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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.

Childhood Sexual Abuse and Mental Health

Mental Health and Childhood Sexual Abuse – Don’t Carry the Secret

Recently I saw something on Facebook that was very sad.  It was a video of a 50 plus year old man named Scott – also called “Spider,” who told the story of his life through written cards, in a fashion similar to Ben Breedlove’s “This is my story” about his heart condition. In the video, this tough looking man, confessed the trauma of his own sexual abuse and the damage it had done to him over the years – drug abuse, divorce, culminating in an arrest for beating his child’s sexual predator with a bat.

The story was naturally sad but is all too common.  In fact, statistics shows that 1 in 6 boys will be sexually molested by the age of 18 and worse for girls with 1 in 3.  The other sad fact is that many, many children who are sexually abused don’t tell anyone.  Either they are threatened or ashamed – or both.  They carry the secret for much of their lives.

Trauma, abuse, neglect – biology didn’t account for its infliction on children.  As children, our brains develop best in a loving,
supportive environment with plenty of nutritional food and quality exercise so that our bodies become the best they can be.  Childhood Trauma - Mental HhealthAround the world we see the damage that poor nutrition, neglect and physical abuse can do to children.  What is not so obvious is the damage wreaked by sexual abuse – it is a hidden traumaSexual abuse is hidden by the child, hidden from the adults, hidden from other children, and sometimes even hidden by the child’s memory.

Secrets are always dark.  Carrying secrets can ruin a relationship or ruin a career.  Carrying secrets imposes a burden of stress on your body – your heart doesn’t work as well, your adrenal system gets burned out, your sleep is affected.  Carrying a secret like that can change a child’s brain.

Studies have shown that abuse or childhood trauma actually causes physical changes to the developing brain.  It can make the child unable to grow to what they would have been.

So what does this have to do with mental health?

The effects of childhood trauma are hard to predict.  Mental health is hard to identify – particularly the cause.  In some cases, we can easily point to the parents and say “Mom and Grandma have clinical depression; it is no surprise that the daughter has depression.”  Schizophrenia has been shown to be driven by over 100 genes and a child with one schizophrenic person has a 13 percent chance of developing the disorder.  Some people are “born” alcoholics in that they are missing an enzyme that allows them to process alcohol properly and will nearly always become addicted if they drink.

In other cases – we can’t identify the cause.  You have some cases of mental disorders that develop in people with perfect childhoods.  You have people with horrible experiences who are remarkably healthy – rare, but true.  In many cases though, someone with a history of child abuse will develop some mental disorder – but the type is very hard to predict.

In “Spider’s” case, he became a drug addict, had an anger problem and felt that he had to prove he could “conquer” women (his own words), leading to the destruction of his family.  Likely he suffered from depression, anxiety disorder, and possibly Mental Health - Child AbusePost-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Telling the “secret”, not carrying the weight may, just may have kept him from his self-destructive behavior.  Unfortunately, it may not have stopped his daughter from being a victim, but it might have allowed him better tools than a bat to deal with her problem.

In severe cases, extreme trauma can actually cause the personality to “split,” in “Dissociative Identity Disorder” (DID), which was previously called “Multiple Personality Disorder” (MPD).

(Photo-source: http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/2014/08/scott_spider_spideralamode_facebook_molest.php)

Sexual abuse has another problem – that children are often disbelieved which worsens the trauma.  Unlike physical abuse, unlike neglect, unlike starvation – there are no “obvious” signs.  There are signs, but you have to know what they are.  Children who have been sexually abused do exhibit signs:

•    changes in behavior or personality type – a normally outgoing child becomes withdrawn, a normally gregarious child becomes angry and sullen
•    bed wetting and nightmares (oddly the bed-wetting may be punished)
•    refusal to go to school, church, sports or club activities or to a certain friend’s house
•    sudden clinginess or a sudden desire to be left alone

Too often, adults don’t ask.  Too often, children don’t tell.  Sadly, sometimes adults won’t listen.  If you know of a child that has
sudden behavioral changes – ask.  If you are an adult, believe.  If you are a victim, tell.  Even at a late date, telling can change your life and resolve some of your “issues.” I think in the end, “Spider’s” main message was “tell your kids to tell.”

What does this have to do with mental health?

Sexual abuse can contribute to:

PTSD, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bulimia, Anorexia, Drug Addiction, Alcoholism, Attachment Disorder… and many more.

History of Child Abuse – Free PDF

Melissa Lind

Depression in Children

It may not seem possible, and most people don’t want to think about depression in children.

Different from developmental disorders such as ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorders and different from mental disorders such as Schizophrenia, which have obvious symptoms, Depression can occur in children.

Childhood DepressionUp until about 20 years ago, depression in children wasn’t widely recognized.  It wasn’t that the depression didn’t exist; it was undoubtedly just that we didn’t know about it.  Two decades ago, even if the child was aware that “something” was wrong, the parents, teachers, and other adults were likely to dismiss it as a “stage” or “phase” that the child was going through.

There were several reasons for that way of thinking, such as:

  • A belief that children didn’t get depression – adolescents were dismissed as “moody,” younger children were dismissed as “difficult.”
  • Medication available for depression wasn’t appropriate for children due to severe side effects.  Newer antidepressants were not available until Prozac was approved in 1988 for adults.  These medications known as “serotonin specific reuptake inhibitors” (SSRIs) were not approved for children until 2002 and to date, only Prozac is recommended for depression in children though Zoloft and Luvox may be used for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in children.
  • The long-term effects of depression were not yet known.  Depression at any age can contribute to chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Today, we recognize childhood depression.  About 11 percent of children have experienced at least one episode of childhood depression before the age of 18, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Normal behavior can certainly vary from child to child and from age to age – as children are prone to “stages” that they will grow out of.  But if a child has an extended period of depression – it is something that should be properly addressed. Such serious issues should not be taken lightly.

Juveniles (those up to age 17) often have different symptoms of depression than those common in adults.  Children with depression may be excessively sad and lethargic, but depression may also show as:

  • Complaints of illness
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Clinging to a parent or caregiver
  • Excessive worrying
  • Sulking
  • Grouchiness
  • Anxiety
  • Acting out at school
  • Excessive negativeness
  • Feelings of being misunderstood

Depressed FeelingsThese symptoms are occasionally experienced by most children as they are growing up, but when symptoms persist for several months or interrupt normal activities and development, more investigation is needed.  One needs to find out what the cause may be.  If a child is being bullied – he or she may not want to go to school.  If a child complains of illness – it may truly be sick.  On the other hand if these events occur over and over, you need to discuss the problem with a doctor.  You may also need to see a child psychiatrist or psychologist.  In some cases, therapy may be warranted but in other cases, the child may benefit from medication suitable for depression.

In any event, you should not ignore symptoms of depression or any other mental illness signs – but investigate them.  It may be that your child is “going through a stage”, but it may be more serious.

Children complaining of illness may be depressed!

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

Why do Bipolar Patients Quit Taking Their Meds?

Why do bipolar and schizophrenic persons quit taking medicine?

Talk to any medical professional about the trials and tribulations of dealing with bipolar patients and they will tell you that the single most bothersome thing is the frequency with which manic-depressives quit taking their meds.

This problem isn’t unique to bipolar patients, but it is more insidious and often more surprising.  Schizophrenics, who quit taking their meds, are identified fairly quickly.  Those with depression who quit taking their meds stay in their houses – this is troublesome but not a public nuisance.

People with bipolar disorder are usually quite memorable both at the best of times and the worst of times.  They are vivacious; they are shining; they are exasperating; they are amazing, and they are irritating.  Generally in order to be diagnosed, a bipolar patient will present one of two ways – either severely depressed or psychotic but their illness has gone unnoticed or unaddressed for a long time.

To be fair, psychiatric patients of any type may quit taking their meds for a number of legitimate reasons.  Well, semi-legitimate.

Mood DisordersLegitimately, a psychiatric patient of any type will have consulted with his or her physician before quitting can be medically supervised while doing so.  Even with medical supervision, the only really legitimate reason for a psychiatric patient to quit taking their meds completely is a person who has been taking anti-depressants for a short period of time (less than one year) who has only had one episode of clinical depression.  In this case, a psychiatrist would agree that a patient who does not have a long term history of depression can taper off the medication because they may not need it forever.  This patient is rare. Once another episode of depression or mood disorder occurs, virtually everyone will agree that it is a chronic problem that should be addressed with medication.  Permanently.

One legitimate reason for temporarily discontinuing use would be pregnancy, to avoid potential harm to the fetus.  In most cases, the medication would be re-started as soon as the patient is able.

Patients may also approach their physician about discontinuing a specific medication to switch to another.  Reasons for this might be ineffectiveness, intolerable side effects or cost.

Unfortunately, for most psychiatric patients there is no legitimate reason to discontinue medication altogether.  The physician will suggest or even prescribe an alternative medication.  The patient may feel that they have been unheard by their physician and while this may be the case, for most patients who “quit”, it is actually more likely that they have not talked to the physician at all.

Bipolar patients and those with other psychiatric conditions most often quit taking their medication without medical supervision or intervention in secret.  Oddly, this is because the brain is a tricky thing – most often they quit when they are doing well.  When the medication is working, they begin to believe that they do not need the medication – that they are “OK”.

Most psychiatric patients don’t want to have a mental disorder – or more likely they don’t want to be told that they have a mental disorder.  This may be in part due to the social stigma, but it may also be because they really like the way they are.  Medication often takes away the “spark” that has made them vivacious, memorable, brilliant and even irritating or dangerous.

It is very difficult to go from “outstanding” – whether it is good or bad to normal.  Bipolar patients in particular also quit taking their medication because their brains are bored.  The brain is used to go up and down, backwards and forwards, in and out.  When medication is working, the roller coaster goes away.

This may be good for a while, after the crisis because life has gotten way out of whack, they need time to recover, rest, and breathe.  But when the fires are put out, and the dust clears, the brain begins to crave the excitement.

Again, this really means the medication is working, and they will quit, yet again, starting the cycle all over again.

So, what can a caretaker, a parent, a spouse, or a friend do?  Likely any attempt at supervision or intervention will be met with anger, avoidance or outright denial.

Bipolar CaosAs bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia most often emerges in the late teens or early adulthood, is should be predictable that they do not want supervision.  They do not want to be told that someone else knows best.

When confronted or even questioned, the bipolar will almost always say that everything is OK – even if it is far from OK.  In short, they will lie.

Again, what can a caretaker, a parent, a spouse, or a friend do?  In short, especially in the newly diagnosed (and for a bipolar or schizophrenic the definition of newly would be likely less than 10 years), there will be no opportunity for supervision.  They will be secretive and untruthful.  You must wait for the crash and be there to assist with the crisis and recovery – only to repeat it again in a few months or years.

The good news is that eventually, the periods between “the crashes” will likely lengthen. When they are thinking clearly, when the medication is working – ask them why they do it.  Encourage them to participate in therapy, join a bipolar or mental disorder group. Realize they may not always go.

Over a period of years, perhaps decades – the patient may eventually become to accept that they truly do need the medication.  Likely they will never be completely compliant but one can always hope.

A caregiver, a parent, a spouse, a friend can look for signs – if you are close, you may be able to keep track of their medication, physician visits, refills but you may not be able to.  You should prepare yourself when you see signs: a developing increase in communication, vivacity, anger – likely followed by erratic behavior and hiding.

Intervene as much as you can but know that your may not be able to stop them.  They quit medication when it is working because it makes them….normal.

Melissa Lind

What One Should Ask a Mental Health Expert

Mental health symptoms

Amnesia LizzardIf a person, a family member, or friend of someone who is in therapy, questions should be asked to avoid problems. All therapist expertise levels various and not all is qualified to diagnose mental illness. If one suspect that a person has a disorder, one should do the best to be extremely accurate on the symptoms, research them and describe them.

Go to a therapist. Then you will know what the issue is, and by researching your symptoms, you will be ahead of the game. If you describe your symptoms thoroughly, you will be better able to prevent incorrect diagnosis.

If you visit a therapist, the therapist will talk to you and listen to your opinion. They will search for signs and disturbances in your thinking patterns.

Therapists will check for symptoms like:

  • Blocking thoughts
  • Peripheral thought patterns
  • Fleeting ideas
  • Paranoia
  • Vague thoughts
  • Break in reality
  • Disassociation

If the patient displays a disturbance in their thinking patterns, the therapist may find psychosis. Counselors will consider schizophrenia or psychosis if the patient shows a change in reality. Paranoia and psychosis may be misconstrued if the mental health expert doesn’t have a good understanding between the two conditions.

Mental Health TherapistSchizophrenics are often paranoid and may suffer from post-traumatic stress in the early stages. If a patient provides answers to questions that are unrelated, the therapist may consider a potential mental illness.

Another area of concern is if the patient speaks in fragments of thoughts and don’t provide complete sentences or ideas. This is known as a fleeting thought process. If a patient is illustrating thoughts that are off the subject, the therapist may also express concern.

Other areas that are considered include language. Some patients may just have a lack of education, but they should be able to speak in a comprehensible manner. It is essential that the patient is not misdiagnosed simply because they have poor communication skills.

Because everyone is different, and they all may have different levels of education, it is essential that the psychological therapist pay attention to symptoms that are linked to mental health.

Be sure to ask the therapist questions any time there is a diagnosis, and on what the diagnosis is based.

For example, if the patient is telling the therapist about a dream and all of a sudden can’t remember what they are talking about, this can be a proof that the patient has suffered trauma. The symptoms are in front of the therapist, but it is wise to continue treatment to confirm the diagnosis.

Many therapists are not trained sufficiently in certain conditions, such as Multiple Personality Disorder. These conditions require that all therapists carefully examine the person because they may only be suffering from dementia.

However, if they are suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder it is usually because they are trying to block traumatic memories to avoid pain.

It is always wise to ask questions when you are visiting a therapist, and this can also help them to avoid any mistakes.

A healthy mind is vital, and mental health should not be taken lightly. Therapists are constantly studying the mind, and often use the guinea pig method until they figure out what the issue is.

Mental health symptoms are serious and should not be taken lightly!