Archives for October, 2011

Anxiety and Panic

Mental Health First Aid for Partners and Families

What if rendering help to others in a mental health crisis was as widely accepted as giving CPR to someone in cardiac arrest or doing the Heimlich maneuver when someone is choking?

Mental Health First Aid USA envisions that what they call "Mental Health First Aid" will become as common as CPR and first aid training during the next decade.

According to their website, through their 12-hour course, participants learn:

The potential risk factors and warning signs for a range of mental health problems, including: depression, anxiety/trauma, psychosis, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and self-injury
An understanding of the prevalence of various mental health disorders in the U.S. and the need for reduced stigma in their communities
A 5-step action plan encompassing the skills, resources and knowledge to assess the situation, to select and implement appropriate interventions, and to help the individual in crisis connect with appropriate professional care
The evidence-based professional, peer, social, and self-help resources available to help someone with a mental health problem.

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When Your Partner Is On Suboxone

The good news: your partner is getting help for their drug addiction to opioids (vicodin, oxycontin, oxycodone, percocet, morphine, fentanyl, dilaudid, heroin, opium, or any other opiate).

The not-so-good news: this is a long process, and is not easy. You and your partner have likely been through many rough times to get to the point where they were willing to seek treatment, but getting help doesn't mean the addiction is resolved immediately.

If your partner was addicted to pain killers or heroin, suboxone is often the drug of choice to help your partner break the addiction. Suboxone treatment is different from going "cold turkey"--which can be extremely dangerous--or from methadone maintenance, which requires your partner to present to a clinic every day to receive the medication. Suboxone is available to be dispensed by a pharmacy, and your partner can take it at home. It is also unlikely to be abused, like methadone can, because of how it works in the brain.

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After Partner Suicide: Healing the Heart

A friend of mine and I were talking at dinner the other night about a recent Grand Rounds lecture at Duke. The speaker was an expert on suicide, also known as a "suicidologist." My friend and I both agreed that that title was not one either of us wanted on our business cards, but that there is such a need for a better understanding of what leads people to suicide. It is devastating when a loved one decides that committing suicide is the only answer to their problems. The thought that their loved ones will be better off without them could not be further from the truth, no matter how bad their problems may be.

According to the American Association for Suicidology (AAS), there are currently over 32,000 suicides annually in the USA. It is estimated that for every suicide there are at least six survivors. Some suicidologists believe this to be a very conservative estimate.

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Partners In Wellness with Joan Winifred

This Emotional Life: Info for Partners

A client recently introduced me to the PBS series This Emotional Life, which she had watched and shared with her husband. She said he found it helpful in understanding more about her depression. As you know, I'm all about helping the well partners better understand what's happening with their ill partners, so I wanted to share.

The website for the series explains their work this way:
In these difficult times, we are all struggling to live happier, more fulfilled lives. Happiness can seem elusive with today‘s common personal challenges, ranging from everyday stresses and difficulties at home, at work or at school, to more clinical conditions including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress or other conditions. It‘s often difficult to find the information and support we need. This Emotional Life examines 24 topics, offering videos, articles and blogs, and the opportunity to find local support.
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Post-Partum Depression: What’s Happening to My Partner?

Having a baby is supposed to be exciting and bring joy to your life. Sure, everyone knows the first few weeks of having a newborn at home brings sleep deprivation and trying to figure out how to handle this little person you've got now, but most people don't associate having a baby with severe depression and anxiety for the new mother.

Unfortunately, that's a huge problem.

Having "baby blues" immediately after giving birth is very common among new mothers, and includes feelings of anxiety, tearfulness, irritation and restlessness. These symptoms usually resolve a week or two after giving birth. It's when these symptoms don't resolve--or get worse--and it's been a month or more since the baby was born. This is when post-partum depression gets diagnosed.

How do you know if your partner is having post-partum depression?

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Anxiety and Panic

Is Your Partner Anxious or Depressed?

On Monday, I talked about how depression in men can look more like "grumpiness," masking what's really going on inside. Today, we'll discuss how anxiety and depression can often look similar, but there are some pretty clear distinctions that can help you figure out which problem your partner is having, and seek appropriate treatment for it.

Anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand. It is very common for someone to be diagnosed with both, which is called comorbidity. But it's still important to know which disorder is affecting your partner's life so that the treatment--whether it's medication or therapy or both--can be targeted to best address the symptoms.

For example, your partner may be both anxious and depressed, but if her anxiety symptoms are what is keeping her from being able to go to work and be productive, then that is what the treatment team would want to focus on first.

So, what's the difference between anxiety and depression?
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Is Your Man Grumpy or Depressed?

Men get the short end of the stick when it comes to being diagnosed with depression.

The current DSM criteria for depression can be manipulated 1,099 different ways in order to get a diagnosis, but some typical male symptoms of depression, such as irritability, angry outbursts, substance abuse, and risk-taking behavior are not listed.

Add in the fact that men in general seek mental health treatment in far fewer numbers than women, and even if they are screened for depression, under-report their symptoms, and there are a lot of untreated depressed men walking around out there, suffering needlessly.

How do you know if your partner is one of them?
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Six Self-Care Steps for Partners

A common theme for this blog is how important it is for well partners to practice self-care in order to survive the ups and downs of having a partner with mental illness.

How's that going for you?

Developing new habits and being deliberate about making healthy choices that support your well being is an ongoing effort. It's not a one-shot deal. No one else is going to wave the magic wand and make life easy, or eliminate all the excuses that are readily available.

You have to decide that you, your partner, and your relationship are worth it.

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Employment and Your Partner with ADHD

I wasn't terribly surprised this morning when my client with ADHD, whom I've been working with on and off since last spring, told me that her job search had lapsed since I last met with her in June. Given the state of the economy and the particular competitive field she is in, it's not exactly fun and motivating to look for employment right now. She has the best of intentions, but it just hadn't been happening.

The problem is, she has a family to help support and she's seeing strains in her relationship with her partner. When I asked what her thoughts were about how her partner might be feeling about her underemployment and lack of drive in searching for a new job, I heard a lot of "should" statements: he thinks she should have a better job, he thinks they should have more in savings, he thinks she should be doing more to contribute.

All of those are legitimate feelings.

But...he also has a partner with ADHD, and employment issues are a tricky subject. Just ask Zoe, one of our resident ADHD experts here on Psych Central, who has written several great posts on work from the perspective of someone with ADHD.

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World Mental Health Day: Partners in Wellness

Today is World Mental Health Day, and as you may have noticed, there are a lot of people discussing the broken mental health system in our country. It's a sad state of affairs from a large systems level, but it's also not great on the personal level, either.

As the partner of someone with mental illness, you probably found your way to this blog because you were looking for resources about how to handle your partner's illness. Didn't find a whole lot out there, did you? Not only are we as a mental health system not doing a good job of managing the needs of the clients, we're doing an even worse job of helping their families. So, educating yourself and advocating for your partner is extra important.

What is out there for us, the partners and families of loved ones with mental illness?

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