I Just Want to Get Back to Doing Well

It’s the middle of the night where I am at and all I want to do is cry. If you have been reading my blog you know I have struggling a great deal with my depression as well as with grief and loss. Struggling enough to where I felt it was in the best interest of the clients I serve and my recovery to resign from a job I worked endlessly to get and loved with a passion.

Anyone who as ever dealt with a mental health condition knows that there will be times where a relapse in our symptoms occur. Unfortunately, this relapse in my symptoms is lasting a bit longer than expected.  More or less what I am saying is I am not bouncing back as quickly as I have in recent years.

The thing that hasn’t helped matters much is that things haven’t been all that consistent with my therapy. No fault to anyone.  As many of you know Diana suddenly left the agency where I seek mental health services at due to cancer which is still hard on me. So, I was assigned a new therapist who happened to be the direct supervisor of Diana which was quite helpful for me. Then she left to go on to bigger and better things which got me a new therapist.

A therapist that appears to care. She seems like an older, shorter version of Diana with straighter and grayer hair. As far as the sense of humor part of things, I’m not really sure as I’ve only had three sessions with her but she appears to have a caring heart like Diana. Granted my new therapist is not a Social Worker but that is okay because she use to be a nurse which means she has the heart of Social Worker. I realize I shouldn’t be picky on the degree of the therapist just as long as they have a degree in a field to where the person can practice therapy with the right licensure but in my  experience those who have a degree in Social Work seem to work best for me.  So for me my new therapist having a degree in nursing helps a great deal as nurses have some pretty big and caring hearts.

As far as me being up in the middling of the night wanting to cry is that I woke up with a nightmare. A nightmare due to childhood trauma. Any type of trauma sucks shit especially trauma you are still working on in therapy 30 years after it started. I hope that one day I can handle the after affects of the trauma without needing therapy but one can only hope.

For me hope is the only thing I have right now. Hope that I can get back to doing well enough to go back to work. I miss work but then again my recovery is extremely important. It is hope that I must hold on to as I know how doing well feels. It is my hope that I can be back to doing well.

Being well is something I want to get back to and I think attempting get back to sleep is part of getting well. Have a great night all and peace out.

Sort of; Kind of; Attempting to Be Recovery Minded; but Maybe Not; You Read to Figure Out What I’m Going to Say

I am having difficult time writing this particular post for unknown reasons. Or at least reasons that I truthfully don’t want to share however I know if I do share then maybe just maybe my words can help someone.

Right now I feel like my world is ending and I have no hope in sight despite the fact that I have people who love and care about me. Not many people realize this but my depression symptoms are starting to increase now that I don’t have a job to go to. This is why I was so worried about making the decision about resigning from my beloved job as peer specialist. I also know that I made the decision with the help of others because, I need to focus on my own recovery. Resigning from a job I love with a passion was the most difficult decisions I made because I knew if I didn’t I would be soon in an extremely bad space soon.  I need to focus on my recovery right now so when I am in a space I can go back to work I will be able to do so but I will be a stronger person out of it.  And maybe a job that more suited for me.

In the midst of dealing with the recent job loss due to me resigning from it, I have gotten a new therapist. I think I’m going to like her. I feel like it went off really well despite some awkward moments. I hope she can pick up on the shit the Diana did and use the humor and sarcasm that both Diana  and her supervisor both used with me before they left the agency. My new therapist has some pretty big shoes to fill and I know that is expecting too much. She seems nice enough. I just hope the she is able to pick up on the little stuff. Stuff my last two therapist pick up on quite quickly.

Speaking picking up on something quickly, my case manager picked up on some body language and brought up to me. She wanted to know what was going on. I of coursed informed her of what was going on. She stated she was “happy that you allowed yourself to be vulnerable to me.” I’m really starting to trust my case manager. She is even coloring with me in our sessions together.

I’m thinking that I should end this post for now so I can figure out what I want to say or maybe just leave it as is. It’s ending on a positive note.  PEACE OUT!!!

Consistency is a Necessity for Recovery

Over the years I have learned that consistency with who my treatment team is key to my recovery. Unfortunately, as of lately that hasn’t been happening for me.

I learned on St. Patrick’s Day that my new therapist, was leaving the agency I seek services at for my mental health treatment. This loss hits me hard as this therapist was the direct supervisor of Diana and was updating me on her health at Diana’s request. Not only that, I was just starting to feel comfortable with her style of therapy as it was slightly different from Diana’s therapy style.

As difficult as it is to loose another therapist so close to Diana’s sudden departure due to cancer, I appreciate her effort in making sure she found the right fit. A fit I am unsure of at the moment and realize the uncertainty of a new therapist is causing some anxiety.

To lessen my anxiety of having a new therapist, my therapist thought it would be a good idea for me to meet the new therapist during our last session together at the location I will be now going to. No, I’m not changing mental health agencies, its that my new therapist is at different location than the one leaving and Diana were at. I am really appreciative of my therapist doing this for me as I know she didn’t have to do so.

My last session with my therapist has come and gone and tears shed on both ends which was quite unexpected for the both of us since our therapeutic relationship had only been for four months. Of course having therapist who was the direct supervisor of your previous therapist (Diana) was helpful to building trust with her. Even though I only met with my new therapist of all of seven minutes for an introduction and to set up a first appointment, I found it quite helpful.

As helpful as I found meeting my new therapist, no matter how briefly, I still have anxiety regarding my first appointment with her. As with any first appointment, I have with anyone, my anxiety usually increases however this time the anxiety is higher than it usually is. Not sure why but it is and if I continue to ask why I notice my anxiety start to rise.  I’ve also realized as my first appointment with my new therapist quickly approaches, there is an increase in the anxiety.

The increase of anxiety is where the use of my Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills come in handy to help even if I don’t want to use them. See, DBT skills have helped me through some tough moments as an adult. Even though seeing a new therapist isn’t the toughest thing I have experienced in my life, it’s anxiety provoking enough needing to use my skills.

As I use my skills, I realize that there is a number of reason why to my anxiety is so high regarding my first appointment with this new therapist. Actually, there a roughly a handful of reasons. All those reasons lead to both the grief I have for Diana’s sudden departure due to cancer and having a new therapist leave in less than five months which leads to the consistency I need for my own recovery. Consistency that I fear I won’t have with my new therapist as she appears to be close to retirement age but then again that might not be an issue either but its an issue I have to wait till deal with in my first session with her. For me consistency is key for me to start to trusting people and hope that my new therapist sticks around for a good eighteen months. I don’t that doesn’t sound long but I don’t want to ask for too much as I am seeing her at a community mental health agency and know realistically that people don’t stick around for as long as Diana did. I trusted Diana and still do and hope she is doing well. Most importantly, I hope I can trust my new therapist.

Before, I end this particular post I want share something positive. I am slowly starting to trust my case manager. I see she is trying really hard and to me that shows that she cares. She cares enough to try to build a good rapport and to me that is a sign I can trust her. When I first wrote about her I didn’t give her such a positive light and its not any of her fault. I was angry at needing a case manager and that anger showed through in that particular post. My care manager does care and does want to help me. For me trusting her is a big thing.

It looks like this post is coming to an end and before it ends, I want to tell you all thanks for reading. I am grateful for each one of you. Have a wonderful Sunday evening all and Peace Out!!!

Weekly Check-In

Good Morning, World. I have decided to start doing my weekly check-ins once again and for a multitude of reasons. One of which to keep you the reader up to date on what is going  in the my life and two, to get back in the swing of things of blogging. I have found that if I blog on the regular basis, it keeps my regular readers to want to check-out my blog more often. I have many other reasons why I am stating my weekly check-ins however I am not going to bore you with those reasons.

A great deal has happened this past week so lets just start on Monday since nothing really notable happened Sunday. Monday, I saw my therapist, Diana. Overall, my session with her went well. It went much better than the last session I had with which was back in June. In fact Diana stated that I made “progress” in our session. If I look back on our session I did make some progress. It was an emotionally difficult session with Diana am grateful that I made progress. We discussed some difficult topics that I usually quickly change the subject on and this time I didn’t change the topic which is one of the successes I had in my session.

The success I had in my session with Diana is a major deal but the success I was able to show someone else on Tuesday and Wednesday validated all the work I have done in my recovery. I attended a two day conference on focusing on peers specialist and supportive employment and how the two can interact with each other. So, I ran into another professional at this conference who knew me at my worst. A person who didn’t think I was capable of ever working due to the “severity” of my symptoms at the time.  This person was “shocked as hell” that I was in attendance as well as working as a peer specialist. It felt good being able to prove to someone that I am capable of doing something that they thought I was unable to do. The interaction I had with this person helped me realize that I am a success and how much I am proud of myself for accomplishing.

On the topic accomplishments I have been following the Summer Olympics. Now, the individuals participating in the Olympics have had major accomplishments in their lives to just be able to make it to the Olympics. Yes, many of the Olympians have had difficulties in their lives and you can compare to just about any thing in life. The one thing I am highly disappointed in is that a soccer play on the U.S.A’s woman soccer team was a sore looser and unsportsmanlike. This soccer player made her country (which is my country) look like they are sore losers. Just know we as Americans don’t approve of such unsportsmanlike behavior. The Olympics are suppose to bring the world together and hope that it continue to do so.

The correlation I can see between the Olympics and mental health recovery is hope. And that’s what I want to end this post today with a message hope.  We all need hope! Peace Out!!

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Happy Friday!!! It being Friday, that means it is time for me to do my educational feature. I have decided to do the topic of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). The reason being is because I did the topic of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I got the following information off of the  Linehan Institute; Behavior Tech at:   http://behavioraltech.org/resources/whatisdbt.cfm

What is DBT?

Overview

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment that was originally developed to treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and it is now recognized as the gold standard psychological treatment for this population. In addition, research has shown that it is effective in treating a wide range of other disorders such as substance dependence, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders.

What are the components of DBT?

In its standard form, there are four components of DBT: skills training group, individual treatment, DBT phone coaching, and consultation team.

  1. DBT skills training group is focused on enhancing clients’ capabilities by teaching them behavioral skills. The group is run like a class where the group leader teaches the skills and assigns homework for clients to practice using the skills in their everyday lives. Groups meet on a weekly basis for approximately 2.5 hours and it takes 24 weeks to get through the full skills curriculum, which is often repeated to create a 1-year program. Briefer schedules that teach only a subset of the skills have also been developed for particular populations and settings.
  2. DBT individual therapy is focused on enhancing client motivation and helping clients to apply the skills to specific challenges and events in their lives. In the standard DBT model, individual therapy takes place once a week for as long as the client is in therapy and runs concurrently with skills groups.
  3. DBT phone coaching is focused on providing clients with in-the-moment coaching on how to use skills to effectively cope with difficult situations that arise in their everyday lives. Clients can call their individual therapist between sessions to receive coaching at the times when they need help the most.
  4. DBT therapist consultation team is intended to be therapy for the therapists and to support DBT providers in their work with people who often have severe, complex, difficult-to-treat disorders. The consultation team is designed to help therapists stay motivated and competent so they can provide the best treatment possible. Teams typically meet weekly and are composed of individual therapists and group leaders who share responsibility for each client’s care.

What skills are taught in DBT?

DBT includes four sets of behavioral skills.

  • Mindfulness: the practice of being fully aware and present in this one moment
  • Distress Tolerance: how to tolerate pain in difficult situations, not change it
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: how to ask for what you want and say no while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others
  • Emotion Regulation: how to change emotions that you want to change

There is increasing evidence that DBT skills training alone is a promising intervention for a wide variety of both clinical and nonclinical populations and across settings.

What does “dialectical” mean?

The term “dialectical” means a synthesis or integration of opposites. The primary dialectic within DBT is between the seemingly opposite strategies of acceptance and change. For example, DBT therapists accept clients as they are while also acknowledging that they need to change in order to reach their goals. In addition, all of the skills and strategies taught in DBT are balanced in terms of acceptance and change. For example, the four skills modules include two sets of acceptance-oriented skills (mindfulness and distress tolerance) and two sets of change-oriented skills (emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness).

How does DBT prioritize treatment targets?

Clients who receive DBT typically have multiple problems that require treatment. DBT uses a hierarchy of treatment targets to help the therapist determine the order in which problems should be addressed. The treatment targets in order of priority are:

  1. Life-threatening behaviors: First and foremost, behaviors that could lead to the client’s death are targeted, including all forms of suicidal and non-suicidal self-injury, suicidal ideation, suicide communications, and other behaviors engaged in for the purpose of causing bodily harm.
  2. Therapy-interfering behaviors: This includes any behavior that interferes with the client receiving effective treatment. These behaviors can be on the part of the client and/or the therapist, such as coming late to sessions, cancelling appointments, and being non-collaborative in working towards treatment goals.
  3. Quality of life behaviors: This category includes any other type of behavior that interferes with clients having a reasonable quality of life, such as mental disorders, relationship problems, and financial or housing crises.
  4. Skills acquisition: This refers to the need for clients to learn new skillful behaviors to replace ineffective behaviors and help them achieve their goals.

Within a session, presenting problems are addressed in the above order. For example, if the client is expressing a wish to commit suicide and reports recurrent binge eating, the therapist will target the suicidal behaviors first. The underlying assumption is that DBT will be ineffective if the client is dead or refuses to attend treatment sessions.

What are the stages of treatment in DBT?

DBT is divided into four stages of treatment. Stages are defined by the severity of the client’s behaviors, and therapists work with their clients to reach the goals of each stage in their progress toward having a life that they experience as worth living.

  1. In Stage 1, the client is miserable and their behavior is out of control: they may be trying to kill themselves, self-harming, using drugs and alcohol, and/or engaging in other types of self-destructive behaviors. When clients first start DBT treatment, they often describe their experience of their mental illness as “being in hell.” The goal of Stage 1 is for the client to move from being out of control to achieving behavioral control.
  2. In Stage 2, they’re living a life of quiet desperation: their behavior is under control but they continue to suffer, often due to past trauma and invalidation. Their emotional experience is inhibited. The goal of Stage 2 is to help the client move from a state of quiet desperation to one of full emotional experiencing. This is the stage in which post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) would be treated.
  3. In Stage 3, the challenge is to learn to live: to define life goals, build self-respect, and find peace and happiness. The goal is that the client leads a life of ordinary happiness and unhappiness.
  4. For some people, a fourth stage is needed: finding a deeper meaning through a spiritual existence. Linehan has posited a Stage 4 specifically for those clients for whom a life of ordinary happiness and unhappiness fails to meet a further goal of spiritual fulfillment or a sense of connectedness of a greater whole. In this stage, the goal of treatment is for the client to move from a sense of incompleteness towards a life that involves an ongoing capacity for experiences of joy and freedom.

How effective is DBT?

Research has shown DBT to be effective in reducing suicidal behavior, non-suicidal self-injury, psychiatric hospitalization, treatment dropout, substance use, anger, and depression and improving social and global functioning. For a review of the research on DBT, click here. In this video, DBT Developer and Behavioral Tech founder Dr. Marsha Linehan describes the amazing changes she’s seen in people who have received DBT and gotten out of hell.

Dive Deeper

Philosophy and Principles of DBT

DBT is based on three philosophical positions. Behavioral science underpins the DBT bio-social model of the development of BPD, as well as the DBT behavioral change strategies and protocols. Zen and contemplative practices underpin DBT mindfulness skills and acceptance practices for both therapists and clients. DBT was the first psychotherapy to incorporate mindfulness as a core component, and the Mindfulness skills in DBT are a behavioral translation of Zen practice. The dialectical synthesis of a “technology” of acceptance with a “technology” of change was what distinguished DBT from the behavioral interventions of the 1970s and 1980s. Dialectics furthermore keeps the entire treatment focused on a synthesis of opposites, primarily on acceptance and change, but also on the whole as well as the parts, and maintains an emphasis on flexibility, movement, speed, and flow in the treatment.

True to dialectics, DBT strategies are designed in pairs representing acceptance (validation, reciprocal communication, environmental intervention on behalf of the client) and change (problem solving, irreverence, consultation-to-the-patients about how they can change their own environment). Strategies are further divided into procedures; a set of principles guides the selection of strategies and procedures depending on the needs of the individual client. Clients are also taught a series of behavioral skills designed to promote both acceptance and change. A focus on replacing dysfunctional behaviors with skillful behaviors is woven throughout DBT.

DBT is a principle-based treatment that includes protocols. As a principle-based treatment, DBT is quite flexible due to its modular construction. Not only are strategies and procedures individualized, but various aspects of the treatment, such as disorder-specific protocols, can be included or withdrawn from the treatment as needed. To guide therapists in individualizing priorities for targeting disorders and behavioral problems, DBT incorporates a concept of levels of disorder (based on severity, risk, disability, pervasiveness, and complexity) that in turn guides stages of treatment and provides a hierarchy of what to treat when for a particular patient. In contrast, skills training is protocol based. Once a skills curriculum is determined, what is taught in a session is guided by the curriculum, not by the needs of a single client during that session.

The Development of DBT

In the late 1970s, Marsha M. Linehan attempted to apply standard Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to the problems of adult women with histories of chronic suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, and non-suicidal injury. Trained as a behaviorist, she was interested in treating these and other discrete behaviors. Through consultation with colleagues, however, she concluded that she was treating women who met criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). In the late 1970s, CBT had gained prominence as an effective psychotherapy for a range of serious problems. Dr. Linehan was keenly interested in investigating whether or not it would prove helpful for individuals whose suicidality was in response to extremely painful problems. As she and her research team applied standard CBT, they encountered numerous problems with its use. Three were particularly troublesome:

  1. Clients receiving CBT found the unrelenting focus on change inherent to CBT to be invalidating. Clients responded by withdrawing from treatment, by becoming angry, or by vacillating between the two. This resulted in a high drop-out rate. If clients do not attend treatment, they cannot benefit from treatment.
  2. Clients unintentionally positively reinforced their therapists for ineffective treatment while punishing their therapists for effective therapy. For example, the research team noticed through its review of taped sessions that therapists would “back off” pushing for change of behavior when the client’s response was one of anger, emotional withdrawal, shame, or threats of self-harm. Similarly, clients would reward the therapist with interpersonal warmth or engagement if the therapist allowed them to change the topic of the session from one they did not want to discuss to one they did want to discuss.
  3. The sheer volume and severity of problems presented by clients made it impossible to use the standard CBT format. Individual therapists simply did not have time to both address the problems presented by clients (suicide attempts, self-harm, urges to quit treatment, noncompliance with homework assignments, untreated depression, anxiety disorders, and more) and have session time devoted to helping the client learn and apply more adaptive skills.

In response to these key problems with standard CBT, Linehan and her research team made significant modifications to standard CBT.

They added acceptance-based or validation strategies to the change-based strategies of CBT. Adding these communicated to the clients that they were both acceptable as they were and that their behaviors, including those that were self-harming, made real sense in some way. Further, therapists learned to highlight for clients when their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors were “perfectly normal,” helping clients discover that they had sound judgment and that they were capable of learning how and when to trust themselves. The new emphasis on acceptance did not occur to the exclusion of the emphasis on change: clients must change if they want to build a life worth living.

In the course of weaving in acceptance with change, Linehan noticed that another set of strategies – dialectics – came into play. Dialectical strategies give the therapist a means to balance acceptance and change in each session. They also serve to prevent both therapist and client from becoming stuck in the rigid thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that can occur when emotions run high, as they often do in the treatment of clients diagnosed with BPD. Dialectical strategies and a dialectical world view, with its emphasis on holism and synthesis, enable the therapist to blend acceptance and change in a manner that results in movement, speed, and flow in individual sessions and across the entire treatment. This counters the tendency, found in treatment with clients diagnosed with BPD, to become entrenched in arguments and polarizing or extreme positions.

Significant changes were also made to the structure of treatment in order to solve the problems encountered in the application of standard CBT.

In her original treatment manual, Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (1993), Linehan hypothesizes that any comprehensive psychotherapy must meet five critical functions. The therapy must:

  1. Enhance and maintain the client’s motivation to change
  2. Enhance the client’s capabilities
  3. Ensure that the client’s new capabilities are generalized to all relevant environments
  4. Enhance the therapist’s motivation to treat clients while also enhancing the therapist’s capabilities
  5. Structure the environment so that treatment can take place

As already described, the structure of DBT includes four components: skills group, individual treatment, DBT phone coaching, and consultation team. These components meet the five critical functions of a comprehensive psychotherapy in the following ways:

  1. It is typically the individual therapist who maintains the client’s motivation for treatment, since the individual therapist is the most prominent individual working with the client.
  2. Skills are acquired and strengthened, and generalized through the combination of skills groups and homework assignments.
  3. Clients capabilities are generalized through phone coaching (clients are instructed to call therapists for coaching prior to engaging in self harm), in vivo coaching, and homework assignments.
  4. Therapists’ capabilities are enhanced and burnout is prevented through weekly consultation team meetings. The consultation team helps the therapist stay balanced in his or her approach to the client, while supporting and cheerleading the therapist in applying effective interventions.
  5. The environment can be structured in a variety of ways. For example, the home environment could be structured by the client and therapist meeting with family members to ensure that the client is not being reinforced for maladaptive behaviors or punished for effective behaviors in the home

True to dialectics, DBT strategies are designed in pairs representing acceptance (validation, reciprocal communication, environmental intervention on behalf of the client) and change (problem solving, irreverence, consultation-to-the-patients about how they can change their own environment). Strategies are further divided into procedures; a set of principles guides the selection of strategies and procedures depending on the needs of the individual client. Clients are also taught a series of behavioral skills designed to promote both acceptance and change. A focus on replacing dysfunctional behaviors with skillful behaviors is woven throughout DBT.

DBT is a principle-based treatment that includes protocols. As a principle-based treatment, DBT is quite flexible due to its modular construction. Not only are strategies and procedures individualized, but various aspects of the treatment, such as disorder-specific protocols, can be included or withdrawn from the treatment as needed. To guide therapists in individualizing priorities for targeting disorders and behavioral problems, DBT incorporates a concept of levels of disorder (based on severity, risk, disability, pervasiveness, and complexity) that in turn guides stages of treatment and provides a hierarchy of what to treat when for a particular patient. In contrast, skills training is protocol based. Once a skills curriculum is determined, what is taught in a session is guided by the curriculum, not by the needs of a single client during that session.

  1. Clients receiving CBT found the unrelenting focus on change inherent to CBT to be invalidating. Clients responded by withdrawing from treatment, by becoming angry, or by vacillating between the two. This resulted in a high drop-out rate. If clients do not attend treatment, they cannot benefit from treatment.
  2. Clients unintentionally positively reinforced their therapists for ineffective treatment while punishing their therapists for effective therapy. For example, the research team noticed through its review of taped sessions that therapists would “back off” pushing for change of behavior when the client’s response was one of anger, emotional withdrawal, shame, or threats of self-harm. Similarly, clients would reward the therapist with interpersonal warmth or engagement if the therapist allowed them to change the topic of the session from one they did not want to discuss to one they did want to discuss.
  3. The sheer volume and severity of problems presented by clients made it impossible to use the standard CBT format. Individual therapists simply did not have time to both address the problems presented by clients (suicide attempts, self-harm, urges to quit treatment, noncompliance with homework assignments, untreated depression, anxiety disorders, and more) and have session time devoted to helping the client learn and apply more adaptive skills.
  4. In response to these key problems with standard CBT, Linehan and her research team made significant modifications to standard CBT.

They added acceptance-based or validation strategies to the change-based strategies of CBT. Adding these communicated to the clients that they were both acceptable as they were and that their behaviors, including those that were self-harming, made real sense in some way. Further, therapists learned to highlight for clients when their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors were “perfectly normal,” helping clients discover that they had sound judgment and that they were capable of learning how and when to trust themselves. The new emphasis on acceptance did not occur to the exclusion of the emphasis on change: clients must change if they want to build a life worth living.

In the course of weaving in acceptance with change, Linehan noticed that another set of strategies – dialectics – came into play. Dialectical strategies give the therapist a means to balance acceptance and change in each session. They also serve to prevent both therapist and client from becoming stuck in the rigid thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that can occur when emotions run high, as they often do in the treatment of clients diagnosed with BPD. Dialectical strategies and a dialectical world view, with its emphasis on holism and synthesis, enable the therapist to blend acceptance and change in a manner that results in movement, speed, and flow in individual sessions and across the entire treatment. This counters the tendency, found in treatment with clients diagnosed with BPD, to become entrenched in arguments and polarizing or extreme positions.

Significant changes were also made to the structure of treatment in order to solve the problems encountered in the application of standard CBT.

In her original treatment manual, Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (1993), Linehan hypothesizes that any comprehensive psychotherapy must meet five critical functions. The therapy must:

  1. Enhance and maintain the client’s motivation to change
  2. Enhance the client’s capabilities
  3. Ensure that the client’s new capabilities are generalized to all relevant environments
  4. Enhance the therapist’s motivation to treat clients while also enhancing the therapist’s capabilities
  5. Structure the environment so that treatment can take place

As already described, the structure of DBT includes four components: skills group, individual treatment, DBT phone coaching, and consultation team. These components meet the five critical functions of a comprehensive psychotherapy in the following ways:

  1. It is typically the individual therapist who maintains the client’s motivation for treatment, since the individual therapist is the most prominent individual working with the client.
  2. Skills are acquired and strengthened, and generalized through the combination of skills groups and homework assignments.
  3. Clients capabilities are generalized through phone coaching (clients are instructed to call therapists for coaching prior to engaging in self harm), in vivo coaching, and homework assignments.
  4. Therapists’ capabilities are enhanced and burnout is prevented through weekly consultation team meetings. The consultation team helps the therapist stay balanced in his or her approach to the client, while supporting and cheerleading the therapist in applying effective interventions.
  5. The environment can be structured in a variety of ways. For example, the home environment could be structured by the client and therapist meeting with family members to ensure that the client is not being reinforced for maladaptive behaviors or punished for effective behaviors in the home.

DBT has personally saved my life and am grateful to have had the opportunity to take an intensive outpatient DBT program. DBT is awesome and it is one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Have an awesome Friday and Peace Out!!

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Happy Friday everyone. It is another Friday and that means it is time for my educational blogging feature. Today’s topic is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I got the following information from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness marked by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships. In 1980, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Third Edition (DSM-III) listed BPD as a diagnosable illness for the first time. Most psychiatrists and other mental health professionals use the DSM to diagnose mental illnesses.

Because some people with severe BPD have brief psychotic episodes, experts originally thought of this illness as atypical, or borderline, versions of other mental disorders. While mental health experts now generally agree that the name “borderline personality disorder” is misleading, a more accurate term does not exist yet.

Most people who have BPD suffer from:

  • Problems with regulating emotions and thoughts
  • Impulsive and reckless behavior
  • Unstable relationships with other people.

People with this disorder also have high rates of co-occurring disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and eating disorders, along with self-harm, suicidal behaviors, and completed suicides.

Causes

Research on the possible causes and risk factors for BPD is still at a very early stage. However, scientists generally agree that genetic and environmental factors are likely to be involved.

Studies on twins with BPD suggest that the illness is strongly inherited. Another study shows that a person can inherit his or her temperament and specific personality traits, particularly impulsiveness and aggression. Scientists are studying genes that help regulate emotions and impulse control for possible links to the disorder.

Social or cultural factors may increase the risk for BPD. For example, being part of a community or culture in which unstable family relationships are common may increase a person’s risk for the disorder. Impulsiveness, poor judgment in lifestyle choices, and other consequences of BPD may lead individuals to risky situations. Adults with borderline personality disorder are considerably more likely to be the victim of violence, including rape and other crimes.

Signs & Symptoms

According to the DSM, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a person must show an enduring pattern of behavior that includes at least five of the following symptoms:

  • Extreme reactions—including panic, depression, rage, or frantic actions—to abandonment, whether real or perceived
  • A pattern of intense and stormy relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often veering from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
  • Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self, which can result in sudden changes in feelings, opinions, values, or plans and goals for the future (such as school or career choices)
  • Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating
  • Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior, such as cutting
  • Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness and/or boredom
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
  • Having stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms, such as feeling cut off from oneself, observing oneself from outside the body, or losing touch with reality.

Seemingly mundane events may trigger symptoms. For example, people with BPD may feel angry and distressed over minor separations—such as vacations, business trips, or sudden changes of plans—from people to whom they feel close. Studies show that people with this disorder may see anger in an emotionally neutral face and have a stronger reaction to words with negative meanings than people who do not have the disorder.

Suicide and Self-harm

Self-injurious behavior includes suicide and suicide attempts, as well as self-harming behaviors, described below. As many as 80 percent of people with BPD have suicidal behaviors, and about 4 to 9 percent commit suicide.

Suicide is one of the most tragic outcomes of any mental illness. Some treatments can help reduce suicidal behaviors in people with BPD. For example, one study showed that dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) reduced suicide attempts in women by half compared with other types of psychotherapy, or talk therapy. DBT also reduced use of emergency room and inpatient services and retained more participants in therapy, compared to other approaches to treatment.

Unlike suicide attempts, self-harming behaviors do not stem from a desire to die. However, some self-harming behaviors may be life threatening. Self-harming behaviors linked with BPD include cutting, burning, hitting, head banging, hair pulling, and other harmful acts. People with BPD may self-harm to help regulate their emotions, to punish themselves, or to express their pain. They do not always see these behaviors as harmful.

Who Is At Risk?

According to data from a subsample of participants in a national survey on mental disorders, about 1.6 percent of adults in the United States have BPD in a given year.  BPD usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood. Some studies suggest that early symptoms of the illness may occur during childhood.

Diagnosis

Unfortunately, BPD is often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

A mental health professional experienced in diagnosing and treating mental disorders—such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, or psychiatric nurse—can detect BPD based on a thorough interview and a discussion about symptoms. A careful and thorough medical exam can help rule out other possible causes of symptoms.

The mental health professional may ask about symptoms and personal and family medical histories, including any history of mental illnesses. This information can help the mental health professional decide on the best treatment. In some cases, co-occurring mental illnesses may have symptoms that overlap with BPD, making it difficult to distinguish borderline personality disorder from other mental illnesses. For example, a person may describe feelings of depression but may not bring other symptoms to the mental health professional’s attention.

Women with BPD are more likely to have co-occurring disorders such as major depression, anxiety disorders, or eating disorders. In men, BPD is more likely to co-occur with disorders such as substance abuse or antisocial personality disorder. According to the NIMH-funded National Comorbidity Survey Replication—the largest national study to date of mental disorders in U.S. adults—about 85 percent of people with BPD also meet the diagnostic criteria for another mental illness. Other illnesses that often occur with BPD include diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic back pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. These conditions are associated with obesity, which is a common side effect of the medications prescribed to treat BPD and other mental disorders.

No single test can diagnose BPD. Scientists funded by NIMH are looking for ways to improve diagnosis of this disorder. One study found that adults with BPD showed excessive emotional reactions when looking at words with unpleasant meanings, compared with healthy people. People with more severe BPD showed a more intense emotional response than people who had less severe BPD.

Treatments

BPD is often viewed as difficult to treat. However, recent research shows that BPD can be treated effectively, and that many people with this illness improve over time.

BPD can be treated with psychotherapy, or “talk” therapy. In some cases, a mental health professional may also recommend medications to treat specific symptoms. When a person is under more than one professional’s care, it is essential for the professionals to coordinate with one another on the treatment plan.

The treatments described below are just some of the options that may be available to a person with BPD. However, the research on treatments is still in very early stages. More studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of these treatments, who may benefit the most, and how best to deliver treatments.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is usually the first treatment for people with BPD. Current research suggests psychotherapy can relieve some symptoms, but further studies are needed to better understand how well psychotherapy works.

It is important that people in therapy get along with and trust their therapist. The very nature of BPD can make it difficult for people with this disorder to maintain this type of bond with their therapist.

Types of psychotherapy used to treat BPD include the following: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help people with BPD identify and change core beliefs and/or behaviors that underlie inaccurate perceptions of themselves and others and problems interacting with others. CBT may help reduce a range of mood and anxiety symptoms and reduce the number of suicidal or self-harming behaviors.

  1. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). This type of therapy focuses on the concept of mindfulness, or being aware of and attentive to the current situation. DBT teaches skills to control intense emotions, reduces self-destructive behaviors, and improves relationships. This therapy differs from CBT in that it seeks a balance between changing and accepting beliefs and behaviors.
  2. Schema-focused therapy. This type of therapy combines elements of CBT with other forms of psychotherapy that focus on reframing schemas, or the ways people view themselves. This approach is based on the idea that BPD stems from a dysfunctional self-image—possibly brought on by negative childhood experiences—that affects how people react to their environment, interact with others, and cope with problems or stress.

Therapy can be provided one-on-one between the therapist and the patient or in a group setting. Therapist-led group sessions may help teach people with BPD how to interact with others and how to express themselves effectively.

One type of group therapy, Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving (STEPPS), is designed as a relatively brief treatment consisting of 20 two-hour sessions led by an experienced social worker. Scientists funded by NIMH reported that STEPPS, when used with other types of treatment (medications or individual psychotherapy), can help reduce symptoms and problem behaviors of BPD, relieve symptoms of depression, and improve quality of life. The effectiveness of this type of therapy has not been extensively studied.

Families of people with BPD may also benefit from therapy. The challenges of dealing with an ill relative on a daily basis can be very stressful, and family members may unknowingly act in ways that worsen their relative’s symptoms.

Some therapies, such as DBT-family skills training (DBT-FST), include family members in treatment sessions. These types of programs help families develop skills to better understand and support a relative with BPD. Other therapies, such as Family Connections, focus on the needs of family members. More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of family therapy in BPD. Studies with other mental disorders suggest that including family members can help in a person’s treatment.

Other types of therapy not listed in this booklet may be helpful for some people with BPD. Therapists often adapt psychotherapy to better meet a person’s needs. Therapists may switch from one type of therapy to another, mix techniques from different therapies, or use a combination therapy. For more information see the NIMH website section on psychotherapy.

Some symptoms of BPD may come and go, but the core symptoms of highly changeable moods, intense anger, and impulsiveness tend to be more persistent. People whose symptoms improve may continue to face issues related to co-occurring disorders, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. However, encouraging research suggests that relapse, or the recurrence of full-blown symptoms after remission, is rare. In one study, 6 percent of people with BPD had a relapse after remission.

Medications

No medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat BPD. Only a few studies show that medications are necessary or effective for people with this illness. However, many people with BPD are treated with medications in addition to psychotherapy. While medications do not cure BPD, some medications may be helpful in managing specific symptoms. For some people, medications can help reduce symptoms such as anxiety, depression, or aggression. Often, people are treated with several medications at the same time, but there is little evidence that this practice is necessary or effective.

Medications can cause different side effects in different people. People who have BPD should talk with their prescribing doctor about what to expect from a particular medication.

Other Treatments

Omega-3 fatty acids. One study done on 30 women with BPD showed that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce symptoms of aggression and depression. The treatment seemed to be as well tolerated as commonly prescribed mood stabilizers and had few side effects. Fewer women who took omega-3 fatty acids dropped out of the study, compared to women who took a placebo (sugar pill).

With proper treatment, many people experience fewer or less severe symptoms. However, many factors affect the amount of time it takes for symptoms to improve, so it is important for people with BPD to be patient and to receive appropriate support during treatment.

Living With

Some people with BPD experience severe symptoms and require intensive, often inpatient, care. Others may use some outpatient treatments but never need hospitalization or emergency care. Some people who develop this disorder may improve without any treatment.
How can I help a friend or relative who has BPD?
If you know someone who has BPD, it affects you too. The first and most important thing you can do is help your friend or relative get the right diagnosis and treatment. You may need to make an appointment and go with your friend or relative to see the doctor. Encourage him or her to stay in treatment or to seek different treatment if symptoms do not appear to improve with the current treatment.
To help a friend or relative you can:
Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement—change can be difficult and frightening to people with BPD, but it is possible for them to get better over time
  • Learn about mental disorders, including BPD, so you can understand what your friend or relative is experiencing
  • With permission from your friend or relative, talk with his or her therapist to learn about therapies that may involve family members, such as DBT-FST.

Never ignore comments about someone’s intent or plan to harm himself or herself or someone else. Report such comments to the person’s therapist or doctor. In urgent or potentially life-threatening situations, you may need to call the police.

How can I help myself if I have BPD?

Taking that first step to help yourself may be hard. It is important to realize that, although it may take some time, you can get better with treatment.

To help yourself:

  • Talk to your doctor about treatment options and stick with treatment
  • Try to maintain a stable schedule of meals and sleep times
  • Engage in mild activity or exercise to help reduce stress
  • Set realistic goals for yourself
  • Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can, as you can
  • Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or family member
  • Tell others about events or situations that may trigger symptoms
  • Expect your symptoms to improve gradually, not immediately
  • Identify and seek out comforting situations, places, and people
  • Continue to educate yourself about this disorder.

Thank you for reading this long post. Again the above information is from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml Have an awesome weekend. Happy Friday. Peace out!!

Bipolar Disorder

Happy Friday everyone. It Friday and that means it is time for my blogging feature. Today I’ve decided to give you information on Bipolar Disorder. The information that I am about to share with you I got from The Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/.

Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts in the other direction, you may feel euphoric and full of energy. Mood shifts may occur only a few times a year or as often as several times a week.

Although bipolar disorder is a disruptive, long-term condition, you can keep your moods in check by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder can be controlled with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy).

Symptoms

There are several types of bipolar and related disorders. For each type, the exact symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary from person to person. Bipolar I and bipolar II disorders also have additional specific features that can be added to the diagnosis based on your particular signs and symptoms.

Criteria for bipolar disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, lists criteria for diagnosing bipolar and related disorders. This manual is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

Diagnostic criteria for bipolar and related disorders are based on the specific type of disorder:

  • Bipolar I disorder. You’ve had at least one manic episode. The manic episode may be preceded by or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. Mania symptoms cause significant impairment in your life and may require hospitalization or trigger a break from reality (psychosis).
  • Bipolar II disorder. You’ve had at least one major depressive episode lasting at least two weeks and at least one hypomanic episode lasting at least four days, but you’ve never had a manic episode. Major depressive episodes or the unpredictable changes in mood and behavior can cause distress or difficulty in areas of your life.
  • Cyclothymic disorder. You’ve had at least two years — or one year in children and teenagers — of numerous periods of hypomania symptoms (less severe than a hypomanic episode) and periods of depressive symptoms (less severe than a major depressive episode). During that time, symptoms occur at least half the time and never go away for more than two months. Symptoms cause significant distress in important areas of your life.
  • Other types. These include, for example, bipolar and related disorder due to another medical condition, such as Cushing’s disease, multiple sclerosis or stroke. Another type is called substance and medication-induced bipolar and related disorder.

Bipolar II disorder is not a milder form of bipolar I disorder, but a separate diagnosis. While the manic episodes of bipolar I disorder can be severe and dangerous, individuals with bipolar II disorder can be depressed for longer periods, which can cause significant impairment.

Criteria for a manic or hypomanic episode

The DSM-5 has specific criteria for the diagnosis of manic and hypomanic episodes:

  • A manic episode is a distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive or irritable mood that lasts at least one week (or less than a week if hospitalization is necessary). The episode includes persistently increased goal-directed activity or energy.
  • A hypomanic episode is a distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive or irritable mood that lasts at least four consecutive days.

For both a manic and a hypomanic episode, during the period of disturbed mood and increased energy, three or more of the following symptoms (four if the mood is only irritable) must be present and represent a noticeable change from your usual behavior:

  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Decreased need for sleep (for example, you feel rested after only three hours of sleep)
  • Unusual talkativeness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Distractibility
  • Increased goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or agitation
  • Doing things that are unusual and that have a high potential for painful consequences — for example, unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions or foolish business investments

To be considered a manic episode:

  • The mood disturbance must be severe enough to cause noticeable difficulty at work, at school or in social activities or relationships; or to require hospitalization to prevent harm to yourself or others; or to trigger a break from reality (psychosis).
  • Symptoms are not due to the direct effects of something else, such as alcohol or drug use; a medication; or a medical condition.

To be considered a hypomanic episode:

  • The episode is a distinct change in mood and functioning that is not characteristic of you when the symptoms are not present, and enough of a change that other people notice.
  • The episode isn’t severe enough to cause significant difficulty at work, at school or in social activities or relationships, and it doesn’t require hospitalization or trigger a break from reality.
  • Symptoms are not due to the direct effects of something else, such as alcohol or drug use; a medication; or a medical condition.

Criteria for a major depressive episode

The DSM-5 also lists criteria for diagnosis of a major depressive episode:

  • Five or more of the symptoms below over a two-week period that represent a change from previous mood and functioning. At least one of the symptoms is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure.
  • Symptoms can be based on your own feelings or on the observations of someone else.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, such as feeling sad, empty, hopeless or tearful (in children and teens, depressed mood can appear as irritability)
  • Markedly reduced interest or feeling no pleasure in all — or almost all — activities most of the day, nearly every day
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting, weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day (in children, failure to gain weight as expected can be a sign of depression)
  • Either insomnia or sleeping excessively nearly every day
  • Either restlessness or slowed behavior that can be observed by others
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt, such as believing things that are not true, nearly every day
  • Decreased ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide planning or attempt

To be considered a major depressive episode:

  • Symptoms must be severe enough to cause noticeable difficulty in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships
  • Symptoms are not due to the direct effects of something else, such as alcohol or drug use, a medication or a medical condition
  • Symptoms are not caused by grieving, such as after the loss of a loved one

Other signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder

Signs and symptoms of bipolar I and bipolar II disorders may include additional features.

  • Anxious distress — having anxiety, such as feeling keyed up, tense or restless, having trouble concentrating because of worry, fearing something awful may happen, or feeling you may not be able to control yourself
  • Mixed features — meeting the criteria for a manic or hypomanic episode, but also having some or all symptoms of major depressive episode at the same time
  • Melancholic features — having a loss of pleasure in all or most activities and not feeling significantly better, even when something good happens
  • Atypical features — experiencing symptoms that are not typical of a major depressive episode, such as having a significantly improved mood when something good happens
  • Catatonia — not reacting to your environment, holding your body in an unusual position, not speaking, or mimicking another person’s speech or movement
  • Peripartum onset — bipolar disorder symptoms that occur during pregnancy or in the four weeks after delivery
  • Seasonal pattern — a lifetime pattern of manic, hypomanic or major depressive episodes that change with the seasons
  • Rapid cycling — having four or more mood swing episodes within a single year, with full or partial remission of symptoms in between manic, hypomanic or major depressive episodes
  • Psychosis — severe episode of either mania or depression (but not hypomania) that results in a detachment from reality and includes symptoms of false but strongly held beliefs (delusions) and hearing or seeing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)

Symptoms in children and teens

The same DSM-5 criteria used to diagnose bipolar disorder in adults are used to diagnose children and teenagers. Children and teens may have distinct major depressive, manic or hypomanic episodes, between which they return to their usual behavior, but that’s not always the case. And moods can rapidly shift during acute episodes.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be difficult to identify in children and teens. It’s often hard to tell whether these are normal ups and downs, the results of stress or trauma, or signs of a mental health problem other than bipolar disorder. And children who have bipolar disorder are frequently also diagnosed with other mental health conditions.

The most prominent signs of bipolar disorder in children and teenagers may include severe mood swings that are different from their usual mood swings.

When to see a doctor

If you have any symptoms of depression or mania, see your doctor or mental health provider. Bipolar disorder doesn’t get better on its own. Getting treatment from a mental health provider with experience in bipolar disorder can help you get your symptoms under control.

Many people with bipolar disorder don’t get the treatment they need. Despite the mood extremes, people with bipolar disorder often don’t recognize how much their emotional instability disrupts their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

And if you’re like some people with bipolar disorder, you may enjoy the feelings of euphoria and cycles of being more productive. However, this euphoria is always followed by an emotional crash that can leave you depressed, worn out — and perhaps in financial, legal or relationship trouble.

If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, confide in a friend or loved one, a health care professional, a faith leader or someone else you trust. He or she may be able to help you take the first steps to successful treatment.

When to get emergency help

Suicidal thoughts and behavior are common among people with bipolar disorder. If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Also consider these options:

  • Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
  • Call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
  • Make an appointment with your doctor, mental health provider or other health care provider.

If you have a loved one who is in danger of committing suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.

Causes

 The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but several factors may be involved, such as:
  • Biological differences. People with bipolar disorder appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain but may eventually help pinpoint causes.
  • Neurotransmitters. An imbalance in naturally occurring brain chemicals called neurotransmitters seems to play a significant role in bipolar disorder and other mood disorders.
  • Inherited traits. Bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a first-degree relative, such as a sibling or parent, with the condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing bipolar disorder

Risk factors

Factors that may increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder or act as a trigger for the first episode include:

  • Having a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, with bipolar disorder
  • Periods of high stress
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Major life changes, such as the death of a loved one or other traumatic experiences

Conditions that commonly occur with bipolar disorder

If you have bipolar disorder, you may also have another health condition that’s diagnosed before or after your diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Such conditions need to be diagnosed and treated because they may worsen existing bipolar disorder or make treatment less successful. They include:

  • Anxiety disorders. Examples include social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some people with PTSD, a trauma- and stressor-related disorder, also have bipolar disorder.
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD has symptoms that overlap with bipolar disorder. For this reason, bipolar disorder can be difficult to differentiate from ADHD. Sometimes one is mistaken for the other. In some cases, a person may be diagnosed with both conditions.
  • Addiction or substance abuse. Many people with bipolar disorder also have alcohol, tobacco or drug problems. Drugs or alcohol may seem to ease symptoms, but they can actually trigger, prolong or worsen depression or mania.
  • Physical health problems. People diagnosed with bipolar disorder are more likely to have certain other health problems, such as heart disease, thyroid problems or obesity

Complications

Left untreated, bipolar disorder can result in serious problems that affect every area of your life. These may include:

  • Problems related to drug and alcohol use
  • Suicide or suicide attempts
  • Legal problems
  • Financial problems
  • Relationship troubles
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Poor work or school performance
  • Frequent absences from work or school

Preparing for your appointment

You may start by seeing your primary care doctor or you may choose to see a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions (psychiatrist).

What you can do

Before your appointment, make a list of:

  • Any symptoms you’ve had, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for the appointment
  • Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes
  • All medications, vitamins or other supplements that you’re taking, and their dose
  • Questions to ask your doctor

Take a family member or friend along, if possible. That person may provide more information or remember something that you missed or forgot.

Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • Do I have bipolar disorder?
  • Are there any other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests will I need?
  • What treatments are available? Which do you recommend for me?
  • What side effects are possible with that treatment?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you’re suggesting?
  • I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
  • Should I see a psychiatrist or other mental health provider?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you’re prescribing?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can have? What websites do you recommend?

Don’t hesitate to ask questions at any time during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Be ready to answer them to reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you or your loved ones first begin noticing your symptoms of depression, mania or hypomania?
  • How frequently do your moods change?
  • Do you ever have suicidal thoughts when you’re feeling down?
  • Do your symptoms interfere with your daily life or relationships?
  • Do you have any blood relatives with bipolar disorder or depression?
  • What other mental or physical health conditions do you have?
  • Do you drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or use street drugs?
  • How much do you sleep at night? Does it change over time?
  • Do you go through periods when you take risks that you wouldn’t normally take, such as unsafe sex or unwise, spontaneous financial decisions?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?

Tests and diagnosis

When doctors suspect someone has bipolar disorder, they typically do a number of tests and exams. These can help rule out other problems, pinpoint a diagnosis and also check for any related complications. These may include:

  • Physical exam. A physical exam and lab tests may be done to help identify any medical problems that could be causing your symptoms.
  • Psychological evaluation. Your doctor or mental health provider will talk to you about your thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns. You may also fill out a psychological self-assessment or questionnaire. With your permission, family members or close friends may be asked to provide information about your symptoms and possible episodes of mania or depression.
  • Mood charting. To identify exactly what’s going on, your doctor may have you keep a daily record of your moods, sleep patterns or other factors that could help with diagnosis and finding the right treatment.
  • Signs and symptoms. Your doctor or mental health professional typically will compare your symptoms with the criteria for bipolar and related disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to determine a diagnosis.

Diagnosis in children

Although bipolar disorder can occur in young children, typically it’s diagnosed in the teenage years or early 20s.  It’s often hard to tell whether a child’s emotional ups and downs are normal for his or her age, the results of stress or trauma, or signs of a mental health problem other than bipolar disorder.

Bipolar symptoms in children and teens often have different patterns than they do in adults and may not fit neatly into the categories used for diagnosis. And children who have bipolar disorder are frequently also diagnosed with other mental health conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or behavior problems.

Your child’s doctor can help you learn the symptoms of bipolar disorder and how they differ from behavior related to your child’s developmental age, the situation and appropriate cultural behavior.

Treatments and drugs

Treatment is best guided by a psychiatrist skilled in treating bipolar and related disorders. You may have a treatment team that also includes a psychologist, social worker and psychiatric nurse.

Depending on your needs, treatment may include:

  • Initial treatment. Often, you’ll need to start taking medications to balance your moods right away. Once your symptoms are under control, you’ll work with your doctor to find the best long-term treatment.
  • Continued treatment. Bipolar disorder requires lifelong treatment, even during periods when you feel better. Maintenance treatment is used to manage bipolar disorder on a long-term basis. People who skip maintenance treatment are at high risk of a relapse of symptoms or having minor mood changes turn into full-blown mania or depression.
  • Day treatment programs. Your doctor may recommend a day treatment program. These programs provide the support and counseling you need while you get symptoms under control.
  • Substance abuse treatment. If you have problems with alcohol or drugs, you’ll also need substance abuse treatment. Otherwise, it can be very difficult to manage bipolar disorder.
  • Hospitalization. Your doctor may recommend hospitalization if you’re behaving dangerously, you feel suicidal or you become detached from reality (psychotic). Getting psychiatric treatment at a hospital can help keep you calm and safe and stabilize your mood, whether you’re having a manic or major depressive episode.

The primary treatments for bipolar disorder include medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy), and may include education and support groups.

Medications

A number of medications are used to treat bipolar disorder. The types and doses of medications prescribed are based on your particular symptoms.

Medications may include:

  • Mood stabilizers. Whether you have bipolar I or II disorder, you’ll typically need mood-stabilizing medication to control manic or hypomanic episodes. Examples of mood stabilizers include lithium (Lithobid), valproic acid (Depakene), divalproex sodium (Depakote), carbamazepine (Tegretol, Equetro, others) and lamotrigine (Lamictal).
  • Antipsychotics. If symptoms of depression or mania persist in spite of treatment with other medications, adding an antipsychotic medication such as olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), aripiprazole (Abilify), ziprasidone (Geodon), lurasidone (Latuda) or asenapine (Saphris) may help. Your doctor may prescribe some of these medications alone or along with a mood stabilizer.
  • Antidepressants. Your doctor may add an antidepressant to help manage depression. Because an antidepressant can sometimes trigger a manic episode, it’s usually prescribed along with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic.
  • Antidepressant-antipsychotic. The medication Symbyax combines the antidepressant fluoxetine and the antipsychotic olanzapine. It works as a depression treatment and a mood stabilizer. Symbyax is approved by the Food and Drug Administration specifically for the treatment of depressive episodes associated with bipolar I disorder.
  • Anti-anxiety medications. Benzodiazepines may help with anxiety and improve sleep. Benzodiazepines are generally used for relieving anxiety only on a short-term basis.

Side effects

Talk to your doctor or mental health provider about side effects. If side effects seem intolerable, you may be tempted to stop taking your medication or to reduce your dose on your own. Don’t do it. You may experience withdrawal effects or your symptoms may return.

Side effects often improve as you find the right medications and doses that work for you, and your body adjusts to the medications.

Finding the right medication

Finding the right medication or medications for you will likely take some trial and error. If one doesn’t work well for you, there are several others to try.

This process requires patience, as some medications need weeks to months to take full effect. Generally only one medication is changed at a time so that your doctor can identify which medications work to relieve your symptoms with the least bothersome side effects. Medications also may need to be adjusted as your symptoms change.

Medications and pregnancy

A number of medications for bipolar disorder can be associated with birth defects. Discuss these issues with your doctor:

  • Birth control options, as birth control medications may lose effectiveness when taken along with certain bipolar disorder medications
  • Treatment options if you plan to become pregnant
  • Breast-feeding, as some bipolar medications can pass through breast milk to your infant

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a vital part of bipolar disorder treatment and can be provided in individual, family or group settings. Several types of therapy may be helpful. These include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. The focus of cognitive behavioral therapy is identifying unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replacing them with healthy, positive ones. It can help identify what triggers your bipolar episodes. You also learn effective strategies to manage stress and to cope with upsetting situations.
  • Psychoeducation. Counseling to help you learn about bipolar disorder (psychoeducation) can help you and your loved ones understand bipolar disorder. Knowing what’s going on can help you get the best support and treatment, and help you and your loved ones recognize warning signs of mood swings.
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT). IPSRT focuses on the stabilization of daily rhythms, such as sleep, wake and mealtimes. A consistent routine allows for better mood management. People with bipolar disorder may benefit from establishing a daily routine for sleep, diet and exercise.
  • Other therapies. Other therapies have been studied with some evidence of success. Ask your doctor if any other options may be appropriate for you.

Other treatment options

Depending on your needs, other treatments may be added to your depression therapy, such as:

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). In ECT, electrical currents are passed through the brain. This procedure is thought to affect levels of neurotransmitters in your brain and typically offers immediate relief of even severe depression when other treatments don’t work. Physical side effects, such as headache, are tolerable. Some people also have memory loss, which is usually temporary. ECT is usually used for people who don’t get better with medications, can’t take antidepressants for health reasons or are at high risk of suicide. ECT may be an option if you have mania or severe depression when you’re pregnant and cannot take your regular medications.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS may be an option for those who haven’t responded to antidepressants. During TMS, you sit in a reclining chair with a treatment coil placed against your scalp. The coil sends brief magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in your brain that are involved in mood regulation and depression. Typically, you’ll have five treatments each week for up to six weeks.

Treatment in children and teenagers

Treatments for children and teenagers are generally decided on a case-by-case basis, depending on symptoms, medication side effects and other factors.

  • Medications. Children and teens with bipolar disorder are often prescribed the same types of medications as those used in adults. There’s less research on the safety and effectiveness of bipolar medications in children than in adults, so treatment decisions are often based on adult research.
  • Psychotherapy. Most children diagnosed with bipolar disorder require counseling as part of initial treatment and to keep symptoms from returning. Psychotherapy can help children develop coping skills, address learning difficulties, resolve social problems, and help strengthen family bonds and communication. And, if needed, it can help treat substance abuse problems, common in older children with bipolar disorder.
  • Support. Working with teachers and school counselors and encouraging support from family and friends can help identify services and encourage success.

Lifestyle and home remedies

You’ll probably need to make lifestyle changes to stop cycles of behavior that worsen your bipolar disorder. Here are some steps to take:

  • Quit drinking or using illegal drugs. One of the biggest concerns with bipolar disorder is the negative consequences of risk-taking behavior and drug or alcohol abuse. Get help if you have trouble quitting on your own.
  • Steer clear of unhealthy relationships. Surround yourself with people who are a positive influence and won’t encourage unhealthy behavior or attitudes that can worsen your bipolar disorder.
  • Get regular physical activity and exercise. Moderate, regular physical activity and exercise can help steady your mood. Working out releases brain chemicals that make you feel good (endorphins), can help you sleep and has a number of other benefits. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially if you’re taking lithium, to make sure exercise won’t interfere with your medication.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Don’t stay up all night. Instead, get plenty of sleep. Sleeping enough is an important part of managing your mood. If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor or mental health provider about what you can do.
  • Medications. Children and teens with bipolar disorder are often prescribed the same types of medications as those used in adults. There’s less research on the safety and effectiveness of bipolar medications in children than in adults, so treatment decisions are often based on adult research.
  • Psychotherapy. Most children diagnosed with bipolar disorder require counseling as part of initial treatment and to keep symptoms from returning. Psychotherapy can help children develop coping skills, address learning difficulties, resolve social problems, and help strengthen family bonds and communication. And, if needed, it can help treat substance abuse problems, common in older children with bipolar disorder.
  • Support. Working with teachers and school counselors and encouraging support from family and friends can help identify services and encourage success.

Coping and support

Coping with bipolar disorder can be challenging. Here are some strategies that can help:

  • Learn about bipolar disorder. Education about your condition can empower you and motivate you to stick to your treatment plan. Help educate your family and friends about what you’re going through.
  • Stay focused on your goals. Recovery from bipolar disorder can take time. Stay motivated by keeping your recovery goals in mind and reminding yourself that you can work to repair damaged relationships and other problems caused by your mood swings.
  • Join a support group. Support groups for people with bipolar disorder can help you connect to others facing similar challenges and share experiences.
  • Find healthy outlets. Explore healthy ways to channel your energy, such as hobbies, exercise and recreational activities.
  • Learn ways to relax and manage stress. Yoga, tai chi, massage, meditation or other relaxation techniques can be helpful.

Prevention

 There’s no sure way to prevent bipolar disorder. However, getting treatment at the earliest sign of a mental health disorder can help prevent bipolar disorder or other mental health conditions from worsening.

If you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, some strategies can help prevent minor symptoms from becoming full-blown episodes of mania or depression:

  • Pay attention to warning signs. Addressing symptoms early on can prevent episodes from getting worse. You and your caregivers may have identified a pattern to your bipolar episodes and what triggers them. Call your doctor if you feel you’re falling into an episode of depression or mania. Involve family members or friends in watching for warning signs.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Using alcohol or street drugs can worsen your symptoms and make them more likely to come back.
  • Take your medications exactly as directed. You may be tempted to stop treatment — but don’t. This can have immediate consequences — you may become very depressed, feel suicidal, or go into a manic or hypomanic episode. If you think you need to make a change, call your doctor.
  • Check first before taking other medications. Call the doctor who’s treating you for bipolar disorder before you take medications prescribed by another doctor or any over-the-counter supplements or medications. Sometimes other medications trigger episodes of bipolar disorder or may interfere with medications you’re already taking to treat bipolar disorder.

Thank you for reading. Just remember I am not professional. The above information I got from the Mayo Clinic. I best be going. I will post my Writing 101 assignment later on. Have a good weekend and Peace Out!!!!