the underlying systemic reality is seeping into common awareness with the speed of interconnected change.

New scientific insights and the urgency of approaching challenge will quicken a deep need for an awakened awareness, and as the wheel of time turns and East meets West with shared insights and age old wisdom a spiritual awakening of global proportions will happen. As Eckhart Tolle so beautifully explains in his book "A New Earth," spiritual teachers are like the first plants, trees and flowers, with time there was a blossoming of new color all over the Earth. new Science insights and spiritual awareness shared a similar seeding process, with time and density providing an eventual tipping point. As Malcolm Gladwell writes in his influencial book "The Tipping Point," there is "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point." or as others have noted "Suddenly everybody gets it."

For those of us who have experienced the outrageous misfortune of chaos, chance and circumstance, perhaps we need to band together and seek out new insights into what causes bipolar, then seed the thoughts of a new perception. Perhaps we need to spread the word about "The Polyvagal Theory," Neuroception and the human vulnerability to traumatic conditioning. As we have seen recently in the bottom up changes sweeping the Arab world, perhaps we can use this new social media to affect a bottom up revolution in the concept of mental illness?

After 31 years of so-called mental illness I have affected a change in my self awareness through the insights gained from self education and their experiential integration into my psyche, my soul. Like others in the blogosphere I'm trying to seed ideas for an alternative view of the so-called mentally ill, trying to articulate the science that is blending into ageless wisdom and spirituality.

Being Buddha & Feedback Fired Neurons
Living with bipolar
mania dreams & the roots of psychosis