Psychosis and Bipolar Disorder

Psychosis and Bipolar DisorderBipolar disorder is a mental health illness that affects an individual’s mood and energy levels. Bipolar disorder is characterized by two drastically different set of symptoms that come in form of ‘episodes.’ These two episodes are mania and depression. Bipolar disorder has high rates of co-occurrence with other mental health issues, including psychosis. It is estimated that over 70 percent of bipolar individuals experiencing a full-blown manic episode will also experience psychosis and 50 percent of bipolar individuals will experience psychosis during a depressive episode.

What Is Psychosis?

Psychosis is a severe mental health disorder that causes such impairment to one’s thoughts and emotions that the individual loses contact with reality. Psychosis is characterized by symptoms of:

  • Delusions; having strong beliefs that are untrue, and cause strange or odd behavior. Most delusions involve paranoia.
  • Confused or disturbed thought processes; this can be seen with sporadic thinking, random ideas, losing thoughts mid-sentence, developing new words or languages and not making sense when speaking to others.
  • Hallucinations or seeing and hearing things that are not real.
  • Dramatic and unusual changes in behavior.

Individuals with bipolar disorder often experience at least one symptom of psychosis during a manic or depressive episode. When psychosis is present in bipolar episodes it can cause a person to resist treatment and exhibit incredibly dangerous behavior because of misperceptions and false beliefs coupled with irregular mood swings and energy levels.

What Causes Bipolar Psychosis?

Bipolar disorder is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. What causes bipolar disorder with psychosis and bipolar disorder without psychosis is not exactly known, but most research points to a genetic variant and brain chemical called kynurenic acid (KYNA).

KYNA levels are higher in the brains of people with bipolar disorder with psychosis than the brains of people with just bipolar disorder symptoms. Psychosis related to bipolar disorder has very strong rates of heredity, an article published in ScienceDaily states up to 80 percent. Individuals with bipolar psychosis are found to have a gene variant that causes the over-production of KYNA. KYNA is a chemical released when the body experiences stress or infection, and bipolar episodes certainly bring on stress which can trigger the production of KYNA and result in psychosis.

People with this gene variant are more susceptible to developing bipolar disorder as well as susceptible to developing bipolar psychosis instead of bipolar disorder alone. In fact, individuals with bipolar disorder with a gene variant that affects KYNA levels are twice as likely to develop bipolar psychosis or bipolar episodes with symptoms of psychosis.

Because both psychosis and bipolar disorder are influenced by abnormal chemical production and balance in the brain, each issue can impact or exacerbate the other. Treating bipolar psychosis is difficult as there are episodes of both mania and depression that often require different treatment and medications. Because of this, most healthcare providers strongly recommend that more treatment be rendered than medication alone. In all cases of bipolar psychosis, individuals who can manage their bipolar symptoms can also manage their symptoms of psychosis. If psychotic symptoms are present themselves outside of a manic or depressive episode than the disorder is not bipolar psychosis but another issue altogether.

Talk to a Professional about Treating Psychosis and Bipolar Disorder

To learn more about bipolar psychosis and other mental health issues, please call our toll-free helpline. Our recovery professionals are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions, address your concerns, and provide you with helpful guidance and professional information. If you’re ready, we can help find and connect you with the treatment options that will work for you.