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Mental Health

Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder, but can also describe persons struggle with health problems.

Diagnosis and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose.

The average bipolar patient will see three mental health professionals before getting the right diagnosis. In fact, one-third of bipolar patients will not be diagnosed with the disorder until more than 10 years after they first seek treatment.

There is a lot of similarity between the symptoms of bipolar disorder and other psychiatric conditions, but that isn’t the only reason why it is so difficult to diagnose. Here are some of the complicating factors:

Bipolar Disorder PatientThe patient only talks about depression – as bipolar disorder is a condition that has periods of depression alternating with manic episodes, many patients present when they are depressed. This is particularly true when a patient seeks treatment for themselves. Manic patients feel good or at least energized and are unlikely to believe that anything is wrong. Either they feel terrific, or they are in a heightened “bad” mood – and likely to blame that on other people or life circumstances. Consequently when they first seek treatment – they only profess to the depression as that is most bothersome.

Bipolar disorder looks like anxiety – in actuality, many, if not most bipolar patients also have some type of anxiety disorder. Consequently it may be very difficult for mental health professional to root out bipolar disorder. If patients are seen as agitated, hyperactive or fidgety, they may be only asked about anxiety or given a self-rating scale for anxiety. This would immediately lead the practitioner to diagnose an anxiety disorder – unless careful investigations were done.

Substance abuse can be complicating the issue – many bipolar patients spend years self-treating with substances of abuse. This includes prescription medications, recreational drugs and alcohol. There is not any particular drug that is more often abused by bipolar people as a whole – some will choose alcohol, some will prefer stimulants, some will choose pain medications – all of which will mask the symptoms to some extent. In some cases, the substance abuse appears to be more problematic than anything else and in cases of addiction; the substance abuse must be treated before an accurate evaluation can occur.

Denial is very common – Denial is a nice way of saying dishonesty. That would be lying. This sounds very harsh but in many cases, bipolar patients will not be honest about difficulties that they have had. It may be subconscious dishonesty in that they, themselves do not really know what the problem is. Lack of awareness is common but outright denial is also common. Many bipolar patients absolutely refuse to accept the diagnosis when it is first presented – even after years of not being treated properly. Oddly, this may make it more likely that the practitioner believes that the patient has bipolar disorder but such outright denial delays treatment.

These are just a few of the reasons why bipolar disorder is so difficult to pin down and, unfortunately, delayed treatment can have huge life implicationsBipolar disorder is one of the riskiest psychiatric illnesses to have and can have severe consequences for the patient who is not properly diagnosed and medicated – including job losses, family disturbance, institutionalization, jail and even death.

Bipolar disorder affects not only the patient himself – but family and loved ones as well.

Why is it so difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder?

Mental Illness in Children

Mental Illness In Children – Are We Too Afraid To Find Out?

Up until about 20 years ago, the idea of mental illness occurring in children was pretty much unthinkable.

Boys who were extremely active were sent outside to play.  Defiant children were punished or sent outside to play.  Irritable children were sent outside to play.  Depressed children were sent outside to play.  Get the picture?Get the Idea

Today we do know a lot more about mental illness and have a lot more medication to treat it.  As mental illness becomes more easily diagnosed in adults, it is natural that we begin to look at our children and wonder.  It is also natural that we look back on our own childhoods and wonder or even know that we were ill then too.

Even though most psychiatric diseases are not diagnosed until the teens or early adulthood, it should be fairly obvious that those diseases did not suddenly happen when the kid turned 18. Likely there were signs of existing mental disorder long before the diagnosis.  Unfortunately, some parents may be too afraid to look.

The problem with recognizing mental illness in childhood is that symptoms of mental illness are different from the symptoms in adults.  Children’s symptoms can be masked with other signs or even opposite to those in adults, so they are not obvious. In addition, the symptoms of many different psychiatric disorders are so similar that it is difficult to distinguish one disorder from another.  Some examples:

Depression in children can show as: Depression, Insomnia, Nightmares, Bedwetting, Anxiety, Combativeness, Lack of interest, Anger, Poor grades

Anxiety in children can show as: Insomnia, Nightmares, Bedwetting, Fearfulness, Depression, Poor grades, Social inadequacies, Lack of interest, Combativeness, Anger.

Mental Illness in ChildrenADHD can show as: Inattentiveness, Lack of interest, Fidgetiness, Poor grades, Irritability, Inability to make friends, Excessive anger, Lack of organization

Asperger’s can show as: Lack of interest, Poor grades, Inability to make friends, Excessive anger, Lack of organization

On the other hand normal childhood occurrences such as puberty can show as: Lack of attention, Difficulty getting along with friends, Unexpected anger, Excessive sleep, Inability to sleep, Nightmares, Irritability, Mood swings, Excessive anger, Excessive crying, Poor grades

And Sexual abuse can show as: Nightmares, Bed-wetting, Excessive anger, Anxiety, Depression, Mood swings, Irritability, Disinterest

So how can we determine if it is something that happened to the child, something that is temporary or something like a mental illness?

The best things we can do are to pay attention, know your children.  If they change, find out why.  Know your family history.  If they seem “different”, talk to their teachers.  If they are continuously exhibiting behavior outside of the range of “normal”, there may be something wrong.  Listen to your kids, if they tell you that something is wrong, it probably is.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Educate yourself.  Take the self-test quizzes.  Have your spouse or the child’s other caregivers take the tests.  Take all of this information to your healthcare provider and if that doesn’t work, find someone who will listen.

Most mental disorders are not diagnosed until the late teens or early adulthood – bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorder and schizophrenia.  There is more recognition today, but a lot of resistances to – both from parents and health professionals.  Don’t be afraid to seek help just because you are afraid of medication, knowing what is wrong and knowing your options can head off problems.

Recognizing an oncoming issue may help prevent years of anguish for your child and yourself.

Melissa Lind

Is Stress Normal?

Can we call any nature of stress “normal”?

This article was first posted on BipolarMentalHealth.com.

Your body has a natural defence system and does what it has to defend itself as and when necessary. This is known as “the fight or flight reaction” and is often associated with situations of fear.

Stress seems to be an unwanted attribute, but is it actually normal?

When this response kicks into gear, your body reacts in different ways. Then you may find that you become more energetic, alert and focused. Some people may find that they become frightened and truly just want to run away.

Positive Stress CycleThe fight or flight response is a way that your body deals with stress, as well. Too much stress can put strain on you both mentally and physically while a certain amount of stress is actually healthy. A woman’s body experiences a good stress when going through child-birth. While the body is under pressure, and the woman is experiencing a multitude of emotions, the outcome is a good one. The birth of a new child.

Stress becomes a problem when the cause of the stress is extreme. Your body reacts by producing a variety of symptoms. These include things such as headaches, muscle spasms, back pain, anxiety, loss of appetite or increased appetite, mood swings and an upset stomach.

Stress LevelSome people are able to manage their stress to a higher level. This boils down to how you deal with different circumstances, your attitude, your support network and your own current state of health. People who are suffering from a chronic illness tend to have much lower tolerances to stress.

So while stress is a normal bodily reaction, it is imperative to know when your stress levels are too high. You will know when it is time to take action once you know how you react to stress.

You need to know how to take control of your life and reduce your stress levels. This means learning how to say no, when necessary. You don’t have to be a super hero and no-one is asking you to be one.

Instead learn how to balance your professional and private lives and ensure that you schedule in time for yourself regularly. While anyone can become stressed out, those people who have demanding jobs seem to be at a much higher risk. Do not be afraid to ask for time off or to refuse to work an extra shift, your health depends on it.

Useful and FREE resource: Stress Management

How to Soothe Your Mind

Listening to the sound of music, the sounds of a waterfall or the sounds of birds chirping can help you focus and relax.

Stress is as much a mental issue as a physical one, and it is important to know how to soothe and clear your mind.  Sometimes it can be difficult to let go of things when you get home at night. Or you find yourself dreaming about work or other stressful situations each night. These are all signs that you are dealing with too much stress. But how do you let go of those nagging thoughts?

Clearing and soothing your mind can be achieved by focusing on something that you really enjoy. Although everyone has the ability to focus, and despise of the fact that some people master the skill to maintaining their focus better than others – everyone should at least try. After all – in advance; nobody knows who can and who cannot get focused.

What you need is something that will distract you from these other, disturbing or unwanted thoughts that you are currently experiencing. Think back to a time when you were so engrossed in something that the time just flew by. This is the point where you want to be.

Getting to this point is easier than you might think. If you have trouble allowing all that tension to leave your body, try meditating. Mediation can help to relax your body and your mind. If this still sounds foreign to you, try using soothing music or sounds to help you relax.

It can also help to have a point or object to focus on. You can try lying on your bed and looking at a picture that holds an especially meaning to you. Then put on your music and let the sound envelop you. Don`t allow any other thoughts into your mind. Stay focused on your picture.

Relaxing Sound of WaterfallSounds to listen to that can help you focus and relax include the sounds of ocean waves, the sounds of a waterfall or the sounds of birds chirping, and even the calming sound of music. All of these can help ease your mind and clear it.

Another great way to relax and get back in touch with your body is to go for a massage. A great massage can help relieve the tension in your muscles and will leave you with a feeling of being refreshed again.

Soothing your mind involves learning how to discover those pleasures in life again. Once you have found yours, don’t let it go. Get into the habit of soothing your mind on a regular basis. Any time that your work or life in general is getting you down treat yourself to something that makes you truly happy.

Use Music as Therapy!

Soothe Your Mind

Easy Ways to Deal with Stress

It is extremely hard to avoid stress these days

Stress Killed the CatYou have to deal with stress at home, with your children, at work and possibly even with an aging family member. While you may not be able to escape the stress entirely, there are ways that you can deal with stress. Finding simple solutions to reduce your stress levels is critical. Otherwise, if you allow stress to build up, your health can suffer. Use the following easy tips to lower your stress levels on a regular basis.

Walking – this is the perfect way to reduce your stress. Just getting outside and enjoy nature and fresh air, can do wonders for you. You don’t have to go far to walk outdoors. Find a local park or walk down by a river or beach. You may enjoy going for a solitary walk, or you may find walking with your spouse relaxing.

Moving at work – there is no denying that your job is a huge cause of stress. Make a point of getting up from your desk and moving around. Walk to the bathroom and splash cold water on your face. Take a walk and get a drink of water. Try to get up at least once an hour and move around. Even stretching at your desk is a good way to reduce stress.

Stress balls – these small balls can do wonders for you mentally and physically. As you become stressed your muscles start to tighten. If you suddenly seem to get more neck, shoulder and back pain, it could be due to stress. Use a stress ball to massage your hands and relax your muscles.

Controlled breathing – learning how to perform deep breathing exercises can significantly help to reduce stress. This is particularly useful at work, if you are suddenly placed into a stressful situation, you can reduce your stress and tension by breathing deeply for a few minutes.

Sleep – go to bed a little earlier so that you can get enough sleep. Sleep helps to restore your body and relaxes your muscles. When you don’t sleep enough, or your sleep is poor, you wake up feeling tired and anxious. You really want to feel refreshed and re-energized each morning, so aim for seven to eight hours sleep each night.
By learning to take action when you are feeling stressed, your stress levels will remain much lower. (comparing positive stress to negative stress)

This means that you will start feeling better more quickly and that you won’t be carrying your burdens with you for days on end.

Stress Management – Articles as MP3 sound and PDF

Find solutions to reduce your stress levels

Do Teens Suffer from Stress?

Most people associate stress with adults and seniors.

It is a fact that more and more teens and young children are also dealing with stress. Teenagers today have more pressure placed on them than ever before. Examples of that could be that they are expected to be more social, or they feel pressured to excel at school.

Young children spend more time today with their friends than you may have done at the same age. While it is great for them to be social and interact with others, there is also a downside to this.

Today’s teenagers are often pressured into trying out drugs, smoking and even having sex at an early age. The use of drugs and alcohol by under aged children is on the rise, and this can lead to other problems. The fear of not being one of the “in crowds” is huge and pushes teens to do things they usually wouldn’t.

Scared ChildThis had led to report of groups of boys raping young school girls, of children being bullied and more. In many cases, the consequences have been devastating for everyone involved. The victims have been driven to end their lives and the perpetrators end up in juvenile detention centers or even in jail.

The pressure of getting good grades and homework can add stress to any child. With so much competition for jobs, teens are pressured to attend college and university and strive for that perfect career. It can be hard for any young teen to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives, let alone choose their career path.

All of these choices can become a burden in teens. When the pressure gets too high, they can start to rebel in different ways. Many will act out with behavior that is unnatural for them. They may become sick more often, eat more, gain weight, or just start to withdraw into themselves.

Parents sometimes unknowingly pressure their children with good intentions. They enroll them into lots of after school programs, which only increases their burden. They actually have less time to get their homework done and often offset this by not sleeping enough. Lack of sleep can cause stress and other mental health related issues.

If you suspect that your teen is suffering with stress, find a way to talk to them about it, and offer them options for dealing with it. This may be just to opt out of some after school activities, or they may prefer to talk to a school counselor. By providing teens with opportunities, they will have choices that they can make.

Stress Management – Articles as MP3 sound and PDF

Teenagers do suffer from stress!