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Our Mental Health Blogs

Did Orlando Shooter Mateen Have Bipolar Disorder?

Did Orlando Shooter Mateen Have Bipolar Disorder?

It is being widely reported in the media that Orlando shooter Omar Mateen had bipolar disorder, but do we really know if Mateen had bipolar disorder (What Is Bipolar Disorder)? Where did this information come from and should we really believe it or is it just media sensationalism? After all, every mass shooter seems to be designated some mental illness; is it just bipolar’s turn?

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Why Mindfulness Doesn’t Help My Bipolar Disorder

Why Mindfulness Doesn’t Help My Bipolar Disorder

Mindfulness doesn’t help my bipolar disorder. I’m sorry; I know advocates aren’t supposed to say that kind of thing. I know we’re all supposed to get behind the new, fashionable therapies and tell everyone to do them (but heaven forbid we do the same with psychiatry) but this is one that I think has some major holes in it, particularly for people with serious mental illness. Please understand, mindfulness as a therapy might work for you but here’s why mindfulness doesn’t help my bipolar disorder at all.

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If You Keep Yourself Busy, You Won’t Be Depressed?

If You Keep Yourself Busy, You Won’t Be Depressed?

Twice lately I have heard people say that the secret to curing depression is just keeping yourself wickedly busy. If you’re busy enough, they say, you’ll have no time to be depressed.

(I didn’t realize that one needed to book an appointment for depression.)

This, of course, is absolutely hogwash and just one of the dumb ideas that people with no experience with major depression have. It’s just one of the ideas we have to politely roll our eyes at and then get on with the business of actually treating our depressions.

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Are People with Bipolar Disorder Just “Moody?”

Are People with Bipolar Disorder Just “Moody?”

Bipolar moods vary in duration by person but typically, an untreated bipolar mood can last months or even years. All a bipolar disorder diagnosis requires is the presence of one manic/hypomanic mood episode and one depressed mood episode. This means that a person could be in a year-long depression and have only experienced one week of mania, a year ago, and still qualify for a bipolar diagnosis.

This is much to the surprise of many as there is a pervasive belief that bipolar disorder is about frequent “mood swings.” However, simply “being moody” is not indicative of bipolar disorder.

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Taking “Antipsychotics” Makes You Sound Particularly Crazy

Taking “Antipsychotics” Makes You Sound Particularly Crazy

I wish someone had asked me before naming a class of drugs “antipsychotics.” I mean, I understand that to psychiatrists it might not be a big deal, but to the medication-taking public out here, let me just say that the stigma around medication is about 10-fold when you say you’re on something called an “antipsychotic.”

Tell someone that you’re on “antipsychotics” sometime and watch them back away slowly. I’m not kidding. It’s like they think an axe is about to magically materialize and you’re about to use it to chop off their head.*

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Why People Think Mental Illness is “All in Your Head”

Why People Think Mental Illness is “All in Your Head”

We’ve all heard it – the condescending notion that bipolar disorder, depression or another mental illness is “all in our heads.” This is the notion that we are not ill and that we simply think we are ill. If we stopped believing we had a mental illness, we would stop having one.

Naturally, this is hogwash. But science and medicine can’t seem to convince people out of this illogical notion and I think that’s because people have their own psychological reasons for wanting to believe that mental illness is “all in our heads.” Mostly, it’s fear.

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Talking to Critics of Psychiatry (Antipsychiatrists)

Talking to Critics of Psychiatry (Antipsychiatrists)

One of the challenging things about being a person with a mental illness who talks about psychiatry (and doesn’t hate it) is that all those people who do hate psychiatry perk up and get mad. These people often identify as “antipsychiatrists” and I’m not their biggest fan. While I consider it quite reasonable to question your doctor, psychiatrist, treatment, therapist and other treatment aspects, I consider going after an entire branch of medicine ridiculous. There is no “antioncology” faction in spite of the fact that a large percentage of people with cancer die (depending on the type, of course).

And this manifests in many of our lives. It’s not that antipsychiatrists just attack me; it’s that people of that mindset attack your average person who is just trying to deal with a mental illness. It’s the people who say, “mental illness doesn’t really exist” or “psychiatric medicine doesn’t work” or many other things that many of us hear online and in our real lives all the time.

So how do you talk to these people who have decided that your disease doesn’t exist and you shouldn’t be in treatment?

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Help – I’m Depressed but I’m Scared of Taking Antidepressants

Help – I’m Depressed but I’m Scared of Taking Antidepressants

I remember, before trying medication, I was terrified of it. I had the same misconceptions that many people do:

  • Medication is for weak people
  • Antidepressants are just “happy drugs” designed for people who can’t handle life
  • Medication will ruin your brain
  • Doctors give out antidepressants like candy whether you need them or not

As it turns out, none of these things are true, but they sure seemed true at the time.

So I get fear of antidepressants and other medication. Psych medication is scary stuff.

But sometimes you have to face that fear in order to get better.

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Why I Refuse to Read Anatomy of an Epidemic

Why I Refuse to Read Anatomy of an Epidemic

Many people here have read Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America (New York: Crown Publishers). And some of these people will likely claim that the book changed their lives or, at the very least, their view of psychiatry and psychiatric medication.

Well. Ho there. You would think with such a ground-breaking book I would be all over it.

Guess again.

I refuse to read Anatomy of an Epidemic. And yes, some people will fault me for this. But I have a good reason. I refuse to read Anatomy of an Epidemic as I have no desire to be outraged at a misunderstanding of science for 416 pages.

The Poster Child: Robert Whitaker

Robert Whitaker is the poster-child for antipsychiatry, which is his prerogative. If he enjoys talking to throngs of antipsychiatrists then I say, better him than me.

And part of his criticism of psychiatry is well-deserved. I would say that being concerned with the use, and possibly overuse, of some medications and the prescribing of heavy psychotropic medications to children is quite warranted. I take no issue with the fact that debate and concern is appropriate here.

What I do take concern with is his contention that psychiatric medication actually worsens treatment outcomes and causes disability. This is the reason why antipsychiatrits love him and it’s the reason I probably couldn’t stand to be in the same room as him.

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My Bipolar Treatment is Not Your Bipolar Treatment – And That’s OK

My Bipolar Treatment is Not Your Bipolar Treatment – And That’s OK

I once wrote a post called, My Bipolar Symptoms Aren’t Your Symptoms: I’m More Bipolar Than You. The point of the post is that two people can experience bipolar disorder very differently. Even when two people meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder, their individual list of symptoms can be quite different. One might be expansive when manic, the other might be irritable. One might sleep too much when depressed, the other might sleep too little. And so on and so forth. Neither one of them is the “right” kind of bipolar and neither one of them is “more” bipolar, they are simply suffering from the same illness differently.

Similarly, treatments are also individual. What works for one person simply doesn’t work for another. And that’s OK.

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