A new research study has determined that an abnormal cortisol level may double the rate of depression in individuals who have bipolar disorder, and a poor quality of life is 5 times more likely when the level of this hormone is off for those with this mental disorder. Umeå University, Sweden researchers discussed the study findings and published the data and results in the PLOS ONE journal. According to Östersund Hospital psychiatric clinic physician and Ph.D. student Martin Maripuu “In bipolar depression the stress system is often activated, which means that the affected individuals have elevated cortisol levels in the blood. We have now been able to show that both over- and under activity in the stress system, with corresponding elevated or reduced cortisol levels, can impair mental health in terms of depression and poor quality of life in these patients.”
Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the body when an individual is under stress. Bipolar disorder is a condition that can cause episodes of depression along with episodes of mania. Stress can trigger both types of episodes, and experiencing an episode increases the amount of stress that the individual has. Maripuu explained “These are important results that in the future could contribute to a more personally tailored medical treatment of bipolar disorder. The results may also ultimately lead to the development of new drugs that work by normalizing the stress system and cortisol levels.” Depression was twice as common when the cortisol level of the individual was either high or low, and those who had low cortisol levels tended to have bipolar disorder longer and the stress system in these individuals were exposed to chronic extreme stress which resulted on underproduction of cortisol.