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Elliott, LPCC, NCC
Elliott, LPCC, NCC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 7664
Experience:  35 years of experience as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a college professor.
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My sister is bipolar. Our grandson had surgery for chiari.

Customer Question

My sister is bipolar. Our grandson had surgery for chiari. Can one have anything to do with the other?  His behavior has changed drastically in the past year - from sweet and very calm to what I call a very high.  I recognized the tone of voice, the extreme self-assuredness and lack of respect.  He was always so easy going, but now is just the opposite.  I've seen my sister go through hell with her bipolar condition and I know that the sooner it's caught, the sooner it can be treated, but never cured.  The operation for chiari seems to have done the trick.  The bone was so thick at base of his skull, that they had to use a larger instrument.  He suffered a great deal after the surgery.  I am his grandmother on his mother's side.  Four years ago his 10 year old brother died from a broken blood vessel in his cerebellum.  They told my daughter and her husband that he had a tumor and the blood vessel burst inside the cerebellum, but I think he'd surely had some symptoms - very small town in South Carolina. He was taken to an MD (not a pediatrician) and it took 16 hours from the sudden headache and death.  He had 6 siblings, all of which seem to be healthy, except for Jake's sudden change in personality.

Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Elliott, LPCC, NCC replied 5 years ago.
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Dear friend,

Chiari, per se, should not have anything to do with bipolar disorder, at least not directly.

Firstly, he has a genetic disposition to bipolar disorder from his grandparents, whom I assume are also your sister's parents. She probably inherited these tendencies, as there is a strong genetic factor.

Jake may very well have inherited these same genetic tendencies. I do not know what kind of environment he grew up in, but if there was disruptive behavior, or even the stress of having so many siblings, and having a disorder that was probably difficult and perhaps painful, this could have added to the environmental factors that go hand in hand with encouraging bipolar tendencies to become manifest. Significant environmental stressors do play a role.

After Jake's surgery, with his difficult surgery, his sleep-wake cycle may have been interrupted over a period of time. People with bipolar disorder have a genetic predisposition to these abnormalities. The disruption of this pattern may be responsible for triggering the symptoms of depression and mania.

Loss of sleep may precipitate mania, which you described as elation, in some patients. Merely worrying about losing sleep can increase anxiety, thus worsening the bipolar mood disorde. Once in a manic stage, the person deprived of sleep can continue or even augment his or her state of mania.

Studies have shown that disruptions in the social rhythm (sleep and other day to day schedules) can precipitate mood changes even two months after the disruption.

The best thing for Jake is to be examined by a psychiatrist for bipolar disorder and get the appropriate treatment as soon as possible. His routines at home should be regular to encourage getting enough proper sleep.

I wish the best for Jake and for all of your family, and urge you to tend to his needs as best as possible. As you stated, bipolar disorder when caught early can be controlled and the patient can lead a very normal life.

Warm regards,

Elliott Sewell, LPCC, NCC, CCMHC