Stigmatization of People with Mental Disorders

"Stigmatization of people with mental disorders is manifested by bias, distrust, stereotyping, fear, embarrassment, anger, and/or avoidance. Stigma leads the (public) to avoid people with mental disorders. It reduces access to resources and leads to low self-esteem, isolation, and hopelessness. It deters
the public from seeking, and wanting to pay for care. Stigma results in outright discrimination and abuse. More tragically, it deprives people of their dignity and interferes with their full participation in society."

--U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher (ret.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that affects the chemicals in the brain and causes changes in moods that are often not normal responses to outside events. More technically, bipolar disorder is a genetically transmitted medical illness that affects brain chemistry. It results in abnormal regulation of nerve cells that are responsible for emotional regulation. This abnormality in brain chemistry leads to difficulty in handling strong emotions and periodically causes intense episodes of mania or depression as well as a variety of other symptoms such as paranoia, anger, and anxiety.

Also known as manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide

About 5.7 million American adults or about 2.6 percent of the population age 18 and older in any given year, have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood. However, some people have their first symptoms during childhood, and some develop them late in life. It is often not recognized as an illness, and people may suffer for years before it is properly diagnosed and treated. As with epilepsy, diabetes or heart disease, one must learn to learn to live with this potentially life-threatening disorder...One does not recover, rather it is a long-term illness that must be carefully managed throughout a person’s life.

Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder-Julie A. Fast & John Preston Ph.D

Friday, October 5, 2007

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

As a treatment resistant bipolar, I have been through almost every treatment regimen that exists. I have an excellent doctor and therapist and they both are truly committed to my recovery. We just have not hit upon the right combination of treatment yet…YET.

So many medications are available for the treatment of bipolar disorder. Most often a “cocktail” of prescriptions is the answer to balancing the traumatic mood swings that disrupt the bipolar’s life. Always ask your doctor the reason he is prescribing a new medication for you and what side-effects you might expect… Is it a mood stabilizer, an anti-depressant, an anti-anxiety med, an anti-convulsant, a sleeping aid, and so forth. Lithium, lamictal, zyprexa, depakote, klonopin, seroquel, risperdal, carbamazepine, ambilify, topomax, the list goes on, as do the effects and results. Do your own research, and ask lots of questions. Pay attention to how your body responds.

Cognitive therapy is almost always used in conjunction with pharmaceutical therapy. Working one-on-one with a counselor to identify and discuss moods, triggers, reactions, and tools for response can be immensely effective in managing the disorder.

Group Therapy, Intensive Outpatient Therapy, and other support groups can provide hope and vital information, as well as reassuring the individual that they are not alone in their efforts to manage the disorder. For more information on support groups:

Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is a more extreme option especially effective for the depressive side of bipolar disorder. Side effects include some memory loss and disorientation for a period of time. As with many of the drugs, it is not always effective.

Studies also lend credence to the corelation between lifestyle changes that can play a positive role in managing the treatment of bipolar disorder. Sleep schedules, diet changes, regular exercise, and appropriate light exposure can have a direct effect on the brain chemistry.

Most important for the bipolar individual is having a plan and a support network to call on during depressive and manic episodes. Close friends and family members should be educated about the illness and in tune with symptoms of impending episodes...The bipolar individual may try to mask such symptoms such as lack of sleep, racing thoughts, too much sleep, suicidal thoughts, etc. The support team should maintain close contact and recognize symptoms. Whoever is closest should be alerted in order to respond whether it means sitting with the individual, calling in the doctor, or taking the individual to the emergency room.

Suicidal and self-destructive behaviors are very real threats when the bipolar individual is in the grips of either extreme of the spectrum. Any mention of suicide should be taken seriously. With a solid plan and a dedicated support group, positive outcomes are possible.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Are You Suffering From Bipolar Disorder?

A Bipolar Disorder Screening Tool

This questionnaire should be used as a starting point. It is not a substitute for a full medical evaluation. Bipolar disorder is a complex illness, and an accurate, thorough diagnosis can only be made through a personal evaluation by your doctor. However, a positive screen here may suggest that you might benefit from seeking such an evaluation from your doctor. Regardless of the questionnaire results, if you or someone you know has concerns about your mental health, please contact your physician or another healthcare professional.

INSTRUCTIONS: Please answer each question as best you can.

1. Has there ever been a period of time when you were not your usual self and... YES NO
... you felt so good or so hyper that other people thought you were not your normal self or you were so hyper that you got into trouble?
... you were so irritable that you shouted at people or started fights or arguments?
... you felt much more self-confident than usual?
... you got much less sleep than usual and found that you didn’t really miss it?
... you were more talkative or spoke much faster than usual?
... thoughts raced through your head or you couldn’t slow your mind down?
... you were so easily distracted by things around you that you had trouble concentrating or staying on track?
... you had much more energy than usual?
... you were much more active or did many more things than usual?
... you were much more social or outgoing than usual, for example, you telephoned friends in the middle of the night?
... you were much more interested in sex than usual?
... you did things that were unusual for you or that other people might have thought were excessive, foolish or risky?
... spending money got you or your family in trouble?
2. If you checked YES to more than one of the above, have several of these ever happened during the same period of time?
3. How much of a problem did any of these cause you - like being able to work; having family, money or legal troubles; getting into arguments or fights?
No problem Minor problem Moderate problem Serious problem
4. Have any of your blood relatives (i.e. children, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles) had manic-depressive illness or bipolar disorder?
5. Has a health professional ever told you that you have manic-depressive illness or bipolar disorder?

How to evaluate your results

Answering “Yes” to 7 or more of the events in question #1, answering “Yes” to question #2, and answering “Moderate problem” or “Serious problem” to question #3 is considered a positive screen for bipolar disorder.


She is a blue hawk cliff-diving deep, into the rocky seas…
Fall’s first scarlet leaf spiraling on a crisp September breeze.
In mania, with wings unfurled, she sails cerulean skies
She gulps it in with wonder-wide, her joy is on the rise.
She feels such sense of power, soaring above it all…
Suffused with full felicity, how could she ever fall?
Eu•pho•ri•a is a deceptive drug when the beast has taken hold
False infallibility exacts harsh consequences paid for with the soul.
She escalates to shutter-speed—distractions-flashing,
blurring-focus-fading-elation crashing-thrashing
Transmuted to an aberration, agitation spawns self-flagellation.
Her half-self-decimation is the monster’s perpetuation.
The cycle never ceases…

And the other side...

Blackly Fade the Days

Leaves are slowly falling
outside my bedroom window,
and I am lost in mourning
for a life that slipped away.
Depression is my lover,
whose arms will not release me.
Paralysis subdues me;
it will not set me free.
In stone I have been captured—
a statue carved in pain.
The world I see seems so surreal,
I am not sure I’m living,
and passing time slips by unknown
as blackly fade the days.

Manic Monster

(Excerpt from book in progress: working title I Am Not Damaged Goods by Sheree Ann Martines)

After two weeks lost to incapacitating depression, the inevitable escalation felt good…DAMN good. She was incredibly happy and had a million plans. None-the-less she was just the Titanic setting sail and that eviscerating piece of ice loomed darkly somewhere on the horizon. Still she had a day or two before she had to deal with that, and she enjoyed the frenetic energy coursing through her veins, pumping zeal and a magnificent possibility into her brain. She was hang-gliding with the hawks; she was shooting fives on the Gaulley; she was as alive as living can be. She was headed for a cliff with no way to stop her eventual plummet. She prayed a selfish prayer, “Lord, please give me two good days.”

She could not stop herself, so her doctors stepped in.

Another change of medication: Their plan was to sedate her enough to head off the deceptive pleasure that ultimately ended in more pain…and so the tornado continued to whip through her life, momentarily suppressed.

She knew she was lucky to have two of the best doctors in the bipolar field…but there were times she hated them. They could only clip her waves, but remained as helpless as she to alleviate the pain that always came. She had no choice, but to ride it out and hope she would make it through to the other side.

“Let me take my chances on the wall of death.”

What would life be like if she just threw away all those medicine bottles…went back to the way she had lived for most of her life. She was going to die sooner or later. What did it matter if it was sooner?

Lately, sooner seemed to be coming fast, like a freight train—steel, speed, sparks, fatally bound for a car on the tracks. No effort to brake would stop that decimation of metal and mercurial madness.

Film at 11.