Category: Mental Health

Panic Attacks Won’t Cause Your Worst Fears

The National Institutes of Mental Health report that over 4 million Americans struggle with panic attacks. Psychologist Dr. Thomas Richards and other experts explain how this common condition’s terrible and horrifying experiences won’t result in any of the dangers you fear most. Panic mode is your body’s natural reaction to survive threats. When your fight or flight impulse kicks in, adrenaline and blood flow, surges may trigger intense anxiety, panic, an urge to escape, and increased awareness of perceived peril. This response would ensure survival if the danger were real.

Symptom ReliefPanic Attacks Won’t Cause Your Worst Fears

During a panic attack, you may experience:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Hyperventilation
  • Sweating or chills
  • Tightness in your throat and chest
  • Confusion
  • Unreality
  • Nausea
  • Extreme hunger or loss of appetite
  • Clammy palms
  • Shakiness
  • Trembling
  • Numbness
  • Tingling

Many drug treatments are effective. Combining Aripiprazole, generic Abilify, with a variety of antidepressant medications can help you avoid future episodes. Search Canada Drug Pharmacy for other prescriptions that treat this disorder. Active cognitive/behavioral therapy also has good success rates. Rehashing the past and over analyzing your problems can worsen your panic disorder. So Richards advises that strong motives and persistence can make your present better and your future anxiety free.

Why These Alarming Conditions Won’t Occur

Despite the multitude of traumatizing symptoms, your life isn’t in jeopardy during panic attacks. Yet misunderstanding your feelings makes your situation even more frightening. In your anxious state, you may worry that your body’s reactions will cause potential dangers. But a panic attack can’t trigger any these phenomena.

Loss of control

A flood of anxiety symptoms can make you feel like you’re losing control of yourself. Worrying about others noticing your nervous or foolish public behavior is common. You might fear that an ambulance will rush you to the emergency room. Or you could fret that losing control proves you’re crazy so you’ll end up in a mental institution.

In reality, your ability to conceive that you might lose control makes that impossible. This occurs only in someone who’s unaware or unconcerned about losing control. Even though your anxiety is real, panic attacks trick your brain into believing erroneously that you’re in danger. Recognizing this distinction can help you change entrenched thought patterns. Quieting and relaxing your mind will encourage anxious and panicky feelings to disappear.

You may mistake a panic attack’s rapid palpitations for a heart attackHeart attack

You may mistake a panic attack’s rapid palpitations for a heart attack. Yet these two conditions differ greatly. Fast heartbeats that pound in your ears signal a panic attack. But a heart attack causes a crushing sensation within your chest with severe, debilitating pain. You double over and collapse in intense internal agony. Most people with anxiety issues feel that they also suffer from heart problems. But your heart can beat continuously at a fast rate for an extended time without producing damage.

Passing out

Temporary dizziness during panic attacks may lead to concerns that you could pass out. This can’t occur because panic attacks make your heart beat faster and your blood pressure rise. It’s actually sudden blood pressure drops that cause fainting.


Panic attacks increase your breathing depth and speed. This decreases the blood supply to your head. While this small decline isn’t dangerous, it can produce various unpleasant yet harmless and temporary symptoms. When you can’t catch your breath while hyperventilating or experiencing choking or smothering sensations, you may be afraid that you’ll suffocate. With the oxygen/carbon dioxide mixture in your bloodstream out of proportion, you may feel lightheaded, faint, and weak. But suffocation during panic attacks isn’t a possibility. As your body calms down gradually, your breathing will return to normal, and your other symptoms will subside.


Anxiety and panic don’t cause insanity. Realizing that you’re having panic attacks is a sign that you aren’t going crazy. Anyone who does is out of touch with reality. Anxiety makes you overly conscious of actualities, so going crazy can’t happen.

Coping Tips

Psychotherapist Vanessa Ford and psychology professor Dr. William Sanderson recommend strategies to help minimize common panic attack symptoms.

Take your medications regularly

Always follow your doctor’s prescribing directions for your treatments to provide optimal benefits.

Remedy distorted thinking

Realize that anxiety may exaggerate your fears. Recognize and correct distorted thoughts quickly to help prevent attacks.

Discover your body’s reactions

Be aware of your body’s stress responses like stiff, tight muscles, and shallow or rapid breathing.

Retrain your breathing

To combat hyperventilation, take about 12 diaphragmatic breaths per minute. Be sure your abdomen, not chest, moves in and out.

Practice calming techniques

Regular yoga and meditation sessions will help replace anxiety with relaxation.

Overcome avoidance behaviors

Skipping events and locations that triggered past panic attacks reinforces your misconception that doing ordinary things such as attending parties and taking public transportation are unsafe. Reintroduce dreaded situations and places slowly until you break your routine of avoidance without adverse reactions.

Ground yourself

If a panic attack occurs, focusing on overblown fears or physical symptoms can exacerbate or prolong your anxiety. Deliberate grounding like focusing on the ground beneath your feet or a color from your environment can bring you back to reality.

5 Ways to Enjoy Better Mental Health in 2015

5 Ways to Enjoy Better Mental Health in 2015Mental health is much like physical health — in order to maintain it, you have to pay attention to it. Most people know how to take care of a physical wound or address an illness. But many people don’t know how to build and maintain good mental health.

And good mental health is important. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that “there is no health without mental health.” Poor mental health makes you more likely to die from cancer, heart disease, or stroke. Loneliness can increase your risk of dying before your time by as much as 14 percent.

While psychotherapy and medication are important ways to recover your mental health if you’re suffering from mental illness symptoms, even people who aren’t experiencing overt symptoms can benefit from taking care to safeguard their mental health. The more time you devote to eating right, doing meaningful work, practicing good emotional hygiene, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep, the less likely you’ll be to develop mental illness symptoms in the future.

Eat Right

Medications like Seroquel and Abilify can help correct chemical imbalances in the brain that lead to mental illness, but you’d be surprised at how much good simply eating a healthy diet can do. Just like other parts of your body, your brain needs proper nutrition to function.

Most experts recommend the Mediterranean diet for optimum physical and mental health — the olive oil, fatty fish, seeds, and nuts in this diet contain plenty of the omega-3 fatty acids your brain needs. Studies show that the Mediterranean diet not only extends lifespan, but also improves cognitive function and boosts mental health.

You should also make sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. According to the results of a 2014 study published in the journal BMJ Open, eating your five servings of daily fruits and vegetables can boost feelings of mental well-being. The study involved 14,000 adults, and found that 35.5 percent of those who ate the recommended five daily portions of vegetables and fruits reported signs of good mental health, compared to just 6.8 percent of those who ate only one portion a day.

Practice Good Emotional Hygiene

Emotional hygiene is the practice of taking care of yourself emotionally and psychologically. It involves safeguarding your self-esteem to protect against emotional setbacks, resisting rumination and negative self-talk, and taking steps to heal psychological wounds as soon as they appear. You should pay attention to hurt feelings or bad moods, and take steps to address them if they continue for too long. Guard against feelings of helplessness or a decrease in confidence that can come when you suffer a psychological wound.

Practice Good Emotional HygieneExercise Regularly

Even gentle exercise can have a profound effect on your mental health. Walking outside with a group can help you get the exercise you need, while also helping you forge and nourish social connections and spend time in nature — all three of those things are good for your mental health. Walking is accessible, it’s cheap, and you don’t need to be terribly physically fit to get started.

Other outdoor activities, like gardening, can also help support good mental health. Of course, taking a yoga class, going to the gym, dancing, jogging, swimming, or cycling are all good options, too.

Respond to psychological injuries just as you would physical injuries. By practicing good emotional hygiene, you can recover more quickly from setbacks and maintain a more consistent sense of optimism.

Get Your Beauty Rest

While many people these days tend to think of sleep as optional, it isn’t — and even mild sleep deprivation can increase your chances of developing a mental illness at some point in your life. If you sleep fewer than five hours a night, your risk is particularly high. Set aside plenty of time to sleep — seven to eight hours a night — and encourage a healthy sleep cycle by:

  • Going to sleep and getting up at regular times, even on weekends and holidays
  • Participating in a soothing bedtime ritual
  • Bringing screen time to an end at least an hour before bed
  • Avoiding caffeine, sugar, and alcohol at night
  • Using the bedroom for only sleeping and sex

You’ll probably sleep best in a slightly cool room. Keep your bedroom dark while you’re sleeping. If you have problems getting to sleep at night, see your doctor about a sleep aid. You can fill your prescriptions cheaply at

Do Meaningful WorkDo Meaningful Work

While the thought of lounging around all day and not having to work for a living might sound luxurious, if you really did win the lottery, you might be surprised to find that it wouldn’t improve your mental health. That’s because being gainfully employed brings benefits beyond a paycheck. Your job gives you a sense of identity, makes you part of a social network, adds structure to your day, and lets you make valuable contributions to the world. All of those things are important to maintaining your mental health.

But if you’re retired, unemployed, parenting full-time, or otherwise unable to hold down a job, you can still gain the benefits of employment by taking up a hobby or doing volunteer work. Hobbies can help distract you from your worries, and they’re often a good way to make friends and solidify your sense of yourself outside your role as a parent, spouse, or employee. Working with volunteer organizations can have the same benefits, and help you feel like you’re giving back.

Good mental health is just as important as good physical health, and it takes just as much effort to maintain. While you may be working on losing weight, quitting smoking, or other physical goals this year, don’t let your mental health fall by the wayside. Without good mental health, you’ll soon have no health at all.

Cognitive Problems Occur Before Stroke Too

Cognitive Problems Occur Before Stroke, TooWhen you think of cognitive problems and stroke, you probably think of the cognitive decline that can occur as a result of post-stroke brain damage. But new research suggests that cognitive decline and memory problems can occur before stroke, too — and may be a sign that stroke risk is increasing.

In general, problems with cognitive function indicate poor neurological health and impaired brain function. A decline in cognitive ability and memory in older people not only signals deteriorating neurological and physical health, but can specifically indicate increasing stroke risk. According to the CDC, 800,000 people have a stroke every year in the U.S.; every four minutes, someone in the U.S. dies from a stroke. The more researchers can learn about the signs of an impending stroke, the more strokes doctors will be able to prevent with medication and lifestyle recommendations.

Cognitive Decline and Increased Stroke Risk in Older Adults

According to researchers at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, cognitive decline could be a sign of an impending stroke in adults over age 65. While it’s well-known that strokes can cause cognitive decline, few studies have examined the role that a decline in cognitive functions can play in causing stroke. The Rush University researchers wanted to know if cognitive decline, generally considered a marker of worsening neurological health, could be considered a risk factor for stroke in older adults.

The researchers investigated information about the cognitive functioning of 7,217 men and women older than 65 years of age. In addition to measuring the study participants’ cognitive function, the researchers also monitored the study participants for strokes. They administered four tests of cognitive function every three years. The tests measured long and short-term memory, attention, and awareness.

The researchers found a startling relationship between reduced cognitive function and stroke risk, discovering that those who performed poorly on their cognitive skills tests were 61 percent more likely than those who performed well to have a stroke at some point after the test. Among those who demonstrated poor cognitive function before a stroke, cognitive function continued to deteriorate almost twice as quickly as it did prior to stroke. They were also more likely to die following their strokes. Of those who demonstrated poor cognitive skills and who had strokes, 78 percent died during the follow-up period. The researchers believe not only that cognitive decline can raise stroke risk, but that once a stroke occurs, it can drastically speed up the decline that was already occurring.

Poor Memory May Indicate Increasing Stroke Risk in the Educated

Poor Memory May Indicate Increasing Stroke Risk in the EducatedWhile cognitive skills tests may be one way to identify older people who may be in need of stroke-preventing medications like Plavix, a Dutch study recently published in the journal Stroke suggests that at least one group of people may be capable of pinpointing their own cognitive problems. Researchers at Erasmus University Rotterdam have found that people who are highly educated — which, for the purposes of this study, means people with university or vocational training in a field — are better able to spot deterioration in their own cognitive function.

For the purposes of the study, researchers following 9,152 people over age 55 from 1990 to 2012. First, the study participants filled out a questionnaire regarding any memory complaints they may have had. Then, they took a Mini-Mental State Examination or MMSE, a test that seeks to identify cognitive impairment.

At follow-up in 2012, the researchers found that 1,134 of the study participants had had strokes — 663 ischemic, 99 hemorrhagic, and 372 unspecified. The researchers found that a high score on the MMSE did not correlate with increased stroke risk. However, they did find that participants who complained of memory problems seemed to be more likely to suffer a stroke. The researchers expanded the study at this point, to discover whether they could find the same association between memory complaints an increased stroke risk among people with less education — those who had completed only primary education or who had started, but not completed, higher education.

The researchers found that the association between subjectively experienced memory problems and increased stroke risk existed only in the highly educated group. Those with advanced university or vocational training were 39 percent more likely to suffer a stroke if they complained about memory problems beforehand. The study authors believe that perhaps more educated people are more in tune with their cognitive performance than those with less education, so that they’re more likely to notice and be troubled by even the most subtle changes in memory. However, the study participants were limited to white Europeans living in a specific part of one city; further research would need to be conducted on a more diverse pool of cohorts in order to better understand the relationship between the experience of subjective memory problems and increased stroke risk.

Cognitive decline is an all-too-frequent consequence of stroke, but researchers are now discovering that it can precede stroke, too. If you or someone you care about begins to demonstrate signs of memory problems or other cognitive decline, talk to your doctor about preventative measures. Early treatment can help reverse the damage done by stroke, but the prevention is the best cure of all.

Does Your Birth Season Dictate Your Risk of Mental Illness?

Does Your Birth Season Dictate Your Risk of Mental Illness?Could the time of year at which you were born predict your future risk of mental illness? Some researchers think so. Though study results have been mixed, researchers from around the world have found that birth season could be an important predictive factor in the development of adult mood disorders, schizophrenia, and anorexia.

Why? Because the time of year at which you’re born can influence neurotransmitters in your brain, at birth and beyond. Researchers also believe that seasonal factors can affect your development in the womb — the time of year during which your mother carried you could influence such factors as her diet, her level of sunshine exposure, or whether she developed a cold or flu.

The Birth Season-Mood Disorder Link

According to a study from Budapest’s Semmelweis University, babies born in the spring grow to develop happy, optimistic temperaments, while babies born in the summer are prone to moodiness and even bipolar disorder. Winter babies were found to be the least irritable as adults, while fall babies were least likely to develop depressive disorders.

For the study, researchers asked 366 university students to fill out surveys regarding their temperaments and personalities. The researchers believed that variations in personality, temperament, and risk of mental illness among people born at different times of the year may go back to the Hungarian diet, which changes seasonally. Traditional Hungarian winter foods, for example, like sweet potato cottage pie or veal stew, contain a lot of tryptophan, an amino acid that is crucial for the production of serotonin.

One flaw of studies of this type is that diet and other lifestyle factors can vary widely from one country to the next. The seasonal patterns that help shape lifetime mental illness risk for Hungarian babies may not be present for babies of other nations. For example, a much larger British study examined 58,000 people with mental disorders and 29 million people from the general English population. This study’s findings were very different, in some ways, from those of the Hungarian study.

While the British study did confirm that babies born in the autumn seem least prone to depressive disorders later in life, the study also found that winter and spring babies were most prone to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depressive disorders — the opposite of what the Hungarian study found. January babies were found to be at the highest risk of growing up to need medications like Seroquel to treat the symptoms of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, while babies born from July through September had the lowest risk of these disorders. While the Hungarian study found that spring babies were least likely to later suffer depression, the British study found that babies born in May were most likely to one day need drugs like Abilify to treat depression.

The British researchers believe that seasonal factors like exposure to sunlight — which is minimal during the winter months — or cold and flu infection could influence the future mental health of babies still in their mothers’ wombs. Some researchers have also pointed out that the key factors here may not even be prenatal. Children born in winter and spring may be smaller, younger, or less mature than their classmates, and may suffer years of childhood stress linked to struggling socially or academically. This prolonged stress could easily lead to mental illness in adulthood.

Babies Born in Spring More Prone to Anorexia

Babies Born in Spring More Prone to AnorexiaSchizophrenia and mood disorders aren’t the only mental illnesses influenced by birth season. An Oxford University study found that babies born between the months of March and June are most likely to suffer anorexia as adults. People born in September and October were least likely to later develop anorexia.

The study examined the birth dates of 1,293 anorexia patients with those of people not in anorexia treatment. Again, researchers believe that seasonal factors mothers face during pregnancy, like exposure to sunlight, infection, nutrition or even changes in temperature as winter moves into spring could be behind the unusually high number of anorexia patients with spring birthdays.

Further research will be needed for scientists to fully understand the link between season of birth and adult risk of mental disorders — if there is one. A range of prenatal and even postnatal factors could influence the adult mental health of babies born at different times of the year. Winter and spring babies, for example, could experience higher rates of adult mental illness thanks to their mothers’ diets, lack of sun exposure, or exposure to cold and flu — or it could be due to another set of factors entirely. Just because you were born at a particular time of the year doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to develop, or not to develop, a specific mental illness — researchers are only beginning to untangle the many mysterious factors that go into upsetting a person’s mental and emotional equilibrium.



Is It the Holiday Blues or SAD? Here’s How to Tell

Is It the Holiday Blues or SAD? Here’s How to TellIf you’re feeling some stress or sadness thanks to the pressures of the holiday season, you’re not alone. Holiday-related feelings of stress and even depression aren’t uncommon. Many people feel pressure to make the holidays perfect, or worry about how they’re going to pay for gifts and celebrations. Others fret about spending time with relatives they might not always get along with, and some may be coping with feelings of loneliness or grief because of a recent death in the family or because they have no one to spend the holidays with.

But seasonable affective disorder, or SAD, is more than just the holiday blues. It might be easy to mistake SAD symptoms for a case of holiday stress when they first start to appear, but where feelings of holiday depression tend to lift immediately after New Year’s, SAD symptoms persist until the seasons change once more. Coping with the holiday blues is usually just a matter of taking it easy and re-adjusting your expectations for the holiday season, but SAD requires treatment, often with light therapy and medication. Here’s how to tell if your feelings of sadness and stress are directly related to the holiday season, or if they’re symptoms of SAD.

Your Sad Feelings Begin Well Before the Holiday Season

The holiday blues are, quite simply, feelings of sadness that are directly linked to the activities and pressures of the holiday season. If you’re far from family and friends or in mourning during the holiday season, it’s completely understandable and natural that you would feel lonely and sad. Even if you’re surrounded by loved ones, you may still feel overwhelmed by the extra burden of cooking, cleaning, hosting, and shopping that the holidays bring. Shopping alone is enough to give most people the holiday blues, since it’s physically exhausting and financially draining.

Feelings of holiday-related stress and sadness typically begin right around the time the holiday season kicks into gear. SAD symptoms, however, are related to a lack of sunlight in the winter, which boosts production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep cycle and causes feelings of sleepiness at night. Up to 10 percent of American adults suffer from SAD, and 60 to 90 percent of those people are women. Symptoms of depression, irritability, lack of energy, and excessive sleepiness can begin as early as September and last until April or May, when the days get longer again.

Your Symptoms Interfere With Your Everyday Life

While the plain old holiday blues probably won’t hinder your ability to enjoy the holidays or to at least soldier through them while still meeting your personal and professional obligations, SAD symptoms — like symptoms of other depressive disorders — are severe enough to interfere with your normal functioning. For many SAD sufferers, this means losing interest in the things they usually enjoy, having problems getting along with other people, and being more sensitive than usual to feelings of personal rejection.

You Have Physical Symptoms

You Have Physical SymptomsSAD causes a range of physical symptoms, some of which are similar to those caused by other types of depression, and some of which are unique to SAD. For example, both SAD and major depressive disorder can cause feelings of fatigue, low energy levels, excessive sleeping, trouble concentrating, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Symptoms specific to SAD include a sensation of heaviness in the limbs, increased cravings for carbohydrates, and weight gain. While many people are prone to feel more sluggish or moodier than usual in the winter, SAD symptoms last every day for at least two weeks.

Because SAD symptoms are linked to a lack of natural sunlight, light therapy can bring relief for many sufferers. Light therapy may not be completely effective, or may cause unpleasant side effects, but medications likeAbilify can help treat depressive symptoms linked to SAD. If you’re struggling to pay for the drugs you need to treat SAD symptoms, save money by buying antidepressants online at Many people find that cognitive behavioral therapy helps them manage SAD symptoms by allowing them to develop coping strategies in advance.

The symptoms of SAD look a lot like the symptoms of other depressive disorders, including major depression and the depressive phase of bipolar disorder, so doctors often won’t make a diagnosis of SAD until seasonal symptoms appear two winters in a row. But if your feelings of depression, fatigue, and sluggishness lift for no apparent reason in the spring and re-appear again in the autumn, you are probably suffering from seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is more than just the holiday blues. If you or someone close to you is experiencing feelings of depression that set in around mid-to-late autumn and lift just as mysteriously when the days begin to get longer again, SAD may be to blame. Winter doesn’t have to be bleak and gloomy — get help for your seasonal depression symptoms.


Schizophrenia Actually Encompasses 8 Disorders

Schizophrenia Actually Encompasses 8 DisordersAlthough schizophrenia carries a high hereditary risk of around 80 percent, identifying specific genes for this condition has been challenging. Now a new genetic analysis method has found that thispotentially devastating mental illness isn’t just one disease. It’s a collection of eight distinctive disorders. This discovery could lead to more personalized diagnostic methods so doctors can treat isolated causes instead of just symptoms like hallucinating and hearing voices. Current treatments include Seroquel, an atypical antipsychotic medication that relieves schizophrenia symptoms by acting on brain chemicals.

Genetic Cluster Discovery

By matching strict DNA variations from 4,200 schizophrenia patients and 3,800 healthy controls to individual patients’ specific symptoms, investigators studied how certain genetic profiles trigger specific schizophrenia symptoms. They analyzed almost 700,000 genome sites where single DNA units changed to determine how certain genetic variations interact to cause this mental illness. The scientists distinguished the gene groupings that contribute to each unique schizophrenia class. These genetic clusters create an explicit symptom set for each variety.

Genes don’t function alone, reports study co-author C. Robert Cloninger, M.D., Ph.D., a genetics and psychiatry professor at Washington University’s School of Medicine. They work together similar to an orchestra. If the players are harmonious, their group effort will lead to health. But performing in disorderly ways can cause distinct schizophrenic classes. Cloninger and his team discovered that one particular genetic configuration triggers word salad, or odd, disorganized speech, in some people while a different formation causes others to hear voices.

An average person’s odds of developing schizophrenia are below one percent. The investigators found that some genetic patterns increased disease risks more than others. They matched certain symptoms to particular genetic features, which associated chaotic speech and behaviors with a group of DNA deviations carrying a 100-percent chance of acquiring schizophrenia. In another group, they found that specific genetic deviations interact to produce schizophrenia with 95-percent assurance.

The researchers studied one woman with a genetic arrangement that carries a 95-percent likelihood of causing schizophrenia. Her symptoms began by the young age of 5. She put tape over her dolls’ mouths to prevent them from whispering and calling out her name. A patient with a different genetic profile that included a 71-percent chance of developing schizophrenia underwent a more common disease pattern of beginning to hear voices when she was 17 years old.

Doctors aren’t clear why only some of the people with 70-percent chances develop schizophrenia. Their environments may be key influencers so that those with good nutrition and strong family bonds might escape this mental illness while others who endure great deprivation or trauma may have severe cases. When genetic profiles convey nearly 100-percent odds of schizophrenia occurring, Cloninger notes that some people may be unable to avoid this disease. Yet, if physicians could predict high-risk cases, they also might be capable of tailoring early interventions to help all patients manage their conditions and the resulting stress better.

Diagnostic Improvements to Come

Diagnostic Improvements to ComePsychiatrist Stephen Marder, a professor from the University of California, views this study as progress beyond current diagnostic methods, which he considers to be relatively primitive. Doctors base mental illness diagnoses on patients’ symptoms and family histories today. Unfortunately, many sufferers don’t receive accurate diagnoses for years, and finding the most helpful treatments with minimal disruptive side effects can take even longer.

Robert Freedman, the University of Colorado’s psychiatry chair, describes the struggle to uncover the source of schizophrenia’s strong familial history. When one identical twin experiences schizophrenia, the other one has an 80-percent chance of developing the disease. Previously however, doctors weren’t very successful at distinguishing single-gene schizophrenia causes. But this new study found that genes team up like good or bad hands of cards. Unfortunately, it uncovered multiple losing combinations.

The new findings support how scientists have changed their view regarding genetics causing common diseases, reports Marder. Very few patients develop illnesses like cystic fibrosis and sickle-cell anemia that single genes that cause. Most prevalent diseases including cancer stem from larger gene combinations. For example, different genes drive six or more breast cancer diseases. Modern tests can predict a patient’s risk of developing some breast cancer types while others help doctors prescribe the most beneficial drugs accordingly. If schizophrenia protocols can catch up with those for cancer, many patients will reap welcome benefits.

Cloninger hopes his findings will lead to more refined, gene-specific diagnostic methods to replace today’s trial-and-error schizophrenia treatment approach. Getting the best medication on the first try could be very helpful. When doctors can pinpoint the most helpful drug option on a per-patient basis, prescribing lower doses and less troublesome side effects may be possible. Cloninger hopes that will encourage more patients to continue drug therapy and enjoy better outcomes.

When to Seek Treatment

Obvious, ongoing alterations to your personality and behaviors can signal schizophrenia. The Schizophrenia Society of Canada recommends seeking medical care if you experience a combination of these persistent symptoms:

  • Withdrawing from social activities and contacts.
  • Angry, fearful, or irrational responses to family and friends.
  • Disturbed sleep.
  • School or work declines.
  • Nonsensical speech.
  • Abrupt excesses like extreme activity or religiosity.
  • Personal hygiene deterioration.
  • Difficulties concentrating and controlling thoughts.
  • Hearing nonexistent voices and/or sounds.
  • Seeing imaginary people and/or things.
  • Constant paranoia that someone’s watching you.
  • Inability to switch off your imagination, delusions, and/or bizarre ideas.
  • Increased anxiety.
  • Mood swings.
  • Weakness, pains, and/or weird body sensations.

How to Have a Happy Relationship With Someone Who Has Bipolar Disorder

nov10-1Bipolar disorder is hard on relationships. Ninety percent of marriages in which one partner suffers from bipolar disorder end in divorce. But just because having a successful and happy relationship with bipolar disorder is difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Whether it’s you or your partner who suffers from bipolar disorder, it’s going to take a concerted effort from both of you to make the relationship work. If you’re the non-bipolar partner, you need to educate yourself about bipolar disorder in general and your partner’s symptoms specifically. Make sure your partner is getting the right medical care. Work together to help your partner manage his or her illness, but make sure you take time to care for your own needs, too.

Remember That Your Partner Is More than His or Her Illness

Some people who suffer from bipolar disorder take issue with the use of the word “bipolar” as an adjective, such as in the sentence “Suzy is bipolar,” because they say it’s hurtful to reduce the sum of a person’s identity to his or her mental illness. While your partner may or may not be this particular, it’s important to remember that your partner is not an illness; he or she is a person with an illness.

Try not to reduce your partner to a stereotype. Don’t assume that you know what he or she is going through, how he or she feels, or what behaviors are symptomatic of his or her illness unless he or she specifically tells you. While bipolar disorder is certainly a big part of your partner’s life — and your own, as long as you choose to remain in the partnership — stereotyping your partner will only lead to miscommunication and hurt feelings.

Make Sure Your Partner Gets Good Medical Care

Bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as major depression, also known as unipolar depression, because the symptoms of a depressive episode are just like those of major depression. Most people with bipolar disorder feel so good during hypomanic or manic phases that they may not see the need to seek psychiatric help. It’s not until the bipolar person is curled up in a ball, weeping uncontrollably, for days on end that he or she decides to seek help.

When a person in the depressive phase of bipolar disorder finally does see a psychiatrist or family doctor, he or she may not mention manic or hypomanic symptoms, often because the person doesn’t see them as problematic. For this reason, it can take an average of 10 years for a person with bipolar disorder to get a proper diagnosis and good treatment.

If you think your partner has bipolar disorder and hasn’t been diagnosed, you may want to give him or her some books about the disorder, preferably some that he or she may identify with. Present your loved one with evidence, either photographic or otherwise, of his or her bipolar mood swings. This can help you cut through your partner’s denial.

nov10-2All people with bipolar disorder must take medications like Seroquel every day, for their entire lives, if they hope to gain any control over the symptoms of their illness. Forty to 45 percent of people with bipolar disorder have problems with medication compliance, meaning they don’t take their medication as directed. Encourage your partner to take his or her medications as directed.

Form your own relationship with your partner’s treatment team. When your partner reports to his or her psychiatrist, you should also give the doctor your own version of recent symptoms, privately. This can help your partner’s psychiatrist get a clearer picture of what’s really going on and can keep your partner accountable. Talking with your partner’s psychiatrist can also help you understand your partner’s symptoms better.

Establish Ground Rules

While your partner will need your support in coping with his or her illness, it’s important that your partner do his or her share to control bipolar symptoms. Sit down with your partner and establish some ground rules that you’ll both follow to keep your partner’s illness in check. For example, you may ask your partner to agree to:

  • Take his or her medications as directed
  • Let you know when he or she feels a bipolar episode coming on, if he or she has that level of self-awareness
  • Call his or her psychiatrist after two to three days of either depressive or manic symptoms

For your part, you might in turn agree to:

  • Stay with your partner if he or she is feeling suicidal
  • Intervene to stop potentially destructive or risky behavior
  • Verify that your partner has taken his or her medication

You should also agree on some steps you can take to enforce these rules, if necessary.

Take Care of Yourself

You’re not going to be of much help to your partner if you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed yourself. As many as one-third of people caring for a chronically ill family member develop depression or anxiety. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, eat well, exercise regularly, and make time for the things you enjoy. You might benefit from talking to a therapist or understanding friend who can offer support when things at home get tough.

Bipolar disorder has destroyed many a relationship, but it doesn’t have to. Understanding the illness and using medication to treat it is half the battle; the other half is working closely with your partner to manage the illness as team, so it doesn’t tear apart the life you’ve built together.

How to Find a Good Therapist for Bipolar Disorder

nov3-1When you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, therapy can be invaluable in helping you cope with the condition. You’ll need to take medication to manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder, but therapy can help you discuss and come to terms with thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and symptoms that impair your ability to function at work, at school, and at home.

Psychotherapy for bipolar disorder also helps with medication adherence, or staying on your medication. It’s not uncommon for some people with bipolar disorder to stop taking their medication for periods of time — an average of 41 to 42 percent of people with bipolar disorder have problems with medication adherence. That’s a problem because if you don’t take your medication, it won’t work.

But it’s important to find a psychotherapist who’s good for you. Just as you don’t get along well with some people in your personal or professional life, you’re not going to get along well with some therapists. Furthermore, you need to make sure that the therapist you choose has the right training and experience to help you.

How Therapy Can Help You with Bipolar Disorder

Medications like Seroquel are very important for controlling the symptoms of bipolar disorder. You will need to take medication for the rest of your life, and the better you are about taking your medication every day, the more control you’ll manage to gain over your bipolar disorder.

When you’re first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may not know much about it. Even if you have some idea of what the symptoms of bipolar disorder are, you may need some help figuring out which of your behaviors are symptomatic. Therapy can help you understand your symptoms and how they affect your behaviors and life. It can help you learn to recognize and anticipate changes in mood so that you can contact your psychiatrist for more or different medication if necessary, and take other steps to prevent or deal with a mental health crisis.

Therapy can help you learn about how your disorder is treated, and can help you adapt to having the disorder. Different types of therapy for bipolar disorder, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and social rhythm therapy, can help you establish and maintain a normal routine, improve your relationships with others, and change patterns of thinking that are counterproductive for you.

You may also need therapy to help with a co-existing mental disorder. About 60 percent of people suffering from bipolar disorder also have problems with substance abuse. Eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders are also common in people with bipolar disorder.

Choose the Right Therapist

nov3-2When it comes to choosing a therapist, look for one who has graduate-level training in counseling and psychology. Some post-graduate training in a particular therapeutic method can also be helpful. A qualified therapist may have a Master’s degree or higher in family therapy, marriage counseling, psychology, general counseling, social work, or another field.

He or she should have some experience treating people with bipolar disorder and should have training in cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, or social rhythm therapy. A licensed counselor is best; in order to obtain state licensure, a therapist must have a great deal of counseling experience, sometimes as many as 3,000 hours’ worth.

Unless you live in a very small or rural community, you should avoid going to a therapist whom you know socially. Your therapist should be only your therapist — not your friend, coworker, employer, employee, teacher, or relative. Some additional red flags to watch out for include:

  • Guarantees or promises.

    While your therapist should be able to tell you exactly how he or she plans to try and help you, he or she shouldn’t make any promises regarding your therapeutic outcome.

  • Your therapist is hard to relate to.

    You should feel comfortable and safe talking to your therapist. If, after the first few visits, you find yourself having trouble getting comfortable with the therapist, you may need to try another.

  • Your therapist isn’t open to feedback.

    You should be able to tell your therapist when he or she has offended you or hurt your feelings, and your therapist should be willing to admit mistakes.

  • Your therapist has not had therapy.

    Good therapists go through therapy themselves, so they have a firsthand understanding of the healing process.

Before you begin working with a new therapist, make yourself aware of the ethical guidelines therapists should follow. You should feel free to ask about ethical guidelines the first time you see a therapist. If you think your therapist isn’t following ethical guidelines, you can bring it up with him or her, or you can discuss the matter with another therapist or even a lawyer. Rest assured that most therapists mean well and will do their best to adhere to ethical guidelines.

If you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you need a combination of medication and therapy in order to control your symptoms. Look for a qualified therapist who has experience treating bipolar disorder, and don’t hesitate to hold out for someone you can feel comfortable with.