Are you catching a mental illness?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Mental Health or Mental Illness

Mental Health or Mental Illness?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How would you know if you were becoming mentally or emotionally sick?

Some mornings I wake up a little out of sorts. Maybe a cough, maybe a headache, or just a general feeling of tiredness. Am I getting a cold or flu or is this just a difficult morning? This is the allergy season, or maybe it is the cold and flu season, am I coming down with something? I hope not.

There is this morning routine, for me, it is mostly the same each day. Hit the bathroom, comb my teeth, and brush my hair, no wait, that should be the other way around. Maybe just brush them both. Then I take my vitamins and an allergy pill and hope the headache or other symptoms will go away. Blowing my nose, that might help also. You get the idea of my routine? Lastly, I feed and water my cat and slow down long enough to pet her a few times.

But if, after a while, I am not feeling better, say after my morning coffee and some light breakfast. Now I am thinking maybe I am getting sick. If by mid-day I am still coughing sneezing and feeling tired something is surely wrong.

What would happen if I were developing a mental or emotional disorder? Would I know? Do you?

This does not mean that you could catch a mental illness from someone the way you might catch a cold. We know of no germ that will get you mentally ill. Hanging out with someone who has schizophrenia will not give it to you. Being around someone with Bipolar Disorder will not make you Bipolar. Being “stressed out” or living an unhealthy lifestyle, that may put you at an added risk to develop a mental illness, however.

We believe that there are things that you might do to wear your body out and increase your risk of a physical illness, staying up to late, not enough sleep, poor diet, and being in unhealthy surroundings all increase your risk of getting a cold. Taking good care of your physical body will reduce your risk of physical illnesses. But you might do everything right and still catch a cold. Same thing is true of depression, anxiety, stress-related disorders, and a lot of other emotional and mental illnesses.

If I am sneezing, coughing, have headaches and so on I am thinking cold. There are certain signs and symptoms that should make me think maybe I am developing an emotional problem. Remember my daily routine above? The last thing I do before I start my day is feed, water, and pet the cat. If I forget to do this, or just do not feel like doing it one morning, this is, for me, a sign that I am not mentally at my best.

These signs and symptoms are different for everyone. How would you know if you are having a good day? How would you know if you are having a bad day?

Being a professionally trained person I know and could rattle off the symptoms of a number of mental disorders. For me, they are relatively easy to spot during an initial assessment interview. But let them happen to me personally and I may not notice these signs till it is way too late. Remember that mental health professionals are not immune to stress, anxiety, and depression. We should know tools to work on those things if they ever happen to us, but most professionals, like other people, don’t always spot those instances in ourselves until someone else notices them.

One thing that is very helpful is to take a look at your life, daily and maybe in longer increments. What do you do when feeling emotionally at your best and what are you like when you are getting less well?

By knowing what you are like on a good day and then what you are like when things are headed in the wrong direction you are in a better position to do something about those off days before they become stretches of mental illnesses.

If you want more information on this topic, how to get and stay mentally well. Take a look at the works of Mary Ellen Copeland. Her WRAP (Wellness and Recovery Action Planning) program includes lots of material on this and many other areas of life.

WRAP has come from the consumer movement. People who have had a diagnosed mental illness and have recovered. People who have been brave enough to talk about their recovery. This information has influenced the direction of professional treatment. Professionals like Kay Redfield-Jamison who have openly talked about having a mental illness have also impacted the view we take of treatment for mental illnesses.

There was a time when professionals thought that once you had a mental illness, that was it, your life now needed to be turned over to others to control. We know now that throughout the lifespan people can become less well or they can become more well and that there is this thing that we now call the wellness and recovery continuum.

My suggestion to those of you who have read this far is to educate yourself about mental health and wellness and see if there aren’t things you can do to improve your mental health no matter where you may be on that wellness and recovery continuum.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

February 2012 – Best of Blog Recap

Counselorssoapbox.com

Here it is – The Best of Blog Recap for February 2012 –

Thanks, some more to all of you that read this blog. This has been the most read month ever for the counselorssoapbox blog. Hope some of the things I have written have been helpful and thought-provoking. Feel free to comment and especially pass along the link to anyone you think might want to read this effort.

This month there were a few days with no post but when we reached the month end there were more posts than I had originally planned. We will see what the next month holds.

Here are the top read blog posts of the last month.

1. Do drugs cause mental illness?

2. How does therapy help people?

3. How many mental illnesses are there?

4. How much should you tell a therapist?

The all-time top read posts were:

1. How does therapy help people?

2. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD and bouncing back from adversity

3. Do drugs cause mental illness?

4. Treatment for teens risky Behavior

Over time lots of you have viewed the home page and “about the author” page also.

Thanks to all my readers new and old.

Next month we will explore some other topics and see what we come up with.

Till next time, David Miller, LMFT, NCC

Bipolar – misdiagnosed or missing diagnosis?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Person with masks

Bipolar.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder.

Why is it so hard for people with Bipolar Disorder to get diagnosed and treated? For mental and emotional problems, the sooner the diagnosis, the sooner the treatment begins, the less the suffering. The more entrenched the illness the longer and more difficult the recovery. We continue to have difficulty with Bipolar Disorder. Why?

Almost 70% of people with a Bipolar Diagnosis had another diagnosis first. On average they get four other diagnoses before the Bipolar one. Usually, somewhere along the line, they are diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, given an anti-depressant. At this point, on an antidepressant, 40% of clients with Bipolar experience an episode of mania or hypomania. Antidepressants given to people with Bipolar disorder also increase the likelihood they will become rapid cyclers.

Our understanding of this condition has changed over the years. To be honest the mental health profession’s understanding of most illnesses has changed a lot over the years. We used to call Bipolar Disorder by another name – Manic Depressive disorder. Clients continue to come into facilities and tell us that they have Manic Depressive Disorder and Bipolar, not understanding that both are the same thing, just a new name.

Currently, there are two principle camps in this debate – those who think too many people are being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and those who think that professionals are missing a lot of Bipolar Disorder. The controversy goes back to the first efforts at classifying anything, the lumpers, and the splitters. Some people would like a different name for every possible type of dog; other people are content to consider them all dogs, the same with mental illnesses. So what difference does it make? It could make a lot of difference.

Ira Glick, up at Stanford wrote an article a while back called Undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder: New Syndromes and New Treatments. This is not a really new article but it is important as we think about how the diagnosis is likely to change in the next few years when the DSM-5 comes out. Glick suggests that the true rate of Bipolar may be as much more than what is being diagnosed. We used to expect Bipolar Disorder to run 1% to 2 % of the population; recently it has been diagnosed closer to 7%.

We are starting to think of this condition as a spectrum disorder. So there is a range of symptoms and the ones with less noticeable symptoms are not getting diagnosed.

Does it matter if some mild cases are getting missed and not treated? Yes, it matters and the clients with the less prominent symptoms are not necessarily milder cases. Currently, we separate cases into Bipolar I and Bipolar II.  People who have Bipolar II don’t have pronounced episodes of mania. They do have other significant differences.

People with Bipolar II have way more unemployment. They get divorced more often; have more thoughts of suicide and more suicide attempts. This one disorder, according to Glick, accounts for more suicide attempts than any other mental illness, excluding personality disorders. This is a big problem since Bipolar II looks like Major Depression until the mania or hypomania kicks in.

Many people who eventually get the Bipolar Diagnosis are first seen by their primary care physician. Primary care doctors treat more than half of all the depression and anxiety. There are a lot of medical problems that are especially problematic for people with Bipolar Disorder. People with bipolar disorder are more likely to have migraines, diabetes, or obesity.

Medications for people with Bipolar are especially problematic. People with Bipolar II get antidepressants till they have a manic episode then they may get all sorts of meds. People with Bipolar I have the more pronounced psychosis and may get all kinds of heavy-duty antipsychotics. Sometimes people with depression have distorted thinking and we see psychosis. Sometimes the psychosis in Bipolar II looks a lot like Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective disorder, and a lot of other things.

We are also not sure how much of all this is a result of genetics and how much is learning. Some authors have talked about how personality traits, those supposed unchanging characteristic ways of behaving may be related to Bipolar Disorder.

In fact, there is some question as to which mental health issues are district illnesses and which are symptoms. A cough is easy to notice but what causes the cough can vary a lot from person to person.

Despite all the issues with diagnosis, Bipolar disorder in all its forms causes a significant amount of suffering. It is also a difficult disorder to manage for the client and for the professional. If there is a chance you or someone you know has this disorder get a professional evaluation. If you have Bipolar disorder become a knowledgeable client, and don’t give up hope, the treatment options continue to improve.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel