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Woman with Bipolar Disorder Wins Court Case

Future discrimination of people with Bipolar Disorder may be more difficult

Score one (kind of) for Bipolar Disorder.  A federal jury awarded a woman who was fired because she requested time off from work to deal with a manic episode $32.5 thousand.

Bipolar Disorder StigmatizationBipolar disorder (and many other psychiatric illnesses) carries a relatively big stigma in the workplace.  Unless you are in the creative arts, likely, you will not want anyone at your job to know that you have bipolar disorder.

Three years ago, a nursing assistant who worked in an assisted living facility, named Charlotte Massey realized she was in the middle of a manic episode.  Charlotte had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder – and kudos to her for recognizing that she needed to do something about it before it spiraled out of control.

When she called her boss, the owner of the facility, her boss not only didn’t give her “kudos”, he gave her a pink slip.  She got fired because she asked to take a leave of absence to deal with her medical issue.

Unlike most people who have been fired for Bipolar Disorder – Charlotte didn’t lose her job because she went wacko.  Instead, she maintained enough mental clarity to notify her employer of her Bipolar Disorder Discriminationdisability and was rewarded with… firing.

It is certain that the owner of the facility was aware of the American with Disabilities Act.  It is likely that he or she was aware that he could not randomly fire employees with physical or obvious mental disabilities. But, it may be that he was unaware that “mental disabilities” includes illnesses such as bipolar disorder.

The ADA bars discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities who can perform the essential functions of their job with “reasonable accommodation” and without imposing an “undue hardship” on the employer.

From the outside, some may say… well she wanted to take time off.  In fact, she took a whole five days off, with herself or a family member reporting in each day with the supervisor.  When she returned to work after only a week of absence, she was fired.

Part of the law includes an evaluation of whether the employer would be subjected to “undue hardship”.  Is giving an employee time off to deal with a medical issue, an employee whose shifts could be made up by another person – an undue hardship?

Workplace StigmaThe court thought it was not.  The jury awarded Massey $25,000 in damages for lost wages and benefits and $7,500 in punitive damages.

The employer and his lawyer attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed by claiming that:

•    Charlotte Massey wasn’t fired; she resigned
•    She had a faulty memory of the events due to her disability
•    She never reported her disability to her employer

In fact, none of those were true.  Though the employer’s attorney repeatedly referred to the case as “frivolous”, the jury found otherwise.
This award may be the first of its kind, and it may be small, but it is a groundbreaking case.  With the ability to claim protections of the ADA, future discrimination may be more difficult.

Melissa Lind

More difficult for Bipolar Disorder stigma in the future!

Psychiatric Disorders and Geniuses

A lot of people like to think of themselves as geniuses.  Probably even more people with psychiatric disorders like to think of themselves as geniuses.

MichelangoWho can blame us – with examples such as Albert Einstein, Edgar Allen Poe, Beethoven, Michaelangelo, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton… just to name a few.

As all of these stellar personalities are now deceased and most died before the advent of modern psychiatry, we can only surmise their disturbance – their genius however is clear.

Aristoteles, a Greek philosopher, once said, “There is no genius without having a touch of madness.”

Today, most who are diagnosed with a mental disorder– be it bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or even major depression, would be classified in previous times as “mad”.

A recent article in Psychiatric Times, by an actual physician – Nicholas Pediaditakis – attempts to link the occurrence of major mental disorders and geniusFreud called the difference in “temperament” of genius from that of “normal” people – “narcissistic neurosis”.

The basic theory as proposed by the author of the article says that people with certain mental disordersbipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and OCD in particular – ‘tend to “think” the world rather than “feel” it.’  He goes on to say that many are dysphoric and tend towards feeling a void and aloneness within themselves which can often lead to substance abuse and suicide – all too true.  His conclusion is that these illnesses cause an absence of adherence to social norms, not because you want to, but because you have to – but that it frees up parts of the brain for creative processes.

In addition, many artists, actors, comedians, writers acknowledge that much of their creativity comes from painpsychic pain not physical pain that is often experienced by those with mental disorders. This doesn’t seem to translate to genius in science, math, or other concrete areas, but the idea of a mind that has free space to concentrate on specialty areas does fit.

While I, personally, find offense in part of his statement (the part about wanting to think rather than feel) – I also find it true.  I, and those I know, would rather “think” rather than “feel”, but often we feel too much and cannot stop.

Aside from my bristling at the implication that mental illness is a choice – I find it amusing that science may be able to prove that there is a “mad genius” in me – someday.

Melissa Lind

A genius with a psychiatric disorder.

Panic Attacks and Anxiety

Suffering from anxiety disorder and have panic attacks?

Do you have anxiety?
Are you constantly worried?

We all probably know that anxiety is a normal part of life.  That horrible feeling of anxiousness is something that can happen to all of us from time to time — and with good reason. However, many people suffer from anxiety without any valid reason — regardless of how correct the reason for the anxiety seems to them.

Anxiety can cause a host of other mental health problems.
Child AnxietyFirst, when the brain is stressed, the body’s immune system fails to function properly. Things like this leads to illnesses. Second, anxiety can prevent one from living life to the fullest. And, finally, stress can lead to full-blown anxiety attacks, otherwise known as panic attacks.

A panic attack might feel like a heart attack. In fact, when one suffers their first panic attack, this is what they think that it is, in most cases. They will usually seek out medical emergency services. A lot of the symptoms are often the same as a heart attack. The person may feel chest pains, have trouble catching their breath, become dizzy, feel nauseous, and also feel completely out of control.

AnxiousLuckily, you won’t die from a panic attack — even though you can’t be convinced of that when it is happening. Even better news is that panic attacks can be prevented. Medication can be prescribed, relaxation techniques can be used, and counseling, in the form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be sought.

Your doctor will most likely prescribe an antidepressant for your anxiety. However, antidepressants take about three weeks to become effective, and during this time, you may discover that you are more anxious than you were before. Panic attacks may become more severe during this time.

For reasons mentioned, your doctor may also prescribe a benzodiazepine. The benzodiazepine will effectively take care of the anxious feelings, and help to prevent panic attacks. However, this is not a safe long-term drug, as antidepressants are. Therefore, after about three weeks, your doctor will most likely discontinue the benzodiazepine, and continue with the antidepressant. Naturally, CBT will also be recommended.

Panic attacks are very real — and very scary. If you suffer from panic attacks, know that there is treatment out there, and with that treatment, you can avoid future panic attacks.

Stress and Anxiety – Is There Any Relationship? (Free PDF)

Panic attacks and anxiety disorder sufferers