Think children are being over-diagnosed and over-treated where psychiatric disorders are concerned? Take a look at the disturbing trend of the use of antipsychotics within the foster care system:
Genes can be reset during early life in profoundly different ways depending on whether children grow up in privileged or deprived households, a landmark study has shown.
The penalty might be activation of genes that make poorer people more prone to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other diseases. That could help explain why poorer people often have shorter lives. Epigenetic changes have also recently been linked to conditions that can involve psychosis, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Read the entire article here.
While making my daily blog reading rounds, I came across an interesting entry from Natasha Tracy who writes a fantastic, award-winning blog called Breaking Bipolar. Her June 23rd entry tackled a subject I’ve long been interested in: Are People with Bipolar Disorder More Intelligent?
Although bipolar herself, Natasha takes the position, “…I’m sorry to say, the truth is, people with bipolar disorder are actually cognitively impaired compared to the average individual.” She supports this stance by declaring, “…you need a definition for intelligence…The intelligent quotient (IQ) is not generally considered one of those things. So scientists measure “cognitive deficits.” In other words, they take a very specific component of brain function and measure it. Examples include vocabulary, memory, spatial reasoning and cognitive speed. “Intelligence” itself is a moving target and open to interpretation.”
I pondered this for a while and I do agree that for BPs, cognitive functioning is often impaired (especially by medication), but decided that if vocabulary, spatial reasoning and cognitive speed collectively were not some of the markers for intelligence, then all of those tests I’ve taken along the years must have been wrong…including the IQ tests.
I know in my gut that we BPs are more intelligent than the a-ver-age bear, so I went out and did some research to find some evidence, and I think I may have found just the source to prove it. A study from the Institute on Psychiatry at King’s College London and from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden in 2010 has shown that there may in fact be a link between mental disorders like bipolar disorder and having a high IQ or being highly creative.
They reviewed the final exam results from Swedish students, ages fifteen to sixteen, who attended high school between 1988 and 1997. The teams compared these outcomes with the admissions of bipolar patients, ages seventeen to thirty-one. They discovered that students who obtained “A” grades on the exams were almost four times as likely to be admitted for bipolar disorder as those who achieved average grades. The researchers made an even stronger case for the link by factoring in the income and education levels of the students’ parents. Further, they found that those students who obtained very low exam grades were also more likely to develop bipolar disorder than those with average grades.
Which means this study also overlaps somewhat with another subject I’ve written about, depression and socioeconomic position.
In ‘Abnormal Psychology, Current Perspectives’ the demographic profile of bipolar disorder is discussed; “bipolar disorder is more prevalent among higher socioeconomic groups.”
The fact that bipolar disorder is more common among people in affluent families is important as affluence is directly related to intelligence and intelligence is directly related to genetics.
So, what does everyone think? While it’s not always the case, are BP brains prone to higher IQs?
At the same time, throughout psychiatry, there has been a continuing debate over the status of aggressive behavior in children and in relation to other disorders. Lee and Galynker3 reported that “just under 50% of people with bipolar disorder have some history of violent behavior.” Violence can occur in manic or in depressive states, or even in euthymic moods. They saw a close and compounding relationship between childhood trauma and violence in adult Bipolar Affective Disorder (BAD): “A history of 2 or more types of trauma has been associated with a 3-fold increased risk of bipolar disorder, as well as a worse clinical course that includes early onset, faster cycling, and increased rates of suicide.” Early trauma complicates adult affective disorder by predisposing to substance abuse, criminality, and personality disorder. In general, early onset of aggressive behavior indicates a poorer prognosis, and not just for the affective disorder. So what is the disorder, and what should be treated?
In Occupational Class and Symptoms of Depression by Christopher Bagley from Social Science Medicine 7 (1973) 327-339, p.331, Bagley asserts, “The studies reviewed suggest that there is some support for the view that some types of ‘depression’ and upper class economic position are related…the finding may apply to…the classic manic depressive psychosis in particular.”
Well, I have done a bit of snipping in the above quotation (clearly evident by he ellipses) but the core idea remains the same.
Is there really a correlation? It’s hard to tell. It would be interesting to take one of my unscientific polls involving coworkers, but stigma around bipolarity is so great there are only two people I work with who have admitted to having a mental illness, and neither of them are bipolar. Reading blogs of bipolar people, I do see a trend towards those with high stress, high paying jobs admitting to manic depression. The recent ‘literature’ (thank you, Google) is mixed. According to a September 10, 2010 article on Psychcentral.com, “People with bipolar disorder are more likely to be single, disabled, and have a lower income than people without the disorder, according to new research.” Yet, a July 10, 2010 article on brighthub.com claims, “Studies have shown that those who have a higher socioeconomic status are more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder. One other interesting note is that those who are involved in creative arts have a 10 to 20% higher chance of developing this serious mental illness than those who are in the general population.” The resources cited for this article include a 2007 reference from PsychCentral and a NIMH article.
IMHE(xperience), I feel I fall into the latter group simply due to the level of stress a career that qualifies for an upper class economic position entails. What I do for a living and where I do it is irrelevant. The impact of what I do, however, is significant in that it has global ramifications. No pressure, right? Another significant stressful situation preceding my hospitalization was the threat of downsizing. Virtually everyone I know has lived under the threat for the last 2.5 years. Thankfully (I think), I was the only one who wound up in The Spa. (I did escape layoff myself.)
There most likely is a correlation between bipolar and socioeconomic standing, but to what overall end I am uncertain. What I am sure of is the positive role my career plays in the severity of my own bipolarity.