Seizures and Bipolar Disorder – Throwback Thursday

seizures and bipolar disorder

A Reminder

Before I begin, I want to remind you all that entries in the Caption This contest must be in by midnight tonight. If you missed it, the info is on yesterday’s post.

This weeks throw-back is from May, 2014

When The Seizures Began

About 15 years ago I had a series of blackouts. At the time I was living in Stockton, California, which is about 80 miles east of San Francisco. From my viewpoint the blackouts weren’t so bad. I would blackout suddenly and then come out of it suddenly. It would seem like hours had passed and I’d be light headed, but I was all right. Despite how it felt, the amount of time I’d actually been out was seconds, not hours. One day I had a couple of friends over and it happened. It was the first time one of these short blackouts occurred while anyone else was around. When I opened my eyes they were looking at me with their mouths wide open. It was only through them I found out that my eyes had rolled back in my head and I shook violently. I was having seizures.

I went to my physician who became gravely concerned and immediately rushed me through an MRI and an EEG. He said he was most concerned that it may be from a brain tumor. The tests were inconclusive and the seizures disappeared and the doctor said there was nothing we could do. If I wasn’t having the seizures, there was no way to say where they’d come from. There was nothing to measure.

It was during this time I went through an extremely difficult period mentally. I was depressed and received anti-depressants from my doctor. I also had manic episodes, though, I did not know that’s what they were at the time. I just thought they were uplifting times I wasn’t depressed.

I’m not going to say I have epilepsy. That just seems over-dramatic to me. I’ve never been diagnosed with epilepsy, however, looking at numerous websites, including the Mayo Clinic’s, I fit most of the symptoms.

They Came Back With a Vengeance

Approximately 5 years later I was living in Los Angeles and it started all over again. This time the seizures were different, though. I not only was having seizures, but would experience pain in my head afterwards and I also was suffering from severe vertigo. I brushed them off at first, assuming they’d go away again, but it didn’t end that quickly.

Two events occurred that made me concerned enough to finally see a doctor. The first event was that I stayed lucid. My body and my arms started flailing wildly, and, though my eyes rolled into the back of my head, I had just enough eyesight to see the look of horror on Maurice’s face. I stayed conscious and it was scary. The second event was that I had one seizure and immediately afterwards had another. Two in a row is what scared me the most. This set of seizures began just around the time I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I began wondering if they were related.

The Research

Over the years there’s been much conjecture as to whether there is a connection between bipolar disorder and seizures. I read many articles stating it seemed likely that the two were related, but none mentioned any studies to show that relation. But now, a study conducted by the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria sheds at least a little bit of light on the subject.

On 5/18/14, medwireNews reported a study in which, 60 first-degree relatives of epilepsy patients were asked to complete a Mood Disorder Questionnaire. Based on the responses, 14.5% had bipolar disorder, compared with just 2.1% of 50 control hospital visitors who did not have a first-degree relative with bipolar disorder or epilepsy.
In addition, 15.2% of 40 first-degree relatives of bipolar disorder patients had epilepsy, assessed by applying International League Against Epilepsy criteria to the participants’ responses to a predesigned questionnaire. By contrast, just 2.0% of the control group were judged to have epilepsy.

This implies “genetic or/and environmental relationships between the two disorders”, say study author Mohammed Jidda and co-workers in the Journal of Affective Disorders. The researchers concluded “Large family studies of multiple first-degree relatives of bipolar disorder and epilepsy (prelude to twin or/and gene studies) should be conducted to confirm the etiological overlap between the two disorders, resulting from a shared genetic susceptibility.”

The researchers caution that, although the findings are in line with other studies, their research was preliminary and hospital-based, and did not account for many potentially confounding environmental factors and behaviors.

In line with other studies? What other studies? I’ve been looking for years and haven’t found any. They must be top secret, only to be viewed by other researchers.

The Conclusion Is There Is No Conclusion

Regarding the seizures I was having here in L.A., I was transferred from doctor to doctor, including two separate neurologists. I had 3 MRI’s and 3 EEG’s and a CT scan. The results? Inconclusive again. No matter how hard the doctors tried to induce seizures, it never happened while I was being monitored. Once again the seizures went away and I was told that there was no way to give a diagnoses. On my last visit with my neurologist I was frustrated and asked, “So what the hell was happening? What was causing the seizures?” Her response to me was there was no way to know, and that it was a probably a chemical imbalance or something.

I left her office angry, still wondering if there was a connection between seizures and bipolar disorder. I did mull over the fact that she said it was probably a chemical imbalance. After all, the general consensus among doctors is that bipolar disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance. Could they be the same? I can’t say, but I know what I believe.

Those of you that have bipolar, or have family members with bipolar, have you experienced anything similar?

Source: Medwire News (link no longer exists)

15 comments on Seizures and Bipolar Disorder – Throwback Thursday

  1. I’ve never had seizures myself, but I’ve wondered about a possible connection between bipolar disorder and seizures. I started to think about it once I realized that some of the medications prescribed for bipolar are, in fact, anticonvulsants. I wish someone would do a broader, larger study.

    1. I wish that too. I hope they are going on now. There is so much evidence that points in that direction, that you’d think a study would have been done long ago.

  2. I thought there might be a connection to some degree when a psychiatrist in a hospital described bipolar to me as similar to epilepsy. He said the neurological disruption in epilepsy causes a physical response–seizures. The disruption of chemicals/neurotransmitters in bipolar works in a similar way but instead of a physical response it affects our mood regulation. I’ve always wondered about that, especially since anticonvulsants are often used to treat bipolar.

    1. One of the anti-depressants I take has a possibility to induce seizures so over the years my different pdocs have been resistant to prescribe it for me. The problem is that it works so they end up giving me that and anticonvulsants to override its effects. So I take a drug and then another drug to compensate for the first drug. I don’t know if that’s funny or sad…probably both.

  3. Wow. I’m so sorry that you’ve gone through such a terrifying experience with the seizures.

    As I was reading this post my first thought was maybe you were drinking heavily at the time and there was a connection, but as I kept reading I didn’t think that was it.

    How frustrating not to be able to figure out the root of the problem. I’m also sorry that your husband had to see you go through this!

    1. The first time I had the seizures I was a pretty heavy drinker. The second time, however, was long after I had gotten sober. Maurice was okay. In fact, it was helpful because he was able to describe to the doctor exactly what happened, whereas I usually only remember blacking out.

  4. Talk about frustrating to not have a conclusive answer…I think you’re absolutely correct to question some of our medications. Like Leslie said, some of the medications we take are in fact..anticonvulsants. Typical anticonvulsants must stay in your system and maintain a certain level, which is why its important to take meds at the same time daily. So if you’re low on levels there is a chance that alone could induce seizures. Hell, one of my friends is “too skinny” for wellbutrin and it’s something that really works for him (in the past). Docs wont give it to him now because of the fear of the seizure threshold with that med and his low weight.

    1. Yes, there is a risk of seizures with Wellbutrin. It’s not a large chance, but given his size it probably was the right decision.

  5. When Elizabeth was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome nearly a year and a half ago we started down a whole new road. We learned that there are quite a few common comorbidities. Elizabeth has most of them. At the school she now attends she’s the only kid with Tourette’s, but I’ve noticed these conditions are present in varies combinations in many of the students there. These common comorbities are: ADD/ADHD, OCD, Anxiety Disorder, Tourette’s, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Integrative Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, and Epilepsy. I think there’s plenty of research showing links Brad, It’s just that you may not find the research under strictly Bipolar Disorder.

    1. Great! I’d love that. Tomorrow is the winner announcement. You could wait until Wednesday and they can participate. Either way I always appreciate the shout outs.

  6. Wow, that had to be really scary!
    I never had seizures before. I did black out a few times and I know that I have a strange reaction to anesthesia and other sedatives.
    What I have and nobody could ever tell me what it is, is that I space out. It’s like I fall asleep (without closing my eyes) and I can’t remember what happened or how long I’ve been gone. Once that happened while I was driving and I ended up with a guy on the windshield. I was going very slow, less than 5mi/h and the guy crossed the street. I didn’t see him and I don’t remember driving the last 2 blocks. I got back to reality when I heard the noise on the windshield. That’s another of the reasons why I stopped driving for 20 years.
    I know I had more episodes but they happened probably at home and I can’t really tell about them. I never told my parents about that, but they saw me blacking out and took me to the doctor to run several tests. Everything came back clean.
    No idea what it could be but once someone suggested I was abducted by aliens. That was probably the most accurate answer I got 😀

    I hope you never go through that again 🙂

    1. OMG, nevermind the concern about me, your episodes sound terrifying. I’m glad you were driving slow when you hit that person.

      Of course there are no guarantees, but for now my meds have kept me from having seizures for about 7 or 8 years. I hope it stays that way.

  7. Hi Bradley
    I haven’t heard of the possible connection with Bipolar Disorder, no surprise since doctors don’t know the brain. In my journey that lead to Lyme, I discovered their were very small seizures, more like brain interruptions which were brief. If you have not taken XX of course I can’t remember name right now. My Neurologist took a test in office, all this electrodes are placed over your head. you wait XX period on time. My results were abnormal requiring more testing. I had to wear the electrodes for 3 days, there were monitors watching me sleep around the house, a machine was recording brain activity during the time. I actually showed a photo of one screen of the machine tracking the brain signals. The diagnosis was XX seizures, but nothing like you explain. Mine tend to occur as I’m falling a sleep or during sleep. A good friend looked at the post and said the straight vs up and down were not good. I haven’t bought about it, so used to now. If concerned in the future see a Neurologist if haven’t already.
    Have a great day.

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