Effects of Bipolar Disorder to the Different Systems of the Body
Effects of Bipolar Disorder on the Central Nervous System
Bipolar disorder affects the brain, part of the central nervous system. This system is made up of a series of nerves that control brain activity. When experiencing a manic episode, your mind may be racing, and you may find it hard to control your thoughts.
You may be restless and have a hard time making decisions. A depressive episode can make it hard for you to concentrate. These episodes can also make you sleep more than usual, while manic episodes can make it hard to sleep.
Bipolar disorder has even been linked to a reduced amount of gray matter in the brain. The loss of gray matter typically occurs in the brain region responsible for impulse control, reflexes, motor skills and reaction time. As a result, people with bipolar disorder may have slower reflexes or struggle to complete tasks requiring advanced motor skills.
Effects of Bipolar Disorder on the Endocrine System
Your endocrine system is made up of glands responsible for producing hormones. These hormones act as chemical messengers in your body, which is extremely important for normal functioning. Bipolar disorder affects this system in several ways, but one of the most common is reduced libido or less interest in sexual activity. This typically occurs in people experiencing significant depression symptoms of bipolar disorder.
When you have a manic or hypomanic episode, your sex drive may kick into high gear, causing you to make impulsive decisions regarding your sexual behavior. This sudden change in sexual behavior may accompany other impulsive behaviors associated with manic depressive illness, such as driving recklessly or gambling with large sums of money.
Effects of Bipolar Disorder on the Cardiovascular System
The cardiovascular system comprises the heart and blood vessels, making it one of the most critical systems in the human body. Although bipolar disorder is known for its psychological effects, it can affect the cardiovascular system in several ways, especially if you experience anxiety as part of your condition. Bipolar disorder paired with one or more anxiety disorders may cause heart palpitations or an increased heart rate. This makes treating bipolar disorder extremely important.
Depressive symptoms may even increase the risk of heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, manic depression and other forms of depression cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. This reduces the amount of blood flowing to the heart and triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone released by the adrenal glands. If you don’t get treatment for your symptoms, these physical effects of bipolar disorder may lead to heart disease.
Effects of Bipolar Disorder on the Skeletal and Muscular Systems
Although bipolar disorder primarily does not impact the muscles or bones directly, it does manifest physical signs of bipolar disorder during depressive episodes. Depression can lead to aches and pains, making it hard to manage everyday activities. It can also be hard to exercise if you’re feeling discomfort. However, we all need exercise as a way of experiencing “feel good” endorphins.
The symptoms resulting from bipolar depression and manic or hypomanic episodes may eventually lead to muscle weakness and other musculoskeletal problems. Your muscles may weaken if you don’t eat well for long periods. For example, if you have a major depressive episode, you may not have the energy to prepare or shop for nutritious foods.
Bipolar disorder has also been linked to a condition known as sarcopenia. In simple terms, sarcopenia is a loss of skeletal muscle mass. Researchers believe sarcopenia occurs due to the oxidative stress associated with bipolar disorder. Oxidative stress is cellular damage that occurs when the chemical reactions inside the body produce substances known as free radicals.
One way to reduce oxidative stress is to consume plenty of antioxidants, helpful chemicals found in fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. If a manic or depressive episode makes it difficult to follow a balanced diet, you may not get enough antioxidants to combat the free radicals in your bloodstream.