Teen pregnancy is an increased risk for teenage girls with severe mental illness. A new study from Canada suggests that girls should become a special target for anti-pregnancy efforts. Researchers also note that the pregnancy rate in girls with psychological problems has not dipped as fast as those without, indicating they are not as effected […]
For people with bipolar disorder, holding down a job can be challenging. Interpersonal communication can hinder job performance, as well as a sudden onset of symptoms. “Mood fluctuations from untreated bipolar disorder can impair the ability to complete tasks or projects,” explains psychiatrist Alan Prossin, MBBS, a clinical lecturer in the department of psychiatry at […]
Striking up a conversation about your bipolar diagnosis can be challenging and emotional, and not exactly an ice-breaker. However, being proactive about your treatment and disorder will set a positive tone, whether you are breaking the news for the first time or wanting to talk further about it. Psychiatrist Daniel Wilson, MD, chair of psychiatry […]
According to new findings published in American Journal of Psychiatry, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia share a common biology. For the last century, diagnoses for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have been used to differentiate between symptoms, outcomes and, more recently, response to medications. However, more researchers are beginning to question if these are useful tools in […]
When it comes to mental illness, there are plenty of stereotypes. But in reality, mood disorders can be hard to pinpoint-particularly in people with bipolar disorder symptoms.
“Chalking it up to moodiness or trouble at work or tiredness is pretty common,” says Carrie Bearden, PhD, an associate professor in residence of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and psychology at the David Geffen School of Medical at UCLA.
Here are 8 signs that your mood problems may be more than just a personality quirk:
Bipolar disorder is characterized by up-and-down episodes of mania and depression. During a manic phase, some patients can have a total break from reality. Hypomania, which is also a symptom of the disorder, is a high-energy state in which a person feels exuberant but hasn’t lost his or her grip on reality.
Inability to complete tasks
Having a house full of half-completed projects is a hallmark of bipolar disorder. People who can harness their energy when they are in a hypomanic phase can be really productive. Some often go from task to task, planning grand, unrealistic projects that are never finished before moving on to something else.
A person who is in a bipolar depressive state is going to look just like someone who has depression. They have the same problems with energy, appetite, sleep, and focus as others who have depression.
Unfortunately, typical antidepressants alone don’t work well in patients who are bipolar. They can even make people cycle more frequently, worsening their condition.
Some people with this condition suffer from “mixed mania,” where they experience symptoms of mania and depression at the same time. During this state, they are often extremely irritable. Moodiness often becomes so severe that it interferes with their relationships and they can’t control it.
Some people are naturally talkative; we all know a “motor mouth” or “Chatty Cathy”. But “pressured speech” is one of the most common symptoms of bipolar disorder.
The person will talk rapidly and if you try to speak, they will likely just talk over you. They will also sometimes jump around from topic to topic.
Trouble at work
People with this disorder often have difficulty in the workplace because so many of their symptoms can interfere with their ability to show up for work, do their job, and interact productively with others.
Alcohol or drug abuse
About 50% of people with bipolar disorder also have a substance abuse problem, particularly alcohol abuse, Dr. Bearden says. Many people will drink when they are in a manic phase to slow themselves down, and use alcohol to improve their mood when they are depressed.
When they are in a manic phase, people with bipolar disorder can have an inflated self-esteem.
Two of the most common types of behavior that can result from this are spending sprees and unusual sexual behavior. During this episode they exhibited behavior that is not consistent with what they would do normally.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over five million people in the United States currently have Bipolar Disorder. This mental illness causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, but can often be balanced through therapy and medicine. When most people think of this illness, they associate negative thoughts with it. What if those people diagnosed with bipolar could use this diagnosis to their advantage? There truly is a positive to every situation and a bipolar diagnosis is no different. Below are a few ways to find a “light” at the end of the “bipolar tunnel”:
- They work harder towards reaching goals. According to Dr. Sheri Johnson at UC Berkeley who has done extensive research on the disorder, “They tend to work hard toward such goals and refuse to give up long after ‘normal’ people do.” If one works harder towards reaching a goal, they may have a better chance of achieving it, and thus having success.
- They tend to be more creative. Dr. Terrance Ketter, who teaches at Stanford School of Medicine, has come to find through his studies that people who are bipolar tend to be exceptionally more creative than others through several different ways including their art and writing skills.
- People with Bipolar Disorder are more driven. Dr. Michael Freeman at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine states that people can use their disorder as a gift rather than a curse with proper treatment. Some of history’s greatest politicians, filmmakers, generals and businesspeople have a tie to mental illness and bipolar disorder.
People who live with any mental illness are often labeled as potentially violent, even if they have never had any history of violence or any apparent violent tendencies. This stigma can be especially strong when it is applied to people with bipolar disorder, which can be an alarming disorder that is often misunderstood by others. It has been estimated by some that between 11 and 16 percent of people with bipolar disorder have had a violent episode. These typically occur during extreme moods or because of drug or alcohol use. However, there are many people with bipolar who are never violent. Knowing which bipolar symptoms of depression and mania to watch out for may help to avoid dangerous situations.
While having bipolar disorder does not make violence more likely, there are situations which, when combined with bipolar disorder, can increase the risk of violence. These can include:
- Drug or Alcohol Abuse: Substance use is common among people with mental illnesses. Drugs and alcohol can, unfortunately, make violent episodes more likely and may also put people in situations where violence is the norm.
- High Emotional Stress: Situations such as losing a loved one or ending a relationship can cause periods of great emotional stress or distress, which may trigger mood swings that can increase the risk of violence.
Actually, people with bipolar disorder may be more of a threat to themselves than anyone else. Innocent bystanders may be worrying unnecessarily about their own safety when the reality is that bipolar disorder can bring more damage to the person living with it than anyone else. These risks include:
- Suicide or attempted suicide: People with bipolar disorder are close to nine times more likely to commit suicide than their peers.
- Cutting: Occasionally, people with bipolar disorder will cut or deliberately hurt themselves.
- Non-physical damage: During manic episodes, those with bipolar, may do a lot of “violence” to their own financial situation, relationships, and other elements of their lives as they act on impulse and pursue high risk behaviors.
- Drug of Alcohol Abuse: “People with bipolar [disorder] are also at higher risk of developing substance abuse or dependence,” explains Dr. Peterson, MD, PhD. People with bipolar are at a higher risk of having a manic or depressed episodes when they are abusing drugs or alcohol. Data suggests that 46% of people with bipolar disorder are dependent on alcohol and 41% are dependent on other drugs.
With its mood swings, shifting energy levels, sleep difficulties and anxiety, bipolar disorder can feel extremely overwhelming. Managing bipolar and its symptoms can feel never-ending; however, by taking small, feasible steps every day, you can start to feel better and get better. Here are a few strategies to help manage your bipolar disorder:
- Seek Professional Help: If you are not receiving any treatment for your bipolar disorder, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Medication is crucial for managing bipolar disorder. Psychotherapy is also important for helping you to better understand your symptoms and learning effective coping skills.
- Take Medication as Prescribed: When taking medication, make sure to follow your doctor’s precise instructions. Never discontinue your medication on your own. It can worsen your symptoms and trigger an episode. If you are struggling with side effects or other concerns, speak with your doctor. You have every right to voice your questions and concerns and doing so will help you find the most effective treatment for you.
- Organize Your Medication: To make it easy for you to take your medication, prefill a few pillboxes at a time and keep them in different places such as your car, purse and kitchen. This way you will always have your medication at-hand in convenient spots.
- Create a Bedtime Routine: Sleep is critical for those with bipolar disorder. Sleep deprivation is also one of the most common triggers for a manic episode. Having a regular sleep schedule is very important for people with bipolar disorder and this should be followed meticulously.
- Chart Your Symptoms: Keep a daily chart of your mood, sleep, irritability, anxiety, exercise and other important symptoms and/or habits. This can be a helpful way to prevent or lessen a mood episode and will provide you with information about your personal symptoms and how they manifest. It can also help you to spot patterns.
- Focus on the Present: “Focusing on the present, rather than allowing yourself to get stuck in thoughts of the past and future…help to reduce the emotional pain in your life,” according to Sheri Van Dijk, a psychotherapist. It can also help you to notice racing thoughts and take healthy action more quickly. One way for you to pay attention to the present is by focusing on your breath. “Notice when your attention wanders, bring it back to the breath, and accept whatever comes into your awareness.”
Many people with bipolar disorder deliberately hurt themselves by tactics such as cutting, burning, punching, and pulling out hair. Women are much more likely than men to cut themselves, but people of all races and all backgrounds engage in the behavior.
If you have a loved one with bipolar disorder who engages in self-injury, it’s important to learn why she does it, what mood episodes may foster the behavior, and what you can do to help.
Bipolar Disorder and Cutting: Why?
You may be surprised to learn why people living with bipolar disorder cut themselves. With cutting, it’s a tension release phenomenon not suicidal behavior. In people living with bipolar disorder, cutting is more common during what is known as a “mixed phase,” during which the patient is experiencing manic and depressive symptoms. Any phase of bipolar disorder can lead to use of alcohol and drugs and when you already have depression or any of the major mood episodes, you are also much more prone to cause self-injury.
Bipolar Disorder and Cutting: How Can Parents and Caregivers Help?
Cutting is such a serious and frightening behavior that you may feel helpless. However there are some positive steps you can take as a caregiver to control her bipolar disorder, which in turn may help control her cutting behaviors:
- Be calm and supportive. Although living with a loved one with bipolar disorder can be very frustrating, it is very important not to show that frustration to her or to be critical. Encourage your loved one to stay on medication and finish either school or maintain jobs.
- Help identify mood changes. Another important role you can take is to go to doctor’s appointments with your loved one and learn how to recognize signals that she is starting a mood episode. Sometimes family members can identify when the bipolar loved one is beginning a bipolar phase even when she can’t.
If you see any signs that a loved one with bipolar disorder is cutting or otherwise injuring herself, tell her doctor immediately. Together you can figure out the best way to help.
Sharing your bipolar diagnosis can be emotional and challenging. However, bipolar disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, and if you are proactive about starting the conversation, you will set a positive tone, whether you are breaking the news to a family member, your boss, or even a new love interest. There are many reasons you should be open about bipolar disorder. “If patients carry their diagnosis around as a secret, it becomes a burden and they may feel even worried and alarmed that people are going to find out,” says psychiatrist Daniel Wilson, MD. Sharing can lighten your emotional load. Once you have decided that it is time to tell others about your bipolar disorder, planning the conversation can be challenging. Here is a step by step guide to help:
- Pick a calm moment: Many times, this conversation is forced by a crisis. “It’s better to have the conversation when the person is feeling well,” Wilson says. Share your diagnosis before another episode requires your immediate response. If you are able to choose the location, pick a place where you feel comfortable and one that gives you and everyone involved privacy.
- Practice: Make a trial run of your conversation by practicing it with your therapist or a friend who already knows.
- Fine-tune for your audience: Your exact words will be different if you are talking to a family member, a co-worker or a romantic partner, so make sure to plan accordingly.
- Be a teacher: There is a very good chance that the person you are talking to doesn’t know much about bipolar disorder. Come prepared with helpful information for them. Bring some pamphlets or contact information for a support group that you think would help them.
- Shut out stigma: You may be able to help your loved one better understand the implications of your diagnosis if you use a disease analogy. “I like to compare it to an overactive thyroid,” says Wilson. “Clearly you want to treat that condition.”
- Make Amends: If it is appropriate, you may want to acknowledge damage done by any past behavior that was caused by your bipolar symptoms.
- Give them time: People handle situations differently. Some are very open and flexible, while others can have a hard time digesting your news. “It’s often helpful to have a cooling-off period, letting people go their own way for a while,” says Wilson.
- Accept their responses: Sharing your diagnosis may leave you feeling vulnerable and unfortunately, not everyone will respond the way you wish they would. If you are upset about the response that your sharing received, talk with your therapist.