The Korea Herald


Mood disorders associated with biorhythm

By Claire Lee

Published : Feb. 5, 2015 - 20:21

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A major medical condition closely related to one’s biorhythm is bipolar disorder.

The disease is characterized by repeated episodes of depression and manic periods. Compared to the manic phase, when the person is very active, in a good mood and full of confidence, the depressive phase tends to last for longer periods. Of course, the depressive period is more difficult for the patient to go through. 

The main symptoms of depression include decreased levels of enjoyment of activities, poor appetite, sleep disturbance, anxiety, low energy, physical pain, poor concentration, negative thoughts, regret and self-blaming, as well as thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

Major depressive disorder (depression) is a disease that only features the depressive episodes, without the manic episodes. Compared to depression, bipolar disorder tends to occur in younger people (starting in their teens and 20s), and tends to recur frequently. It can be associated with mood waves, aggression, anger, impulsivity, or binge eating or excessive sleeping.

Frequently comorbid psychiatric conditions are alcohol or substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Alcohol, binge eating and substance abuse can also contribute to worsening depressive symptoms.

Bipolar disorder is a disorder of the brain caused by changes in neurotransmitters, activity of brain synapses, and hormone imbalance. It is closely related to biorhythms as it can contribute to the expression or progression of the disease.

The basis of someone’s biorhythm is their circadian rhythm. Insomnia and hypersomnia are symptoms of manic or depressive episodes, but disturbances to the sleep cycle can also contribute to the aggravation of the disease.

The second is the menstrual cycle in women, particularly in the premenstrual period (approximately one week before menstruation), the postpartum period, or in the menopausal period, when there are changes in hormone levels. Depressive episodes during these periods are called premenstrual syndrome, postpartum depression and involution depression.

The third is seasonal variation, which is closely related to exposure to sunlight. The northern hemisphere is exposed to the least amount of sunlight during the winter. Late autumn to early winter, when there is a gradually decreasing level of sunlight, is the period when mood disorders occur most often. In South Korea, the amount of sunlight during the rainy season in July is sometimes lower than winter, and mood disorders can also occur frequently during this season.

The main treatment for bipolar disorder is drugs. Mood stabilizers such as lithium, valproic acid/divalporate, and lamotrigine are strongly effective for the remission of manic episodes and relapse prevention and preferably used over antidepressants during depressive phase. It is also important to correct biorhythmic factors that have a negative effect on the condition. It is important to maintain a regular sleep cycle, by going to bed early and waking up early in the morning, and maintaining regular eating and activity patterns. Exposure to sunlight (particularly in the morning) during the less sunny seasons, and preparing in advance for depressive periods (asking for help from family/friends, sleeping sufficiently) can also help.

You should try not to eat too much, reduce the amount of stressors, and avoid alcohol use, binge eating, and habitual drug use such as appetite-controlling weight loss medication.

In winter, light therapy can also be used. This is done using a light treatment box, similar to a desktop light. Bipolar disorder and depression are treatable conditions that can be modified by regular medication and healthy lifestyles.

By Hong Kyung-sue

Hong Kyung-sue is a psychiatrist at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul and teaches at Sungkyunkwan University’s School of Medicine. ― Ed.