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A recent interview and book publication by the former Olympic champion Suzy Hamilton reveals how her bipolar disorder led to her to become a high class prostitute. The only certainty is that her "bipolar disorder", and the bipolar disorder of most of our patients, do not lead them to a career in prostitution.
Bipolar disorder is considered a serious mental disorder, which is characterized by episodes of mania, hypomania, depression, and mixed episodes. Sometimes the episodes can be a traumatic experience for the patients who experience the disorder, but they can also be equally traumatic for their partners. A related study by Professor Lam and his colleagues (2005), attempted to explore the difficulties faced by the partners of bipolar patients. They examined the marital difficulties and the sexual satisfaction through the most important phases of their bipolar disorder (euthymic, manic and depressive). Previous studies have shown that the partners of bipolar patients feel constrained due to problematic behaviors of their parterns ("he is insensitive), due to perceived control by patients in their disorder ("he is bad and he is not a patient"), and finally a significant reported problem has been the reduction in the income and activities due to the illness. It is worth noting that efforts to reduce the restriction felt by partners, can contribute to the improvement of patient’s quality of life (Clarkin et al., 1990, 1998).
Reading so many articles about holidays and depression but at the same time working almost exclusively with bipolar patients, I wondered too. Is Christmas good for your Bipolar disorder? What can I really tell you or to our patients about this?
We wish you a very merry and cheery Christmas and a Happy New Year with a moodeat turkey recipe specially prepared for you to help you cope with the Christmas Blues. We know it takes a lot more than a moodeat turkey, but every little thing you do helps! Remember to prepare it with a group of supportive friends and loving family members.
Setting up and running an evidence based clinical e-practice in the field of mental health is an exhilarating challenge! In other fields of medicine, this may not be the case, but in the mental health world, evidence based practice is a relatively new development. "Evidence-based practice" means we conduct our clinical practice based on evidence that we've acquired from clinical research. Similar to drug research, your doctor will usually prescribe medications that've been tested thoroughly through many trials, and have been proven to benefit your health condition. Once upon a time, your therapy could've been based on Dr. Ego’s clinical expertise, big name or great insights, but thankfully these days such practices are slowly becoming a nightmare of the past (although, drug companies still invest on armies of Dr. Egos “aka opinion leaders” to influence your local doctor’s prescription practices). However, evidence-based practice is a fairly recent development in the field of mental health, and especially in the field of psychotherapy. The rise of behavioral therapy in the 60s, partly as a reaction to the psychoanalytic status quo, and later its marriage with cognitive therapy, have given us a remarkable new tradition of true evidence-based psychotherapeutic practice.
I recently attended one of the lovely webinars hosted by the International Bipolar Foundation. The speaker, Dr Nassir Ghaemi (Professor at Tufts university), presented his book, a "First Rate Madness: Mood disorders and Crisis Leadership" and discussed the issue of leadership and mood disorders. According to his talk, people with mood disorders, as well as in general mentally abnormal people, make better leaders -- especially at times of crisis. He gave examples of many American and European political leaders who achieved "greatness," and their psychohistory suggests also had a mental disorder - in most cases a bipolar disorder. I have trouble digesting this argument; not for personal reasons, I also love my bipolar patients and wish to think and speak well of them, but for scientific reasons.
Even though the majority of research highlights the negative aspects of bipolar disorder, it is not uncommon to listen to patients who talk warmly about their experiences. A new study conducted by Lobban, Taylor, Murray & Jones (2012) at the University of Lancaster, UK investigated the positive experiences of people who suffer from bipolar disorder. The participants reported that they experience many positive feelings, including intensified abilities, such as higher academic abilities; acute senses, perceptual sensitivity, focus and clarity of thought. They also reported feeling more creative and productive. The research indicated that a sub-group of people with bipolar disorder prefers to be with the condition as they experience invaluable feelings. Some of the participants work or worked in high professional positions and provided information concerning the times when it was incredibly easy for them to work hard. They felt that they could achieve high levels of productivity and were very ambitious.
Being critical of yourself or being on the receiving end of other people's criticism is a challenge. Add a mood disorder in the recipe and the impact of criticism becomes even more explosive. Early research by Julian Leff at the Institute of Psychiatry and David Goldberg at UCLA on schizophrenia focused on the role of "expressed emotion" in families. They coined this term to essentially describe a negative and critical communication style that appeared to characterize many of the families who had members suffering from schizophrenia. The results from their early studies were indeed impressive. Patients who lived with family members who were overly critical of them and had a negative communication style relapsed more often and quicker. These results have been replicated across almost all major mental disorders (except one)*, and of course bipolar disorder. Patients with bipolar disorder actually have the highest sensitivity levels to expressed emotion/criticism.
Our Bipolar flea survey is going pretty well. After about a week, we have 19 responses. Most people were happy with the flea analogy, but there is always a side to bipolar symptoms that may not be flea-like at all. Our mental symptoms effect us much more than the fleas to the dogs. I often meet and work with bipolar patients who have matured so much with their illness, and have managed to learn to cope so well with its ups and downs, that yes, at times they like having the experience of their symptoms. I had a recent chat with Tom Wootton, who advocates this view, and from my understanding is trying to help people see through and over their symptoms. I guess when one can handle life or when one has managed to survive hell, then they can also learn to accept and live well with their symptoms. The new-wave behaviorists have really adopted this acceptance philosophy. I guess my own acceptance concept is all about befriending bipolar disorder and all the things that come with it.
Dear Bipolar friends, It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to our new bipolar blog hosted by Psychcentral.com - Bipolar Trek: The Voyages of BipolarLab. I met Dr John Grohol quite early in my online psychology days back in 1996 when he was starting Psychcentral.com, and I was beginning my psychology degree in rainy Scotland. Since that time a lot has changed and I was always happy to see Psychcentral's tremendous growth driven by John's passion and energy for mental health education. So in 2012, I am really happy and grateful that John will be hosting our blog. Coming from a relatively illiterate Greek culture (illiterate in matters of mental health) it always made so much sense to me to educate the public, and most importantly patients, about mental health and psychology in general. We have come a long way since 1996 in all fields of mental health and people across most countries are far more knowledgeable than before. But there are always going to be new patients (unfortunately), and always members of the public in different countries who can benefit from our knowledge.