The symptoms of a mental illness are often so distressing that they may lead to physical symptoms. For instance, individuals with anxiety disorders may suffer from trouble breathing, stomach pains, and excessive sweating due to the intense sense of fear and doom they’re experiencing. But what about bipolar disorder and physical health?
Since celebrities like Kanye West and Pete Davidson opened up about bipolar disorder, this condition has been circulating in the media more recently. To better understand both the mental and physical impact this disorder can have on a person, Banyan is sharing more on the physical side effects of bipolar disorder.
Can Bipolar Disorder Cause Physical Pain?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by episodes of manic highs and depressive lows. Also known as mania and depression, people with bipolar disorder may experience extreme mood swings that may range from bursts of energy, alertness, and irritability to extreme sadness and lack of motivation and pleasure.
In addition to psychological symptoms like mania and depression, bipolar disorder can also cause physical pain, usually in the form of muscle aches and joint pain. There are also chronic pain illnesses linked to bipolar disorder, such as migraines, fibromyalgia, and arthritis.1
Research shows that the way the brain perceives and interprets physical pain overlaps with the region that processes psychological or emotional pain. A new study offers evidence of a link between bipolar disorder and physical health, mainly concerning a difference in perceived pain in people living with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia from the general population.2
Pain is believed to be perceived through five steps:
- Contact with a stimulus (pressure, cuts, burns, etc.)
- Perception (nerve endings sense this stimulus)
- Transmission (nerve endings send signals to the brain)
- Pain center reception (pain signal reaches the central nervous system)
- Reaction (the brain returns a signal for action, i.e., moving your hands away from something hot)
Pain is perceived in different regions of the brain, such as the thalamus, anterior insular cortex, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and prefrontal cortex, each of which can be affected by bipolar disorder. For instance, the ACC has been linked to the regulation and processing of negative emotions, which are often dysfunctional in individuals with bipolar disorder as well as schizophrenia.3
Additionally, the prefrontal cortex has been linked to pain processing and bipolar disorder. In some who experience chronic pain, the prefrontal cortex appears shrunken. In people with bipolar disorder, this region of the brain also seems to shrink, especially when left untreated. In these cases, symptoms like memory, emotional control, critical thinking, and social functioning problems may worsen. 4
Physical Effects of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder can have a major impact on the body as well as the mind. From the central nervous system (CNS) to the cardiovascular system, this disorder can impact various functions throughout the body. Symptoms may also vary depending on whether the individual is experiencing mania or depression, as well.
The physical symptoms of bipolar disorder may include:
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Rapid heart rate
- Heart palpitations
- Increased pulse
- High blood pressure
- Increased or decreased sex drive
- Risky behaviors
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Fluctuations in weight
- Inability to experience pleasure
- Weakness and fatigue (especially after a manic episode)
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Other common symptoms of bipolar disorder include suicidal thoughts and behaviors along with other mental disturbances. If you or someone you care about is struggling with mental illness, our Florida mental health rehab can help.
Our Banyan Treatment Centers locations offer various addiction and mental health services. Our team pays attention to the various aspects of bipolar disorder’s physical characteristics and psychological components to ensure clients are receiving the best care possible. Call us today at 888-280-4763 to speak to our team and find out which location and program are right for you.
- NCBI - Factors associated with chronic pain in patients with bipolar depression: a cross-sectional study
- NIH - Does the salience network play a cardinal role in psychosis? An emerging hypothesis of insular dysfunction