Bipolar or Adrenal Fatigue Part 1 of 3

Bipolar or Adrenal Fatigue

There are many causes of variable energy levels. If you used to be OK and now you are not so OK, you may be wondering what is going wrong.

How you describe your struggles can make a huge difference in how you recover and get back to something like your usual self.

I am only just starting to study Adrenal Fatigue, so bear with me as I make tentative efforts to show the similarities and differences between this and bipolar disorder diagnosis. I intend to come back to this article and make it more detailed and precise as I learn more about Adrenal Fatigue. In fact I am going to publish this only part written and add to it bit by bit when I have the energy to do so.

Similarities and differences:

ENERGY:

  • Both diagnoses involve changes in energy level
  • Adrenal Fatigue is likely to affect you to some extent every day until you deal with whatever is causing it. Bipolar disorder is said to come and go and is said to allow you to have days that are symptom free. If you are running out of energy during daylight hours when you did not used to run out of energy then this is likely to be related to poor functioning of the adrenal glands.
  • If you are suffering from Adrenal Fatigue you are likely to have or seem to have periods of higher energy as you are likely to need to be very busy while you do have energy to catch up for when you do not have energy. If you have Adrenal Fatigue and are not dealing with it then you will find these periods of higher energy get shorter and perhaps less frequent. The bipolar diagnosis does not necessarily predict shorter and less frequent high energy periods.

MEDICAL TESTS:

  • There are no medical tests for bipolar diagnosis. Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric label that covers a range of physical and psychological troubles. It cannot be detected by brain scans or blood tests. Bipolar is diagnosed by observing someone who appears to have variable moods and involves asking questions of that person, their family and people who come in contact with them. To a psychiatrist or similarly informed doctor anyone with Adrenal Fatigue could be thought to have bipolar disorder.
  • Adrenal Fatigue blood tests – The adrenal glands produce cortisol and a hormone (maybe technically better described as a hormone precursor) known as DHEA. The adrenals produce the ideal level of these chemicals to match your body’s requirements. Both these naturally occurring chemicals can be detected in the blood. The level detected in a blood sample gives a snap-shot of how your adrenals are working. Exceptionally low levels are associated with Adrenal Fatigue. However, you and your doctor need to know the time of day the sample is taken as cortisol and DHEA vary throughout the day.
  • Adrenal Fatigue saliva testing – Cortisol and DHEA are small molecules that travel to all parts of your body including the saliva glands. The test involves spitting in a sample tube and this being sent to a laboratory for analysis. With no need for syringes and needles this test is relatively inexpensive. The main advantage of this test over blood tests is that it is easy to take several samples in one day and with less stress than making a trip to your GP for blood to be taken. How the cortisol and DHEA vary during the day allow a precise measure of how your adrenals are working and it only takes one day of testing to confirm your level of adrenal fatigue.
  • I will repeat here that there are no medical tests for bipolar disorder. If you suspect you may be diagnosed with bipolar disorder a good option is to ask for a day of saliva testing just to be sure your symptoms are not related to Adrenal Fatigue.

OTHER SYMPTOMS:
If your adrenal glands cannot produce enough cortisol quickly enough you will struggle with all situations that you find stressful. With insufficient cortisol you will be displaying all sorts of symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue that match symptoms of bipolar diagnosis.

  • Sleep pattern: Variable and seen as problematic for both bipolar and Adrenal Fatigue
  • Need to lie down during daytime – only said to happen during depressed phase of bipolar. With Adrenal Fatigue this is going to be happening most days unless you are consistently stimulated – perhaps having a demanding daytime job, so have to keep going and then collapse in the evening.
  • Irritability – You need a good level of cortisol to be able to cope with annoying people and without enough you will react in a way that ‘bipolar people’ are said to react.
  • Concentration – same as bipolar.
  • Pessimism, periods of feeling hopeless/helpless, negative thoughts and feelings – all the same as bipolar.
  • Reaction to stimulants such as caffeine – as for bipolar
  • Appearance – likely to be over-weight or under-weight with a tendency to lose weight when not taking sedatives, such as ‘antipsychotics’ / ‘antidepressants’ / ‘mood stabilizers’. Often looking tired – as for bipolar
  • Development of food intolerances – as with bipolar this may be several years after diagnosis.

TREATMENTS:

  • As with bipolar lifestyle changes, such as; what you eat, what you drink, what drugs you take and avoid, who you spend time with, the time you go to bed and so on, will decide the course of the disorder.
  • In general, bipolar disorder diagnosis (in the UK at this time) results in a lifetime of medication. Adrenal Fatigue rarely requires any drug treatment and recovery usually involves finding ways of living with minimum use of drugs.
  • Treatments for bipolar will in the long run make your Adrenal Fatigue worse.

I have typed all the above without reference to any text books or on-line articles. There may be errors. I am going to publish this as blog on www.rethinkingbipolar.com in this rough draft form, as I think it is such an important debate that needs to happen. Are millions of people whose adrenal glands struggle to cope with the modern world being diagnosed as bipolar, and not being given advice on how to look after their glands and feel less stressed?

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