Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sundown..... Symptoms increase around sunset...

I (almost) always feel strange between 4pm-8pm.....

Right now it is 6:30 and the strangeness has set in.  It's not too bad today.

Mostly this strangeness is an increase in my symptoms.  Often it is a depressed feeling, but today it seems to be a glowiness.  Sometimes it presents itself as anxiety.  It's not always the same feeling, but it's always a wrong feeling.  Many of the days, recently, I have a sadness during this time period, that's not here during the rest of the day/night.

Once the sun has set, I usually go back to feeling fine.. I haven't figured out what the reason is behind this.  I thought it might be the change in light, but even on overcast days I seem to have a peak in symptoms during this time.  I thought it might be blood sugar changes, but even when I eat early, I still get the symptoms.

So mostly I just write this incase this experience is more common that I've found online (my searching hasn't found anything much).

Mostly I treat this evening mood disturbance how I try to treat any other mood change.  If I can, I keep doing what I normally do, and just tell myself that I'm experiencing bipolar symptoms.  If I need to, I do one of the things that tends to calm me - take a nap, listen to music, take a walk, etc.   If I can sleep, that's just about the best solution, but I'm not always tired - just symptomatic!

Thinking back on my life, I've had changes associated with this time of day for a long time.  Perhaps many people do experience a change during the early evening time, and all that I'm experiencing is an exaggeration of the change that everyone else gets. Of course, being tired in the early evening is normal.  Coffee with dinner is popular.  Energy drinks are just about made for this time of day.  (Not for me, though. I can't tolerate too much caffeine.)

P.S.  I am familiar with the term sundowning. It refers to symptoms in people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.  They often have an increase in confusion and other Alzheimer's symptoms. I haven't heard of it associated with any other form of mental illness.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Virus HERV-W could be the cause of Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and MS...

I just finished reading an article entitled The Insanity Virus by Douglas Fox (Discover Magazine, June 2010) about the connection between a virus and mental illness.  The virus HERV-W is a retrovirus that could trigger diseases like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and MS.  The virus lives in a person's DNA and the proposal is that if a person has a weakened immune system shortly after birth, this virus isn't contained well.  Subsequent infections later in life cause the HERV-W to unleash itself and do damage....

Apparently, it is thought that infection by toxoplasmosis or influenza, can wake up the HERV-W virus.  Moreso, basically anything that causes inflammation - like an infection, cigarette smoke, pollutants in drinking water - can cause retroviruses to be awakened...

Beyond the science of the article (which is quite intriguing!), I'm interested in the practical implications of what this could mean, and one statement from this article about schizophrenia says: "It explains why the disease waxes and wanes like a chronic infection.  And it could explain why some schizophrenics suffer their first psychosis after a mysterious, monolike illness."

Current reasoning for the waxing and waning of mental illness has to do with things like: changes in levels of stress, changes in medication, ability to cope, lifelong progression of the illness, etc.  What if it also has to do with the immune system?

I, personally, often feel that my mood is effected by physical sickness. I started taking zinc to treat a cold and then found that it helps my depression.

If a person is under more stress, they are more likely to get physically sick, as well as have increased psychiatric symptoms.

Should treating our immune system be part of treating bipolar disorder?  The article has this solution:  Faith Dickerson at Sheppard Pratt Health System, "is running a clinical trial to examine whether adding an anti-infective agent called artemisinin to the drugs that patients are already taking can lessen the symptoms of schizophrenia. The drug would hit HERV-W indirectly by tamping down the infections that awaken it."