Bipolar Articles

Thriving with Mental Illness: Q&A with Elaina J. Martin

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Thriving with Mental Illness: Q&A with Elaina J. MartinHere’s a message we don’t hear nearly enough: Even though living with mental illness is hard — really hard — many people are successfully managing their conditions and savoring satisfying, healthy lives.

Here’s another message we need to hear more: How they do it.  

That’s why we’ve created this new interview series. Every month we’ll talk with people about everything from how they overcome the toughest challenges of their mental illness to how they’ve found treatment to their favorite resources.

In our first interview, Elaina J. Martin, who writes the popular Psych Central blog Being Beautifully Bipolar, shares her story. She reveals how she received her diagnosis along with powerful and inspiring insights into managing bipolar disorder, the importance of honesty, how loved ones can help and much, much more.

Social Rhythm Psychotherapy for Bipolar II

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Social Rhythm Psychotherapy for Bipolar IIWhile most mental health professionals and doctors turn to medications first to treat bipolar disorder, they miss an opportunity to treat it naturally, through the use of psychotherapy. And while medication may be an appropriate first-line treatment for bipolar I disorder, where the mood states are more well-defined and severe, it’s less clear that it is as beneficial in bipolar II disorder.

It’s probably most accurate to describe bipolar II as a condition of complex mixed mood states. Sadly, because bipolar II isn’t as easily recognized as bipolar I, it is often misdiagnosed and goes untreated. People present most often with clinical depression while suffering from bipolar II, leaving the hypomanic episodes undiscovered unless a person is specifically asked about them.

Psychotherapy can be a beneficial, effective treatment method for bipolar II, with or without the use of adjunct medication. Here’s how it works.

Latuda: A New Treatment Option for Bipolar Depression

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Latuda: A New Treatment Option for Bipolar DepressionThe depressive episodes that accompany bipolar disorder have often perplexed both people who have bipolar disorder and the professionals who want to help treat them. People with ordinary clinical depression — at one time called unipolar depression — often have a few treatment options to choose from, usually starting with psychotherapy or antidepressants.

But using antidepressants in the treatment of depression of someone who has bipolar disorder can have unexpected — and unwanted — effects. Studies of antidepressant use in bipolar disorder have been decidedly mixed.

So it’s always welcome news when a new medication — or a new use for an existing medication — has been approved. Such is the case with Latuda (lurasidone).

Mindfulness Meditation: As Simple As Breathing?

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Mindfulness Meditation: As Simple As Breathing?Mindfulness is either on the cusp of something great, or risks becoming the latest self-help fad to perish from oversimplification. It has, without a doubt, improved my functioning with bipolar disorder.

In working with others, I have seen similar results. And while research specific to meditation and bipolar disorder is scarce, the effect of mindfulness on other mental illnesses is well documented, and positive.

But it’s not so easy.

Assisted Outpatient Treatment: Let’s ‘Assist’ Patients By Forcing Them

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Assisted Outpatient Treatment: Let's 'Assist' Patients By Forcing ThemAssisted outpatient treatment (AOT) is a marketing term for involuntary commitment, but in an outpatient setting. AOT is like putting lipstick on a pig and calling her a princess. Experts on AOT sometimes like to pretend AOT is something different than forced treatment:

“Forcing [a person] to take medication is assisting him to make the choice we think he would make if he had a normally functioning brain.”
~ E. Fuller Torrey, MD & Jonathan Stanley, JD

Let’s delve into the twisted logic here of assisted outpatient treatment.

The Cost of Mental Illness to Employers & Employees

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

The Cost of Mental Illness to Employers & EmployeesIn a previous post, I asserted the need for people with mental illness who are functioning well to speak out about their success with their disease. I also spoke of the importance for people to hold themselves as examples of how one can live successfully and productively with a mental illness.

On second thought, you may want to be cautious about doing this at work.

Individual contributions help make companies successful, and surely people with mental illness contribute greatly to their employer’s success.

However, people with mental illness may also contribute greatly to their employer’s health care and productivity costs. All companies seek to minimize costs. In doing so they may limit opportunities available to those with a known mental illness in order to avoid the significant costs often associated with psychiatric conditions.

How much does an employee with mental illness cost?

Introducing Bipolar Unbroken

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Introducing Bipolar UnbrokenLiving with bipolar disorder presents its own unique challenges. Challenges in everyday life that most of us would probably take for granted. How do you deal with living with an elevated or expansive mood when you have daily responsibilities to meet? How do you subsequently grapple with the crashing lows that so many people with bipolar disorder will often suffer from?

That’s why it was a pleasure to run across Sarah Ryan and her work over at the new project, Find More Out There. She brings a fresh new perspective to bipolar disorder (sometimes known by its older name, manic depression).

I found her writing to be engaging and thoughtful, and invited her to blog here at Psych Central with a new blog called Bipolar Unbroken, to share that perspective with you. You can learn more about Sarah and her work here.

4 Ways To Reach Out When Depressed

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

4 Ways To Reach Out When DepressedMany people feel that depression is ‘their’ illness — they are the only ones suffering in this way — and that they either can’t talk to others or ask for help, or don’t want to.

This was certainly the case for Lora Innman, a long-term depression sufferer and now a mental health advocate interviewed in ‘Back From The Brink’. When she tried to find somebody to talk to about the depression she was suffering, she found that people backed off and were unwilling or unable to hear about it.

Combine this with several failed marriages, moving around the U.S. and trying to raise her son on her own, and the sense of isolation was compounded all the more intensively.

The Biggest Lesson I’ve Learned in Managing My Bipolar Disorder

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

The Biggest Lesson I've Learned in Managing My Bipolar DisorderWhen Andy Behrman was diagnosed with bipolar disorder over 20 years ago, he didn’t know anyone who had the illness. He didn’t even know what it was. “I remember asking the doctor if I needed to have an MRI and if I would live to see my next birthday.”

For about 10 years he struggled with stabilizing his disorder, which included being misdiagnosed by seven mental health practitioners, taking over 40 medications and receiving ECT. It’s a period he chronicles in his book Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania.

One of the biggest lessons he’s learned in managing his bipolar disorder and living a successful life is to embrace the illness.

“I’ve chosen to be friends with my bipolar disorder instead of [viewing it as] the enemy. I feel [that] too much emphasis is placed on ‘fighting’ mental illness and ‘recovery,’ when I know today that learning to embrace my bipolar disorder and keeping the focus on coping and managing to live with it on a daily basis would have been a much better strategy.”

At Least One of These Things Most People Get Wrong About Depression

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

At Least One of These Things Most People Get Wrong About DepressionDepression and bipolar are often misunderstood, sometimes even by those afflicted.

Unfortunately, misconceptions can be stumbling blocks to taking the action needed to overcome depression, which may prolong the illness and worsen its effects over time.

Just ask Tricia Goddard, well-known TV talk show host and mental health advocate.

Bipolar, Pregnant & Visiting the UK? They May Take Your Unborn Baby

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Bipolar, Pregnant & Visiting the UK? They May Take Your Unborn Baby

Yesterday I brought you the unfortunate story of a Canadian turned away from our borders not because she was a terrorist or criminal — but because she simply had a diagnosis of depression and, more than a year ago, was hospitalized for treatment of it.

Just to show you that the United States isn’t the only backwards country in the world when it comes to discriminating against those with a mental illness, I bring you the much sadder story of an Italian woman who had bipolar disorder, went to the UK for a training course, and wound up being forced to have a C-section without her consent. Wait, what?

Worse, this woman’s forced C-section was approved by a UK court. Apparently, in the UK, having a panic attack is sufficient to remove most of your freedoms and rights.

Meditating with James Austin: Taking the Opportunity to Come Apart

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Beautiful Young Girl MeditatingLast year, I attended a weekend retreat with Zen teacher James Austin. Austin spent most of Saturday presenting information from his book Meditating Selflessly, and from other research he and others have conducted on Zen and the brain. His exhortation to get out of the meditation hall and spend some time in nature looking at birds, or, if early morning, the planets and stars, led to me leaving the retreat on Sunday and disappearing for a few hours into the woods. (Austin’s presentation was over.)

During the retreat I asked Dr. Austin what he thought about people with a serious mental illness practicing meditation. I have bipolar disorder and had scheduled a very intensive, silent retreat.

Austin said that people with a “mental defect” should not undertake intensive meditation. I was surprised at both the language and the sentiment, especially as I have gained so much from my meditation practice. But I have respect for Dr. Austin’s work, and was so influenced by his retreat that I decided to take his caution under consideration.

So I went on the silent retreat anyway.

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