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Kids and Mental Disorders – ADHD

Children and mental disorders – when is too soon for diagnosis?

I spend a decent chunk of my time cruising chat boards and reading journals, news, social media posts and such about mental disorders.  My own “specialties” are Bipolar Disorder, Adult ADHD, Autism Spectrum DisorderBorderline Personality Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Depression, Abuse Disorders, OCD… nevermind – I really “specialize” in them all, because I know most Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorderof these disorders within my social circle, and I know them on a professional level.

Anyway, I was on a Facebook page the other day for ADHD. (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)  A woman posted a question about how to manage a kid with ADHD who wakes up and wreaks havoc within the house while everyone is trying to get ready for school and work.  Naturally he was disagreeable, confrontational, oppositional, had “meltdowns” – and it was all exhausting.  (pretty typical behavior for a truly ADHD kid)  A therapist once told me that the ADHD brain doesn’t “wake up” right away and cause all this trouble partly because their brain is not actually engaged yet.  The mom was asking for advice.

Comments on the page gave some really good answers. Some of them are common. Like plan your morning before you go to bed (get out clothes, get backpack ready, make lunch), let the kid make some choices – blah blah blah, stuff we have all heard.

Others were less common, but possibly better advice. Advices like; give the kid an extra 30 minutes to “wake up” in silence, give the child an incentive to get dressed NOW – like playing Minecraft after he is dressed.  I handle mine with the “don’t talk to him yet” option – waiting about 20-30 minutes before making him get busy.  His siblings aren’t allowed to bug him during this time either.  He can wrap himself in a blanket, stare at the wall or whatever – just don’t go back to sleep.

One lady suggested that the kid should be woken to take his meds an hour before he has to be out of bed. Then let him go back to sleep so that his medicines are working by the time he actually gets up.  I found that last piece of advice to be very helpful. My husband with adult ADHD takes his meds about 4 am and gets up at 6, ready to go rather than rude, obnoxious and unhelpful.

Mental Disorders - ADHDWhat troubled me was a comment from a woman who didn’t actually give advice, but chimed in to complain about how hard her four-year-old was to manage.  She said that he had been diagnosed with ADHD and was on meds, but also said that he had bipolar disorder, and still was a screaming banshee in the morning.  This gives me pause for concern.

I certainly can’t do anything about this particular kid, and I don’t really know the exact circumstances but I find the dual diagnosis with bipolar disorder very troubling for a four-year-old child.  Certainly, kids can exhibit ADHD symptoms at 4, and some will benefit from treatment.  But the medications weren’t working, and I am not so sure about the bipolar disorder.

Traditionally, until a few years ago, no one was willing to consider bipolar disorder as a pediatric concern.  Still today, though bipolar disorder obviously exists in childhood – most of the major issues don’t come out until adolescence.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not recognize the bipolar disorder in children under the age of 13

The National Institutes of Mental Health does acknowledge that bipolar disorder in children MAY exist but also warns that many children are misdiagnosed when the main problem is ADHDNIMH recommends that these children be labeled with Mood Dysregulation Syndrome until such time as a diagnosis can be relied upon.

The main problem in diagnosing young children with any mental disorder is that symptoms in children are vastly different from those in adults.  To complicate matters, symptoms of various Cerebrum Lobesdisorders in children are similar to one another.

Symptoms such as irritability, excessive mood swings, meltdowns, oppositional behavior, trouble in school, social inadequacies, explosive behavior, frequent frustration, and hyperactivity, etc. can point to a number of disorders.  Frankly the child may be ADHD, Bipolar, Depressed, Autism Spectrum… or even have food intolerance.

Because of our family history (not just mine), I watch my children very carefully.  I do analyze everything that happens, and I know that all of them probably have a disorder of one type or another.  Two may have ADHD, one is likely bipolar and one has Asperger’s or mild ASD.  I have sought treatment for some issues – but with others, I hesitate to run to a physician – likely a pediatrician who just doesn’t really know.

Our understanding of mental disorders is still evolving

I was personally diagnosed with the wrong disorder for over 15 years – and I was an adult.  How damaging would it have been if I had been labeled with a disorder that I did not have when I was only four years old?
The particular woman I described with the dual diagnosis child was beside herself.  Despite the fact that the four-year-old was receiving medical treatment for both disorders – it wasn’t working.  To me, this means that the treatment was with the wrong meds and for the wrong disorder(s).  In addition, her management skills weren’t the best.

As I said, I know that my children are likely to have disorders of their own but I don’t want to treat them for just any disorder.  I will want them to be treated for the right disease.  My advice to this parent, or any parent whose child had been put on medication that wasn’t working would be to seek a second opinion.

I am more emphatic about that advice if the doctor was willing to “add” a diagnosis to provide more medication; she should definitely seek another opinion.  Preferably the opinion of a pediatric Ritalin - ADHD Medicinepsychiatrist – or even a pediatric behavioral neurologist.  These specialists are few and far between, but it isn’t worth doing anything, but suffering through all the misery because the treatment isn’t working.

Medications are beneficial in the treatment of some types of mental disorders, but they do “change the brain”.  That is how they work – changing the brain can be harmful if you are changing it in the “wrong” directions.  Just seems like common sense.

Melissa Lind

“Mania Days” – Movie about Bipolar Disorder

“Mania Days,” Debuts at South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin

Mania Days” is a movie by Paul Dalio, features Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby as two New Yorkers suffering in the various stages of Bipolar DisorderMovie About Bipolar DisorderDalio, who in actual bipolar mode, wrote, directed, produced, edited and unbelievably – “scored” his own movie which is based on his own discovery of his bipolar disorder.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Dalio describes the Holmes character as what he was like when he had his first episode “really scared and ashamed of it”.  The other character, played by Luke Kirby is based on a period of when he “started to romanticize bipolar disorder” and “embraced lunacy”.

Dalio himself endured three years of bipolar misery but eventually adhered to treatment when he recognized the pain he was causing his family.  Now he credits much of his inner peace to meditation (in addition to medication) and adherence to a routine schedule – including sleep.

The film debuts at the 2015 South by Southwest (SXSW) Music, Film, and Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas which runs a number of independent films.  The film festival coincides with the world famous music festival and an “interactive” conference which includes “gaming” and interactive media.

Katie HolmesKatie Holmes’ presence in the film shows potential for commercial success, but whether it achieves stardom – it is a good thing for bipolar disorder.  Basically, any attention for bipolar disorder is good – even the “bad” of bipolar disorder – as awareness can only reduce bipolar stigma.

I know that in my own journey over 20 plus years, I have gone through many stages.  I don’t much remember being “scared” of the diagnosis – or even of my behavior.  I have chosen to steel myself with “it is what it is”.

I did, however, maintain a long romance with the idea of “crazy” is good.  I spent many years believing (and many hours arguing with my therapist) that being “normal” was boring.  The last thing I wanted to be was “normal”.

I would like to say I was young and stupid – which I was but maybe part of the truth was that I had been crazy for so long that it was “normal”.  Eventually, crazy is exhausting – and you can’t do it anymore.

In most cases – you are eventually stopped from being crazy – up against a wall, sometimes caught by family members but sometimes a lot worse.  You get normal – only to get bored and do it all again.

As much as I would like to say that there is a real way to stop this cycle – in many cases there is not.  Even with medication, the cycle will continue – for a while.  Eventually, hopefully, you just get too tired of doing crazy.  Lost relationships, lost jobs… lost stuff.  It is exhausting.

Today – I am stable on medication.  Like an alcoholic – I say today.  Tomorrow and likely next week I will be stable on medication.  I would like to say forever – but I remember (at least what I do remember) that someday I may not.  The best I can do is to be open and forthright about my disorder so that those around me may know the signs if I decide to do “crazy” again.

Even though, I live near the festival and have many friends who are attendees, musicians, event planners, and sponsors – I won’t be seeing the film in Austin… crowds, excitement, and all that are no longer my thing – but I will see it, and I hope it is good.  Even if it isn’t great, it is another step in the right direction for the disease.

The Movie about Bipolar Disorder, “Mania Days”, Debuts at Film Festival in Austin

Melissa Lind

Bipolar Disorder and Exercise

Does Exercise Help with Bipolar Disorder?

Everyone knows that exercise is good for your health.  It is a no-brainer, and it is repeated so often that you have probably gotten tired of it.  I know I should do some physical activity. It is good for my heart, my bones… blah, blah, blah.

Bipolar DepressionOn the other hand, aside from needing to exercise because I am getting old and tired – the idea, that exercise might be good for my Bipolar Disorder, might just motivate me to do it.
Nothing else has.

A research study conducted in 2012 showed that exercise may have positive benefits for people with Bipolar Disorder.  I should have thought of that – but I didn’t (probably because I am bipolar and tend to ignore obvious things that might help me).

When asked – I have given advice to those who have depression (major depressive disorder, clinical depression, situational depression – or even bipolar depression).  What I tell those people is in addition to taking their meds, they should get up.  Get out of bed, get outside, and get some exercise – even if it is just around the kitchen.  Exercise increases the blood supply to your brain and helps to rise your energy levels – even if you don’t want to, it will do you some good.

Bipolar Disorder ShadowI give that advice to people when they are depressed, but I am not usually depressed.  My disorder tends toward mania or at least a mixed mood state.  So I don’t think about the need to increase my energy level.

Evidence has shown that exercise has some positive effects for people with Bipolar Disorder – even those that are not depressed.  In addition to the obvious health benefits, it can help to regulate your mood levels and “bring structure to chaos”.

As “bipolar“, we are often subject to disorderDisordered mind, disordered days, disordered environment.  One of the biggest tools for a bipolar patient to get and keep their body and mind regulated is the establishment of a schedule.

Go to bed at bedtime (and not at 2 am when you fall asleep in front of the TV). Get up in the morning, go to work on time, eat on a schedule – and take your meds when you should.
Establishing a routine does, in fact, help to keep from extreme ups and downs.

Exercise can be a big part of this – and physically reinforce a schedule on your body – that then affects your brain.  Just like getting up at the same time and going to sleep at the same time helps to establish a normal circadian rhythmexercise can reinforce that in a big way.

There are other benefits to exercise as well.  Physical activity naturally increases blood flow to the brain, which gives it the best chance of functioning at optimum level. It also helps to “clear out the cobwebs” that can be especially important if you are teetering on the edge.
Bipolar ExerciseExercise can increase your self-esteem that may have taken many blows in the past.  It can also increase social activity – that is apparently good for you, even if you don’t like people.  I don’t.

In my opinion, the biggest benefit may be “getting in touch” with your body.  When you exercise, you are more likely to stay within yourself.  One of the greatest problems in people with any mental disorder, and one of the reasons why people abuse drugs or perform any other risky behavior is the inability to be comfortable within your skin.  If you are exercising, you don’t really have a choice; you have to stay there.  Over time, you feel better about yourself, you feel more comfortable there, and you learn what is and isn’t “normal” within your body.

Perhaps this can lead you to better response when something is going amiss – when you may be slipping into disorder.

I tend to disregard the advice given by those who are not bipolar experts… either those with Bipolar Disorder or those who know the disease intimately, but this advice looks pretty solid to me.

Exercise and take your medicines!

Melissa Lind

Bipolar Disorder and Exercise as text to speech article

(Mental health video for blind and partially sighted people)

What NOT to Say to a Bipolar Person

Stupid things said to people with bipolar disorder

Bipolar Disorder has become a bit more recognized lately, most likely due to the “coming out” of celebrities with outrageous behavior.  This has been good in raising awareness about bipolarity somewhat, but it has been bad because a lot of people think they know all about it.

In addition to not completely eradicating the stigma – it is also highly annoying when someone says something mean, wrong, funny, or even just plain stupid about bipolar disorder.  If you aren’t bipolar – don’t give advice to people who are.  Here are some of the things you should not do:

Don’t try to “join in”

Soo DepressedDon’t try to tell me you “know how I feel”.  Don’t relate your stories about how you were soooo depressed when your dog died.  Don’t try to tell me about how bad your insomnia is.  Don’t try to tell me about how you seriously almost destroyed a poster once or how embarrassed you were when…. Don’t.  Unless you are bipolar, you cannot understand the depression, the agitation, the anxiety.  I can understand that you want to show concern and make me feel “normal” but don’t.

Don’t tell me I should do better

Don’t tell me I can fix this.  Don’t tell me that I brought this on myself.  Don’t tell me to try harder.  Don’t tell me that it could be worse.  Don’t tell me that only religion can make me better.  I am doing the best I can; I didn’t want this disease, and frankly, I don’t want to hear it.

Don’t minimize

Don’t tell me to “snap out of it” or “get off my ass.”  Don’t give me platitudes like “this too shall pass” or “cheer up.”  Don’t tell me Not to Bipolar People“tomorrow will be better” or “everyone has a bad day sometimes.”  My disease, my experience is as bad as it is.  You can’t make it go away by acting cheerful or sympathetic.

Don’t try to shame me into being better

Don’t tell me that I am a real downer or that I am “dragging you down.”  Don’t tell me all about my bad behavior and how being around me is so painful – like “walking on eggshells.”  Don’t tell me about life not being fun…I already know.  If you don’t like it, it would be better if you just leave.

Don’t blame every disagreement on my disease

Don’t say anything about bipolar “shit” in the middle of an argument.  Just because I am angry doesn’t mean I am off my meds.  It doesn’t mean I am crazy.  Using my illness to win an argument is just plain wrong.  I have a right to be angry sometimes, and sometimes I am.

These are just a few things you should not do.  We have a lot of rules – some of which change just like us.

Happy Day!

Melissa Lind

Living with Someone Who is Bipolar

Living with someone who has Bipolar Disorder can be difficult

Living with Bipolar DisorderI try (like many others I am sure) to keep Bipolar Disorder from wrecking my family.  I don’t always succeed.  In a lot of cases, it comes down to taking my medication on a regular basis (which historically I have not always done).  Even at the best of times, living with someone who has Bipolar Disorder can be difficult.  In some ways, it is probably harder to live with someone who is Bipolar than it is to be Bipolar yourself.

Having Bipolar disorder is just part of who I am.  It isn’t “good”, it isn’t “bad”, – it just “is”.  There are good days and bad days, but I expect that.  Just because someone else thinks I am having a “bad day” doesn’t mean that I experience it that way.  I don’t really know what it is like to live with someone who is Bipolar.  I only know what they say and how they seem to react.

InsaneLong before I was diagnosed, a roommate said to me, “living with you is like walking on eggshells”.  That kind of made me mad – and my response was something like “Well at least I wash my clothes”.  This had nothing to do with anything – except that she didn’t wash her clothes.

My husband once said, “Living with you is like waking up with a rabid animal.”  My thought was, “Then don’t talk to me when I wake up”.  In either case, I still believe that I wasn’t doing anything particularly wrong – unpleasant for them maybe – but normal for me.
There are some things that you can do to help yourself deal with a household member that is Bipolar.  Know these hints will not solve the problem, but they may make things better.

•    Don’t say things like, “I am not putting up with this Bipolar shit!”  First you will make them angrier than they already are. Second, you obviously are putting up with it, and they may feel compelled to remind you that you both live there, which will make you angry.
•    Do keep an eye on whether they are taking their medicationNormal and MiserableIf you can check on it in a prominent manner – do so, but likely you will have to sneak around them.  You can’t easily force them to take their meds, and subtle reminders will probably create an explosion. But you have to decide if the explosion is worth it – or just be prepared in case it is not.
•    Educate yourself so that you can see what “the disease” is, and what the person is.  Know that the disease is also a significant part of a person. Also, know that a lot of what you like about them is because they are bipolar.  While Bipolar Disorder makes things difficult, it also makes things interesting.
•    If you can watch for disruptions, try to be there to compensate.  Meaning; make sure children and other responsibilities are taken care of.  It does not mean that you must do all the work but remember you aren’t necessarily doing it for “them” but for the others that depend on them.
•    Try not to be angry at them for being who they are.  Again, part of what makes them interesting is the disorder and for a lot of use – we like who we are most of the time.  If you don’t like us, then leave.
•    Lastly, and most importantly – if you can, be there to pick up the pieces when it breaks – because with most of us, it usually will.

Whether it is a spouse, child, a sibling or roommate, you will have to make a decision.  If you can put up with the mental disorder, that’s great.  You can help them, but you can’t change them.  They can’t change being Bipolar, and criticism never helps.

Melissa

Living With Someone Who’s Living With Bipolar Disorder:

Living with someone who is living with bipolar disorderA Practical Guide for Family, Friends, and Coworkers is an essential resource for anyone who has a close relationship with a person who has Bipolar disorder.
This book provides a much-needed resource for family and friends of the more than 5 million American adults suffering from bipolar disorder. From psychotic behavior that requires medication to milder mood swings with disturbing ups and down, this book offers a warm and often humorous user-friend guide for coping with bipolar loved ones, colleagues, and friends.

The book includes Guidance for identifying bipolar disorder symptoms and how to get the diagnosis confirmed Strategies for dealing with rants, attacks, blame, depression, mania and other behaviors. The book includes crucial information on medication and its effectiveness, potential side-effects and techniques for dealing with attempts to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

How many people with bipolar disorders can care for themselves, get help, feel supported and go on with their own lives? This important book contains real-life illustrative examples and a wealth of helpful strategies and coping mechanisms that can be put into action immediately.

Bipolar Disorder and Adolescents

Symptoms of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents may look like other disorders

Traditionally bipolar disorder has been thought to first show in early adulthood – and more often in females.  Bipolar disorder was considered to be quite rare as few as 20 years ago, to be more exact. The first emergence came in the early 20s, mainly in females. But, our knowledge about bipolar disorder has grown rapidly in the last 20 years.

Instead of the single manic-depressive diagnosis – which included diagnostic criteria of both depressive periods, alternating with manic periods – described as “euphoria”?

Those who did not have clearly rhythmic, alternating periods of a “happy” and frantic manic phase with a classic depression period were mishandled, misdiagnosed, mistreated, or dismissed.

Bipolar ChildrenIn addition, it wasn’t really known that bipolar disorder could start in adolescence or even childhood, or that there are different types of bipolar disorder.  Today, it still isn’t “officially” recognized in the “psychiatric bible” – the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but at least more practitioners do know that it exists.

Today, we don’t exactly know what causes bipolar disorder (only that there is a genetic link of some kind, and often some past trauma). But, we can at least identify adolescent and childhood bipolar illness.  We also recognize a variety of different types of bipolar disorder (Such as mixed manic episodes, rapid cyclers, people without a depressive phase, hypomania, dysphoria rather than euphoria and cyclothymia). We also have a “catch-all” type – Bipolar NOS or “not-otherwise-specified”.

Adolescent or childhood bipolar disorder is official known as: “early onset bipolar disorder”.  In fact, childhood bipolar disorder can be more serious than a similar disease in adults and may have slightly different symptoms.

Symptoms of bipolar illness in children can often be more severe, and the cycling period may be more frequent.  Children also have more mixed episodes.  Children also have slightly different symptoms – so even the depression phase of the cycle may not be obvious.

Pediatric patients (children and adolescents) with bipolar disorder may have:

Bipolar Disorder in Children•    Abrupt mood swings
•    Periods of hyperactivity followed by lethargy
•    Intense temper tantrums
•    Frustration
•    Defiant behavior
•    Chronic irritability

These symptoms have to appear in more than one setting (school and home) and cause “distress”.

The problem is that many of these symptoms may look like other disorders.  They might be disorders such as ADHD, childhood depression, anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, conduct disorder, premenstrual syndrome, oppositional defiant disorder and others. The danger might come from a misdiagnosis and improper treatment.

Bipolar disorder is treated with anti-manic agents (lithium), anti-convulsants (Depakote, lamotrigine) or atypical antipsychotics (Abilify, Risperdal).  In many cases, anti-depressant won’t be needed.  Treatment for other disorders like ADHD or depression may make bipolar disorder worse. Childhood bipolar disorder is something that desperately needs treatment as the distress caused to the patient, and the family can predispose the youngster to

•    Drug or alcohol abuse
•    Stealing
•    Involvement with law enforcement
•    Poor social integration
•    Poor academic performance
•    Suicidal tendencies
•    Premature sexual behavior

The Balanced Mind has a good self-check list of symptoms that can help a parent or a teen decide if bipolar disorder might be an issue.  Self-testing is not always accurate and should be discussed with a doctor, (preferably with test results in hand).  Not all doctors accept pediatric bipolar disorder. Parents may have to seek advice from more than one mental health professional and be aware that insurance may not cover the illness.

Melissa Lind