Archive for February, 2011

Prevention Less Costly than the Alternative

Friday, February 25th, 2011

prevention costs lessI’ve  just read an interesting article by Brandi Grissom first published in The Texas Tribune entitled “Mental Health Cuts Would Strain Local Texas Jails.” This article does an excellent job of calling attention to two of the main problems with cost-cutting plans that target community-based mental health treatment – people suffer while funding cuts cost more money than they save.

Cutting those services would take a devastating human toll, Schwartz said, but it would also come at an enormous financial cost. When people with untreated mental health problems fall into crisis, it is much more expensive to provide care in an emergency room, jail or crisis center.

Betsy Schwartz, president and chief executive of Mental Health America of Greater Houston

Lithium Increased Brain Volume in Patients with Bipolar Disorder

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

lithium and the brainIn an article published in this month’s Biological Psychiatry entitled “Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Bipolar Disorder: An International Collaborative Mega-Analysis of Individual Adult Patient Data” (Hallahan et al.), researchers pulled together a large number of magnetic resonance imaging studies to compare the brains of people with bipolar disorder to those of healthy control subjects. Their goal was to make sense of some of the conflicting data that had come out of the studies individually.

Using so many studies, from research groups all over the world, the authors are able to examine all of the results together and come up with some more comprehensive findings. This is called a “meta- analysis.” “Mega-analysis” is an informal term that describes a huge meta-analysis.

FDA Update on the Use of Antipsychotics During Pregnancy

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

pregnancy and antipsychotic drugs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is informing healthcare professionals that it has updated the Pregnancy section of drug labels for the entire class of antipsychotic drugs. The new drug labels now contain more and consistent information about the potential risk for abnormal muscle movements (extrapyramidal signs or EPS) and withdrawal symptoms in newborns whose mothers were treated with these drugs during the third trimester of pregnancy.

For details, see

Important: Do not stop taking your antipsychotic medication if you become pregnant. Consult your healthcare professional before making any changes to your medication. Abruptly stopping antipsychotic medication can cause significant complications in your treatment.

Photo by Frank de Kleine, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

Treating Bipolar Disorder with a Dose of Comedy

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

bipolar and comedyJust read an article out of Glasgow, Scotland entitled “Laughter’s the Best Medicine,” about an interesting supplemental treatment for bipolar disorder and other illnesses – comedy courses.

According to the article, a Glasgow-based charity organization won a three-year £62,500 (approximately $100,000) grant from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation to “provide free comedy courses aimed at improving confidence and self-esteem, as well as reducing the social isolation and depression, that ill health – mental and physical – can cause.”

I’m not sure how effective this would be in treating acute bipolar symptoms, but it certainly sounds like a great way recover from the fallout and remove a major stressor – the social isolation that often rides the tail of a major mood episode.

What I wonder is, would insurance cover this? Maybe I’ll call just to hear them laugh.

Photo by Cristiano Betta, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

Social Security and Disability Resource Center

Friday, February 18th, 2011

resources for seniorsOne of our readers recommended that we include a link to the Social Security and Disability Resource Center. We checked it out, and it seems to contain some valuable content. Here’s a description of the site from our reader:

The Social Security and Disability Resource Center website provides answers to questions concerning how to apply for disability, how to appeal a claim in the event of a denial, how to navigate the federal system, and how to avoid certain mistakes that are commonly made by applicants filing for either SSD (social security disability) or SSI (supplemental security income) benefits.

Specifically, she thought our readers would find the article “Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?” relevant.

We’re also adding the link to our Blogroll (on the left), so you have convenient access to it on return visits.

Photo by First Baptist, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

Rejection Sensitivity Study Reinforces Biological Basis of Bipolar Depression Symptoms

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

rejection sensitivityRejection sensitivity is a psychological condition that causes a person to feel oversensitive to rejection or perceived rejection in relationships and social interactions. An individual with rejection sensitivity may perceive an unintentional snub or even being made to wait as deliberate rejection and feel severe, painful anxiety and perhaps even anger as a result. Appearance-based rejection sensitivity may contribute to eating disorders (see “Sensitivity to Rejection Can Be Dangerous” on PsychCentral).

What drew my attention recently to rejection sensitivity was an article in this month’s edition of the journal Bipolar Disorder based on a study entitled “Pain during depression and relationship to rejection sensitivity” (Ehnvall A, Mitchell PB, Hadzi-Pavlovic D, Malhi GS, Parker G.). These researchers looked into the relationship between severe, treatment-resistant bipolar depression, pain, and rejection sensitivity.

Making Bipolar a Smaller Part of Your Life

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

bipolar as a small part of lifeAt times, I become resentful that bipolar disorder occupies any part of my life, but because it does and because writing about is one of the things I do, I sort of accept that it’s going to occupy a corner in my mind.

Some time ago, when Candida and I were having trouble cooking up ideas for blog posts, I asked my wife Cecie to help us drum up some topic ideas. Soon, we were talking about bipolar disorder every day. We read books, articles, and research studies about bipolar. We even watched a couple movies and videos. I began to notice that when friends or family members asked what we had been up to lately, the topic turned to bipolar disorder.

Book Review: The Family ADHD Solution

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

I know this is Bipolar Beat and not ADHD Beat, but a close colleague of mine just published a book that I think is one of the best for helping families deal with ADHD, and I wanted to post about it to spread the word.

Mark Bertin MD is the author of The Family ADHD Solution (Palgrave Macmillan) which blends the science of ADHD and brain development into remarkably powerful tools for families and children living with this disorder. ADHD is a common and enormously challenging neurological disorder of the brain that disrupts children’s’ and family’s lives every day. In the first part of the book, Dr. Bertin presents the most current scientific understanding of ADHD in an accessible, useful discussion – efficiently cutting through a lot of the misunderstandings and distortions that surround this diagnosis.

Sorting Out Childhood Bipolar and ADHD with Brain Imaging

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

childhood bipolar and ADHDA big challenge in diagnosing bipolar disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), especially in children, is that the two disorders share behavioral symptoms, including impulsivity, irritability, and attention problems.

Unfortunately, they don’t share treatment protocols; if the diagnosis is wrong, treatment may be counterproductive. Stimulants, like Ritalin, which are effective in treating ADHD can make a child with bipolar disorder more manic. Giving a mood stabilizer, like Tegretol, to a child with ADHD may result in little or no improvement or severe side effects. Getting the diagnosis right is the key to effective treatment.

Understanding Psychosis, Hallucinations, and Delusions

Friday, February 4th, 2011

understanding psychology termsIn Wednesday’s post, “Childhood Trauma Linked to Psychosis: Maybe Not,” I introduced a few terms and concepts that many people seem to wrestle with. In this post, I try to clarify the terminology and explain some of the concepts related to psychosis, hallucinations, and delusions.


Psychosis is defined as an abnormality of thoughts (content) or thinking (process). Psychosis is not a diagnosis in itself but a type of psychiatric symptom that occurs in a variety of diagnoses, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Schizophrenia is primarily a disorder of thinking – psychotic symptoms are the main presenting symptoms. Depressive or manic episodes sometimes include psychotic symptoms, but not always. Certain drugs such as LSD, mushrooms, and other psychedelics can also cause psychotic symptoms.

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Candida Fink, M.D. and Joe Kraynak are authors of
Bipolar Disorder for Dummies.

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