Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder in which the sufferer fluctuates between unusually acute episodes of mania and depression; these episodes can last for up to several weeks at a time and can impede normal life. During mania, an individual may feel unusually energetic, elated, impulsive or agitated; depressive episodes can be mild or severe. In addition to mood swings, persons suffering from bipolar disorder fluctuate in energy levels and motivation.
One of the most common myths about bipolar disorder is that it is merely a psychological excuse for ‘moodiness.’ But unlike ordinary mood swings, bipolar episodes can persist for weeks at a time and can significantly interrupt the sufferer’s life. Another common belief is that bipolar only affects mood: in reality, this condition disrupts a sufferer’s overall functioning, including energy, motivation, and cognitive processes. Many people also assume that mania is enjoyable, when in truth manic episodes are destabilizing, anxiety producing, and even dangerous to overall health.
Because there is no known cure for bipolar disorder, the goal for treatment is to gain better control over mood swings and other symptoms. The most effective treatment plans will combine medication with psychotherapy. Counseling for bipolar disorder often focuses on psycho-education to help sufferers better understand their condition and learn how to cope with its unique challenges. Therapy also offers sufferers a place to identify mood triggers, break destructive cycles of thought, and develop positive self-esteem.
Bipolar disorder puts an enormous strain on relationships. Caring for someone with bipolar is stressful, and loved ones often find it difficult to remember that the sufferer’s moods and actions cannot always be controlled. Yet sufferers need a strong support network in order to cope effectively with their condition. Whether you are a family member, friend, or spouse, learning to love someone with bipolar disorder is a stressful experience that takes practice and patience.
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You may find it strange to hear that anxiety is a surprisingly complex emotion with many possible causes and manifestations. If you’ve lived with anxiety for a long time and never asked yourself about it, it may seem like just the way you are, a simple state of being.
Anxiety is not our normal state, however. It has causes and symptoms that can be addressed, and can be reduced and managed over time. We don’t have to just accept it.
Like pain, anxiety is intended to be a beneficial, healthy part of our normal function. You have probably heard of the “fight or flight” response. This is our sympathetic nervous system telling us what to do in a crisis.
Imagine walking into a dark room in your basement. Out of the corner of your eye you catch a glimpse of an animal shape on a shelf at eye level, the perfect spot from which to pounce on unsuspecting prey. You hastily flip on the light and are greeted by the sight of your beloved stuffed teddy bear.
In that moment between the glimpse and flipping on the light, your body went into high alert, adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormone) pumping, readying your body to either run for it, or grapple with the beast to the death.
When the absence of a threat was revealed, the first thing you did was take a deep breath and blow it out. This signaled...Read More
Imagine that you are sitting in a sailboat. Looking out at the water, you envision where you want to go. You set the rudder, lift the anchor, put up the sails and away you go. If the wind is strong, you can move quickly to your destination. Perhaps the wind picks up and up and you’re suddenly feeling less like a sailor and more like a pilot. The wind is carrying you faster and faster and this has become an incredibly fun thrill ride! You look down at the water and enjoy watching the waves go by as you speedily fly atop the waves, nothing holding you back. However, the wind eventually dies down. After some time, it crawls to a stop and you are stuck.
With no wind in your sails, you float in the ocean all alone. You feel isolated. You look at your boat and realize that that high speed thrill ride you were on a short while ago left your hull damaged, chunks of wood flown off, and you neglected basic maintenance for some time. Perhaps you try blowing into the sails, but nothing can get your boat going again.
Eventually, the winds pick up and once again you’re flying. But soon they die and again you’re stuck. This process goes on and on for some time. It wears on you, and you never get where you wanted to go in the first place. Ultimately, you are at the whims of the wind.
This can be what it is...Read More
As I write, I am alone in my office, just a couple of days before Christmas. My adult children have come home from college and I wonder how I survived without their advice and opinions. Our usually quiet evenings have been replaced by sibling rivalry, holiday preparation, and abundant conversation. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is good to have them home and I am enjoying their company. But that wonderful and much-needed presence has again come for a visit – quietness. Oh how I love it… And how I need it. My thought lately has been that I cannot be the man I should unless I make time for quiet. Stillness is an essential part of our growing deeper as we grow older. It is the security of being comfortable with ourselves and alone with our thoughts. It is an opportunity to refocus and to listen to our hearts and to that still small voice. Or, as someone once said, “We will not become men of God without the presence of solitude.”
Those words haunt me when I get caught up in the treadmill of time and schedules, and the deadline of demands. Does this sound familiar? I fail to coast in neutral and instead find myself to often in overdrive. Thanks to Alka Seltzer, Excedrin, energy drinks, and Sleep Eze, we are able to repeat our nonproductive haste with continual regularity. What do our nervous systems need...Read More