wearable tech and bipolar vs. schizophrenia

May 19, 2007

UCSD researchers have come up with a shirt that takes various physiological measurements from people, and have found distinct patterns between people with schizophrenia and people with bipolar disorder. This is of note particularly because it can be very hard for clinicians to distinguish someone having a manic episode from someone who is schizophrenic. But it’s also interesting because anything that tells us more about what’s going on can lead to better treatment…

Here’s the link with the somewhat misleading headline (it’s not really about monitoring in the treatment sense, it’s not even in the pipeline, but it is an extremely interesting study):

Wearable Technology Helps Monitor Mental Illness

I also like that they mention difficulty filtering information. It can be a pretty big issue but because it’s not psychosis, nor mood, it’s not so well-known. One of my own problems, whenever I feel off in whatever way, is getting overwhelmed by sensory input and having to leave social situations because I can’t take it anymore. (Medication has definitely helped with that.)

Anyway. I wonder if something like this will eventually come into play in childhood bipolar diagnosis? That’s contentious in part because it’s very hard to diagnose in kids who don’t have clearcut manic periods.

Personally, I think they should make it Hypercolor and just have it turn different colors.


big pharma

May 18, 2007

does many unethical things, and needs to be watched closely. That particular opinion of mine got inadvertently left out of my first post during edits, and someone brought it to my attention. Big pharma does unethical things, and that gets said many ways, by many people, in many forms, and sometimes to baby-with-the-bathwater extremes.

It’s enough of a given that reasonable people believe big pharma does unethical things that I don’t plan to talk about that fact, or those things, here much; it’s been done, and it is being done, by people who are much more interested in blogging about big corporations than I am.

I keep myself educated about past and present pharmaceutical scandals, and hope that others do as well.

"sub-threshold bipolar disorder" posts

May 16, 2007

(I wouldn’t exactly call this high-quality – rather, I’d call it “strung-out after work” – but it puts together some of the issues that I’ve been thinking about lately.)

There was recently a news article about researchers finding that 2.4% of americans will have subthreshold bipolar disorder (as they defined it) at some point during their lifetime.

Check this post out, in which the author, whose bio states that he is an academic with clinical experience, starts with that article and works up to arguing that anyone who isn’t bipolar type I should not be receiving long-term medication because “there is scant if any research on what appropriate medication is for bipolar II and there is not a damn bit of research attesting to medication for SBD” (subthreshold bipolar disorder).

I do not think he is an academic with training on the research side of psychology. He also seems to have difficulty understanding that different diagnoses of bipolar disorder almost certainly involve similarities in etiology which are relevant to treatment.

A blogger called Furious Seasons links to “>this article, which says: “People with bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (BD-NOS), sometimes called subthreshold bipolar disorder, have manic and depressive symptoms as well, but they do not meet strict criteria for any specific type of bipolar disorder noted in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the reference manual for psychiatric disorders. Nonetheless, BD-NOS still can significantly impair those who have it”.

Now, check out his later entry where he/she invites readers to rename SBD, in which he/she states that, in comparison to cyclothymia “SBD is like so totally better! Cyclothymia includes alternating periods of low scale hypomania and low scale depression. But SBD is skipping the depression altogether, so we can focus on people who are chronically productive and medicate them until they put on 100 pounds.”
Many of the people responding are equating hypomania to extra nice happiness, which it can involve, but it may also involve severe irritability, racing thoughts, and lots of other fun things.

There are some very interesting things in all this to write about, but they are not being written about well in the blogs I have seen so far. For example, some questions I’m thinking about (most of which I would answer “no”, but at least I’m still thinking about them):

Are our current, DSM-IV views of abnormality the ones that should define what is normal and abnormal? If not, should something else define them (such as, the subjective perceptions of normal/mentally ill that a particular generation on average grew up with)? Should our diagnostic definitions be open to research finding that a set of people formerly included in “normal” have persistent problems that resemble those of people who are currently included in a diagnosis, and bring that information to attention?

On a related note, should our current rates of diagnosis be the “right” ones? (Or, possibly, our rates from the 90s, or the 80s, or what…) Or should we look at population data to see how many people who would benefit from accurate diagnosis and treatment have not received either? (These issues come up all the time with ADD and autism, and to some extent bipolar II and bipolar disorder in general.)

Should people who don’t have “enough” (for whatever definition of enough) problems not receive diagnoses that will help direct them toward the treatment they need to handle those problems effectively?


Stuff like this makes me so angry – it’s often seems like a failure to admit that someone really could have severe problems, sometimes combined with a need to gatekeep diagnoses so that nobody less troubled can “get in.” It’s not an exclusive club, it’s a set of labels that can help people, but do not currently label all the people they can help.


May 16, 2007

I went out on the Internet and looked for blogs with up-do-date reports on research and news, with analysis of relevant issues to mental illness and mental health. I’d spent several years in online patient communities, where I had picked up most of the available knowledge, and wanted more and newer.

I easily found impassioned anti-pharmaceutical-companies blogs and anti-psychiatry blogs. Many of their conclusions were heavily colored with anger toward pharmaceutical companies and toward psychiatry, as with the argument that because a medication was developed for one purpose, it be restricted only to that purpose (the medication he was referring to is effective for other problems as well, and restricting it to its original purpose would result in withdrawing effective treatment from current patients).

I was familiar with McManWeb, and ran into John McManamy’s blog, which is (unsurprisingly) quite good. But I found nothing else either of that quality and depth, or covering things from a similar pro-mental-health slant. I was also surprised, and disheartened, to see how many blogs were antithetical to medical treatment of mental illness, and so antithetical to the mental health of the population they are advocating for.

I am looking forward to finding more high-quality pro-mental-health blogs. Meanwhile, I am starting this blog to further spread high-quality (or as high-quality as my schedule allows) mental health and mental illness news, science, and commentary.