Treatable Condition Could be Mistaken for Bipolar Disorder

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Researchers at Houston Methodist will pioneered a new study that will hopefully show that a significant number of people may have a treatable immune system condition often mistaken for either bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. This study could impact millions of people.

“We suspect that a significant number of people believed to have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder actually have an immune system disorder that affects the brain’s receptors,” said Joseph Masdeu, M.D., Ph.D., the study’s principal investigator and a neurologist with the Houston Methodist Neurological Institute. “If true, those people have diseases that are completely reversible – they just need a proper diagnosis and treatment to help them return to normal lives.”

In 2007, scientists discovered anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a disease which can be treated with immunotherapy medications that causes symptoms similar to bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The encephalitis forces the immune system to attack N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the brain instead of invading agents.

The NMDA receptors control decision-making, thoughts, and perceptions, which is why this illness is often mistaken for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The encephalitis can also cause sufferers to hear voices or become paranoid.

The study will collect cerebral spinal fluid from 150 patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and 50 healthy controls between the ages of 18 to 35. The fluid will be examined for antibodies attacking NMDA and other brain receptors. If abnormal antibodies are found, the researchers will notify the patient so he or she may consider treatment.

Masdeu plans to use the findings for development of further studies about antibodies.

Materials provided by Houston Methodist.

Author: Cassandra Stout

Freelance writer Cassandra Stout blogs weekly at the award-winning Bipolar Parent, a comprehensive resource for parents with mental illnesses. She also blogs monthly at the International Bipolar Foundation website ( Her work has been published in the anthology, How the Light Gets In. Cassandra holds degrees from the University of Arizona in Creative Writing and Journalism. She has been a judge for the Pacific Northwest Writers' Association literary contest for nine years, where her memoir, Committed, recently placed as a finalist. She balances her literary work with raising her children, feeding her cat, and managing her bipolar disorder.

6 thoughts on “Treatable Condition Could be Mistaken for Bipolar Disorder”

  1. Hey there Cass, even though I’ve gone on blogging hiatus, I had to pop on here and let you know I thought of you today.

    I watched the following video link I copied for ya below with my mouth open wide enough to catch flies.

    Let me know if you blog about this topic by emailing me ( or via Twitter! Hope you’re doing well well! Xo, Dyane

    Here’s the article that led to me the YouTube video & blog by Jane:


    And here’s another article that may be of interest:

    1. Wow, Dyane! That’s gross, but fascinating. I’ll have to rewatch the video and see what kind of angle I can approach the story from. Thanks for dropping by, and for providing me with this interesting information! I hope you and yours are all well.

      1. I was doing fairly well until I watched that nasty Youtube video.😱 I have to admit that I laughed when I watched the beginning (the graphic part) because of all the things in the world that could possibly cure bipolar, it has to be sh*t, right? Ironic!

        Although I found it interesting that someone in the video (the researcher, I think?) said it could be a placebo effect. Some placebo, eh? Anyway, please don’t feel pressured to write the story – I just got excited and I wanted to share that with you no matter what because I thought you’d get a kick out of it too.

        Thanks so much for writing back and I’ll see you on Twitter!

        1. I definitely got a kick out it, thank you! I don’t know how plausible it is, but I guess trying all options doesn’t hurt, right? Here’s hoping that it works for the person in the video!

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