Friday, May 20, 2011

bipolar disorder chemical imbalance

In here our Objective Logic fails?
Bipolar Disorder a chemical imbalance in my brain?

Given that the activity of the brain is electrochemical in nature, a probable chemical imbalance of some kind is highly likely, although the cause is still subjective conjecture, despite the recent advances of our technological age.

It would be nice to see the brain in object terms as the clockwork view in the chosen photo implies, yet recent advances in understanding the neurobiology of the brain show us a complex evolution that has more in common with chaos theory and quantum physics than the old clockwork cause and effect way of thinking most of us grow up with.

Typing a search phrase into "bipolar disorder chemical imbalance" we see a page displaying the top ten results of about 198,000 results (0.19 seconds). Wow! Clicking the first link available Patient Health we are taken to a web page titled "bipolar disorder" and stating.

What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a medical condition that affects the brain,giving you periods of extremely high mood and periods of very low mood.

Objectively sound, feels plausible and easily digested using our old fashioned, linear cause and effect thinking? This number one search result goes on to say.

How do you get bipolar disorder?
Experts today believe that bipolar disorder is caused by several different things, including a chemical imbalance in your brain.
Bipolar disorder also seems to run in families. About two thirds of people with bipolar disorder have a close relative who also has the disorder, or who suffers from severe depression.

Again a quick and easy plausibility which fits well with our objective view of bipolar behaviors, even if this page provides no detailed information and certainly nothing with references. Further down the page we are given good advice about bipolar treatment and coping skills.

How is bipolar disorder treated?
People with bipolar disorder need various types of treatment and support to deal with it. They have to take an active role in understanding and coping with bipolar disorder.

Nobody has discovered a cure for bipolar disorder, but we use medications to treat some of the symptoms. Many people who have bipolar disorder live full and productive lives. Yet, tragically, more than one in ten people with bipolar disorder try to commit suicide at some point.

After 31 years of bipolar experience I certainly agree with the advice to take an active role in understanding and coping with bipolar disorder.

Indeed my initial research into my own condition held an expectation of being educated about the functioning of my brain and how my chemical imbalance occurs. Straight forward reasoning, all rational, logical and objective. Yes? Yet my quest led me to new theories about the more complex interaction of brain and body and the role of our autonomic nervous system in all behavior, including bipolar symptoms.

At the bottom of this number one search result page there is a link which reads "Click here for more important information," expecting more detailed info I clicked, surprised by a very similar page as the first one, although peppered by the word "medicines." One paragraph on this page did catch my eye though, sitting nicely under a sub heading.

Medicines information on the Internet
There is a great deal of information on health and medicines on the Internet. Not all of it can be trusted to be accurate and reliable. Be cautious about believing what you read!

After almost a decade wading through mountains of information, I certainly agree with being cautious about believing what you read. These days I'm more than curious about who is providing me information and cautious about their well intentioned objectives.

You can probably tell by my writing tone that I have lost my faith in simple objective thinking somewhat, and become cynical about the economic imperative that infects our objective belief in a bipolar disorder chemical imbalance. Logistics and economies of scale now have as much to do with how mental illness is managed, as does any notion of individual health. Indeed in this year 2011 even psychiatrists are disappointed by the great promise of technology and gene research, in providing answers to the cause and cures for mental illness.

Unfortunately most research continues to follow the old linear cause and effect model of disease, with a focus on the brain which ignores the systemic reality of our evolved nature. Considering the economic realities of our societal system though it is not surprising that a more holistic view is ignored in favor of those little objects we call medicines, with their precious economies of scale. Pills and bottom line profits dovetail nicely into our objective logic, with a perfectly linear cause and effect reasoning which continues the denial of the body and its sensations.

This article is focused on the common perception of a chemical imbalance as the cause of affective disorders like bipolar disorder. A plausible concept that can neither be proven or refuted as the latest research provides just as many questions as answers. Indeed it is becoming clear that the propagation of this over simplified notion was used more as an easy metaphor for common consumption than a valid and proven theory of symptom cause. It will probably be a long time yet before we see proof of a mental illness cause using the scientific method of inquiry. Unless we suddenly become fascist's again and allow experiments on live human patients, we might have to take a leap of faith that the complex ideas of systems theory apply within the realm of the brain/body as much as they do in the wider cosmos.

"This psychoneurobiological developmental model views the brain as a self-organizing system. It also fits particularly 
well with a number of essential tenets of nonlinear dynamic systems (chaos) theory. This powerful model is now being utilized in physics, chemistry, and biology to explore the problem of how complex systems come to produce emergent 
order and new forms. A fundamental postulate of this conception is that there is no dichotomy between the organism 
and the environmental context in which it develops. The physical and social context of the developing human is more 
than merely a supporting frame, it is an essential substratum of the assembling system. Of particular importance to 
chaos theory are the transitions from one developmental stage to another, when the organism encounters instability 
while it shifts from one stable mode to a new mode." Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self, Allan N Schore.

These new systems theories of brain/body development require a concerted effort to really grasp, yet as we get a feel for them our older rationales of linear cause and effect fall into the perspective of childhood fairy tales. New ideas about our perceptive nature show an unconscious neural activity that underpins our fundamental behavior patterns, neural activity that Stephen Porges calls "neuroception." These deeper investigations into human nature highlight just how shallow our object oriented perception is, which is driven more by immediate instinctive needs than any deep awareness or understanding.

As an example the computer analogy is a common one for the human brain, it makes good "objective" sense. Yet is it valid for the electrochemical activity of our organic brain, where chemical interactions are relatively seamless compared to our vision oriented sense of objects and reality? Cause & Effect thinking is becoming old hat with the leading theorist's, its like comparing a black & white movie experience to "Avatar."

I'm aware how much readers would like some simple cause and effect ideas that give an immediate sense of relief and a concrete plan for coping with bipolar disorder. In my own process of deepening awareness and understanding such a method is evolving through my writing here although there are no adequate words for an objective description of the process. Integrating new knowledge is like digestion as Fritz Perls, the father of Gestalt Therapy put it, perhaps the fine wine fermentation process is appropriate, we can know the end result but the process is a complex one in which time is an ingredient.

For a good old fashioned investigation of the chemical imbalance theory though, please watch Robert Whitaker speak about this common perception, and perhaps contrast it with Stephen Porges landmark theory of neuroception, although like the information page referred to above I urge you to be curious as to Porges objective intentions:))

Whitaker's book "Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America" hascaused a great stir amongst both mental health consumers and health care professionals in America. Here is a sample of customer reviews on
"As others have stated, this book is impeccably researched and the author presents his argument in a very thoughtful, careful way, with a lot of compassion for the individuals whose stories he tells to illustrate his point. However, as I reach the end of the book, I find myself wondering whether it is fair to implicate only Big Pharma and the proponents of biological psychiatry in this scandal. I find myself wondering about the roles of shareholder value in the decision making process in the pharmaceutical industry, and of teachers and parents who would rather think that their children's behavior is due to "chemical imbalance" than to psychosocial issues like peer pressure, unavailable parents, overwhelmed teachers, and the like.

As the reviewer notes, there are a wide variety of cause and effect implications to consider in the rise and rise of mental illness in America. Just like the new systems theories of our cellular reality, the wider and deeper we pursue a real understanding, the more complex our perceptions need to become. A simple cause and effect model of illness and disease suggesting a bipolar disorder chemical imbalance with no understanding of cause is not even half the real picture.

Neuroception?-An Unconscious Perception?