Science, Society Struggle with Bipolar

CHICAGO, Sept. 29 (UPI) — As doctors learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder, society is lagging behind in overcoming its social stigma, advocates say.

The disorder, also known as manic depression, afflicts up to 6 million Americans and attracts a stigma that is still rampant despite growing efforts to combat it, causing those who suffer from it to be frequently mistreated by police, schools or even family members while others are shamed into denial, they say.

“There’s still all that negative talk, the way people used to talk about handicapped people or children with Down syndrome,” Susan Resko of the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation told the Chicago Tribune. “We’re still in that space with psychiatric illness. We don’t understand it. It’s scary to us as a society.”

As society struggles to come to terms with it, science is making its own advances.

Researchers are getting closer to identifying the genes that cause bipolar disorder, using brain imaging to track the illness in a person’s neural pathways, and even zeroing in on triggers that might cause it to flare up, the Tribune reported.

“You find the genes primarily with the hope of developing novel drugs that we hope will work better,” Dr. William Byerley, a psychiatric geneticist at the University of California San Francisco, says. “We might be able even to prevent the onset. By knowing the gene, we’ll know the neurobiology and know some of the pathways of the disease.”

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