Mental illness is often misunderstood so here are some facts to combat those myths:
1. There is something wrong with the brain in people with mental disorders
The human brain certainly plays a role in mental illness. Through technological advancement such as PET scan and functional MRI, we have been able to measure brain activities and even attempt to make a direct connection between mental disorders and specific brain regions. For example, some research claims that post-traumatic stress disorder is due to overactivation of amygdala, located within the temporal lobes.
However, brain imaging is still not sufficient enough to make any firm conclusion about mental disorders. Everyone’s brain looks different. Everyone responds differently to a psychiatric condition. Different mental disorders share similar symptoms. Different mental disorders affect the same region of the brain.
Brain definitely tells you a lot about mental disorders, but not everything.
2. Depression is only caused by low level of serotonin
One of the most well known anti-depressant drugs is Prozac and it works by increasing serotonin in the brain. Serotonin affects mood and social behavior and is known to be associated with depression.
However, a recent study revealed that mice with genetic mutation in the serotonin neuronal system did not have any symptoms of depression. Even under a stressful condition, serotonin-depleted mice responded the same way as normal mice.
This does not denounce the role of serotonin in depression. Instead, it suggests other chemical signaling pathways to depression and this would mean alternative drug therapy might be available for depression in the future.
3. Bipolar and depression are the same thing
Bipolar and depression are similar. Bipolar alternates between a manic/hyperactive phase and a depression phase. Most people with bipolar often diagnose themselves with depression first. This is due to the more straightforward symptoms of the depression phase than the manic phase. Because it is difficult to differentiate between these two disorders, many end up grouping them together. This can be detrimental as misdiagnosis commonly leads to mistreatment.
This new research shows six biomarkers from urinary metabolites that help distinguish between bipolar and depression. This new finding suggests that something as easy as a urine test can offer a more accurate result in mental diagnosis.