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 Marcia Purse

Bipolar Disorder Blog


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Richard Dreyfuss - Bipolar is just part of me

Tuesday April 22, 2014
Richard Dreyfuss early in his career
Richard Dreyfuss early in his career
John Minihan / Getty Images

When young Richard Dreyfuss, in a haze of drugs and alcohol, drove his car into a tree, he probably didn't realize that he was self-medicating for the symptoms of bipolar disorder he'd had since at least his early teens. He certainly didn't think it would derail his film career - but that's what happened. It would be many years before he was properly diagnosed, and when he was, he found it a blessing, because it explained so much.
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The method of my madness...

Tuesday April 22, 2014
by Michael (Akikaze)

I cried out in the morning
My echo returned, singing the glories of the new dawn
Ecstasy and exultation
Bells pealed in raucous celebration
Welcoming Eden
Flowers strewn across the path
By dancers on parade

I cried out in the afternoon
An echo returned, muffled in approaching storm clouds
Anxiety and anticipation
Bells rang a dire warning
And fog encompassed Paradise
Fearful children clogged the path
Refugees on parade

I cried out during the night
No echo returned. A shout in deafening silence.
Misery and madness
Bells tolled in anguished mourning
A dirge played in Hell
Ashes dust the empty path
Ghosts on parade.

Michael (Akikaze) is a member of our Bipolar Disorder community, and originally posted this poem in our Forum.

Visit the Creative Expressions Forum.

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Evidence Shows Bipolar II is as Disabling as Bipolar I - For Different Reasons

Tuesday April 22, 2014
Bipolar I and IIIt's pretty common to think of bipolar II disorder as being a "less serious" illness than bipolar I, but Drs. Holly A. Swartz, and Michael E. Thase concluded differently. According to their article in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, bipolar II "is at least as disabling as bipolar I disorder." The reasons given are that people with bipolar II:
  • Experience a more chronic course of illness,
  • Have more lifetime days spent depressed, and
  • Have a lower probability of returning to prior levels of functioning between episodes
than those with bipolar I disorder.

If you're diagnosed with bipolar II, does this analysis change the way you think about your illness, or just seem to confirm what you felt about it already? Many people have already shared their thoughts - what are yours?

Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar II Disorder
Differences Between Bipolar I and Bipolar II

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Reader Says Bipolar Is a Myth

Tuesday April 8, 2014
Nearly two years ago, now, a reader named Beidoj left this comment on the blog What Is Dysphoric Mania?. A lot of you replied to this blog already, but enough time has passed that I think it's worthwhile to give newer readers - or those who missed this at the time - a chance to react. Beidoj said:
Bipolar is a myth! Every symptom of Bipolar is a natural human trait which has simply been blown out of proportion to what society believes is normal. Every human being has the potential to be labelled with Bipolar and many are being labelled with it just because they don't conform to the "norm."
Manic satyr in mythologyMental illness is more often than not caused by trauma (both physical and mental) or actual brain damage. Bipolar is not a mental illness, it is a label given to people who find it hard to cope with themselves, need attention and are who want to be cared for and controlled by medication. People are just individuals trying to belong in a sociological system controlled by conformist who want us all not to buck their system.


Hypomanic - I don't need to sleep, so why should I?

Monday April 7, 2014
Woohoo! Hypomania!
When I woke up the morning after taking a prescribed sleep medication for the first time, I nearly cried with joy: it was the first good night's sleep I'd had in 20 years. So you can see that I need help to sleep properly. Without meds it can take me an hour to fall asleep, and then I wake up over and over and am unrefreshed in the morning. I love my sleep meds - BUT...

Along comes hypomania, a rare occurrence for me. It didn't last long, but at its peak, I was so full of energy that the last thing I wanted to do was take my sleepy pills and break the mood.

My doctor, not surprisingly, didn't approve. I discussed this with the Facebook community, and they had plenty to say: Photo: Digital Vision / Getty Images
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Buying Medications Online? Think Again

Tuesday April 1, 2014
No Prescription NecessaryMost of the time, buying medications online just isn't safe.

When the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy reviewed a large sample of online pharmacies, it found that only 3 percent were in compliance with U.S. pharmacy laws and practice standards. Worse yet, says the FDA, it isn't always easy to tell a fake site from one that is legitimate.

The consequences of purchasing drugs over the internet can be serious. The FDA says, "The drugs you receive may look real, but they could be counterfeit, contaminated, expired or otherwise unsafe. If you receive counterfeit or substandard medicines, they could keep you from getting better, make you sick or worse."

Since even approved generic drugs can sometimes cause problems to individual patients, think how much worse those problems can be from a fake or adulterated drug!


Men over 45 more likely to father children with mental illnesses

Tuesday March 25, 2014
A recently published study supports previous research that the risk of having a child who develops a mental illness is increased when the father is over 45. Bipolar disorder is one of the specific conditions that occurs more frequently in children whose fathers were older at the time of conception.

Conducted in Sweden, the study looked at more than 2 million families. The researchers compared, for example, siblings who were born before and after their fathers turned 45, to determine whether mental illnesses were more prevalent in the younger children than the older. Based on these and other findings, it became clear that the age of the father plays a significant role in the risk of mental illnesses in his children. What about you, or your children who have bipolar? Was your, or their, father 45 or older at conception? (My father was not, by the way, but there is a history of mental disorders on both sides of my family.)

Photo: Nasir Khan / Morguefile
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Autism more likely when a parent has schizophrenia or bipolar disorder

Tuesday March 18, 2014
In 2012, in the first large-scale research of its kind, researchers who looked at three studies with data from Israel, Sweden, and Stockholm County within Sweden, found an almost three times higher than average risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in children who have at least one parent with schizophrenia, and 2.6 times greater when a sibling has schizophrenia.

A child was almost twice as likely to have an ASD when a parent had bipolar disorder, and 1.6 times more likely if there was a sibling with bipolar.


Self-Test for Bipolar Mania

Tuesday March 18, 2014
Take the testDo you suspect you might be in the throes of a manic episode, or have had one in the past? Take this test to help you determine whether the mood is manic or not.

This isn't a scientific test - it's meant to give you information you can then take to a doctor, psychiatrist, counselor or other medical or mental health professional.

Use the results wisely! Mania, or a history of mania, requires immediate contact with a doctor. And even if your score doesn't indicate mania, the presence of several symptoms is a reason to seek professional help as soon as possible.

Mania Self-Test

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About Valium - Early Tranquilizer, Still Prescribed

Tuesday March 11, 2014
Back in the 1960s and 70s Valium was called "mother's little helper." It was "prescribed in vast quantities" by doctors to women (mothers and non-mothers) for anxiety, tension, you name it.

Today Valium is still prescribed, most often as the generic version diazepam. A friend of mine is taking it for severe muscle spasms. It can indeed be effective for treating anxiety. And unfortunately, it's often sold illegally. Because abuse or prolonged use can lead to addiction, Valium is a Class 4 controlled substance in the US, and patients can't get refills - they have to have a new prescription each month.

Anxiety and muscle spasms aren't the only uses for diazepam, and there are some important cautions and warnings. Here's an in-depth look at Valium/diazepam.

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New Antipsychotic Drug Latuda Better for Your Weight

Tuesday March 11, 2014
Latuda, a fairly new antipsychotic, has been shown to be effective in treating schizophrenia and has now been approved for use in bipolar depression. The three other atypical antipsychotics - Seroquel, Zyprexa and Symbyax - that are already approved for bipolar depression all have problems with side effects - particularly on weight gain and the related metabolic issues of increased blood glucose and elevated cholesterol and triglycerides.

Latuda, by contrast, is considered weight neutral.

Opinion: Kerry Kennedy and Drugged Driving - Not Guilty

Saturday March 1, 2014
Kerry Kennedy
Kerry Kennedy
Drew Angerer / Getty Images
I rarely post Opinion blogs, but this case struck a nerve. I have some insight into the case of Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, who went on trial for drugged driving and yesterday was acquitted by the jury. Kennedy began driving erratically while driving on a highway, eventually hitting a tractor-trailer and continuing to drive. She said she mistook one bottle of pills for another that morning, taking zolpidem (brand name Ambien) instead of her thyroid medicine, and had no idea she was impaired at the time.

The prosecution argued that she must have known something was wrong and should have pulled over as soon as she did. Based on my experience, I know the prosecution was wrong. Read More...

Bipolar Disorder and School Performance Linked

Friday February 28, 2014
Girl playing pianoA study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in February 2010 found that students aged 15-16 who got excellent grades were four times as likely to develop bipolar disorder than those receiving average grades. In the group with excellent grades, boys were more likely than girls to develop the illness. According to a report on the study in the Telegraph, the link was strongest in children whose grades for language and music were high.

The Telegraph quoted the study's authors as giving several possible explanations for these results: "First, people in a state of hypomania, a mild period of mania or elevated mood, can often be witty and inventive, and able to link ideas in innovative ways.


Generic Cymbalta - Is Duloxetine Safe?

Friday February 28, 2014
Medication Safety UpdateIn December of 2013 the US Food and Drug Administration approved a generic version of the antidepressant Cymbalta. As the manufacturer's patent expires and the cheaper generic becomes available, it's good news for many. Cymbalta is expensive! (I know, because I take it, and it's the costliest drug in my medication arsenal.)

But close on the heels of this approval comes word from Australia that there have been 21 confirmed cases where patients taking duloxetine - already in use there - in doses from 30 to 120mg/day developed the dangerous condition called serotonin syndrome. In ten additional cases Read More...

Weight Loss Drugs Qsymia and Belviq - Are They Safe in Bipolar Disorder?

Tuesday February 25, 2014
The news in 2012 that the FDA had approved not one but two new medications to help with weight loss was extremely exciting to overweight and obese people in the US. Belviq and Qsymia work quite differently, too, so that if one doesn't work for a patient, the other still might. Good news! But...

For people with depression and bipolar disorder, there are some factors that need careful judgment and consideration. Belviq works on one of the same neurotransmitter systems as many antidepressant drugs, while Qsymia contains both a stimulant and a medication, Topamax, that is already being used by some patients as a mood stabilizer. For this reason, drug interactions may be more likely between either of these drugs and meds taken for mood disorders.

There's nothing to say that people with bipolar can't take either of these new drugs to help with weight loss, but care is needed. Find out if Belviq and Qsymia are safe for you.

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Geodon Is Less Effective for the Obese, Hyperglycemic

Tuesday February 25, 2014
Geodon (ziprasidone), an atypical antipsychotic often prescribed for patients with bipolar disorder, is far less likely to be effective in patients with a BMI of 28.8 or higher and/or a blood glucose level of 140mg/dL or higher (see What Your Blood Glucose Test Results Mean). What makes this news especially notable is that it came from a study funded by Pfizer, Geodon's manufacturer.

The study of 267 acutely manic patients over 3 weeks found that patients with a BMI below 28.8 were quite a bit more likely to respond to Geodon than their obese counterparts. And the difference was particularly dramatic regarding the blood sugar threshold - only 16% of patients with the higher glucose level responded to Geodon, while more than half of those with the lower level responded.

Ironically, Geodon is less likely to cause weight gain than several other antipsychotics such as Seroquel, Zyprexa and Abilify. Here's where Pfizer gets something good out of the study: the company is likely to use the results in encouraging doctors to prescribe Geodon sooner in a patient's treatment - to minimize weight gain in the first place.

The results underscore the importance of weight control in patients who need psychiatric medications. Studies are now urgently needed to determine whether other antipsychotics are also less effective in patients with higher BMI and/or blood glucose levels.

Though it's difficult, it's not impossible to lose weight while taking psychiatric medications. Read my review of two studies that found similar methods of managing diet and exercise were quite effective.

Picture: Hisayoshi Osawa / Getty Images

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Celebrity Biography - Thomas Eagleton's Disastrous Bipolar Disorder

Tuesday February 18, 2014
The year was 1972 and the Presidential election was coming. George McGovern had won the nomination, and his choice for a vice president was Senator Thomas Eagleton.

Thomas Eagleton and George McGovern in 1972But Eagleton had a secret - he'd been hospitalized for depression and treated with ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). Later he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

His secret didn't stay hidden for long after he was chosen as McGovern's running mate. Here's Eagleton's thought-provoking story. Read it and ask yourself - at what point does a mental illness become too much of a liability? Did his condition cross that line?

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Got Bipolar? You're at Risk for Metabolic Syndrome, Too

Tuesday February 18, 2014
Stomach fat a sign of metabolic syndromeA study found that people with bipolar disorder are up to twice as likely as the general population to have metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that increase your risk of heart problems, stroke and diabetes. The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, also found that "co-occurrence of metabolic syndrome in the bipolar population is associated with a more complex illness presentation, less favorable response to treatment, and adverse course and outcome." In other words, for people with bipolar disorder, both the bipolar and the metabolic syndrome are likely to be more serious and harder to treat.

Why are people with bipolar more likely to have metabolic syndrome? Read More...

Defining Mental Illness

Tuesday February 11, 2014
Definitions of mental illness are far ranging. One PhD says, "The term 'mental illness' stereotypes what most of the time are simply bad habits." Right, tell that to someone in the throes of a severe cyclical depression or a psychotic episode!

I have my own definition of "mental illness" and you probably do, too. Read what I've found out on the subject and take the opportunity to share your own thoughts at the end. Reference: Luciano, J. Throwing Out the Concept of Mental Illness. Healthy Living NYC. 2010
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Funny or Offensive? You be the judge

Tuesday January 28, 2014
Funny or offensive?A picture like this showed up in my Facebook feed, and I admit I chuckled, but for many, it was no laughing matter - far from it. When I posted the image to the About Bipolar Disorder Facebook page and asked how people felt about it, there was a very wide range of reactions.

Those responses show just how differently each person who has bipolar sees things. I was particularly struck by one person who said some days she'd find it funny, other days she'd be offended, depending on her mood. It's also apparent that personal experiences color people's reactions.

I compiled those responses, made a couple of similar images (the one on FB had a copyrighted source), and here present the results to you. Take a look, then come back here and give your own feelings in the comments.
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Do you have a problem with dry mouth?

Monday January 13, 2014
Dry mouth is a serious problem.I went to the dentist today for a routine cleaning, and the hygienist asked me this question. I said yes, and told her I thought I was dehydrated (because I don't drink nearly enough water). She said that's not it - it was almost certainly my medications.

"If you check the side effects of your medications," she said, "you'll see that many of them can cause dry mouth. Suppose three of them do - then you have dry mouth times three." She went on, "Every time you drink or eat something sugary, you have a 15-30 minute acid attack in your mouth. Add dry mouth, and that attack could last an hour. Rinsing with plain old water will restore the pH balance in your mouth faster."

I was really embarrassed. I'd written here about the causes and dangers of dry mouth, but Read More...

Marijuana, Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia

Sunday January 12, 2014
My good friend John McManamy has written a thoughtful blog about the possible use of medical marijuana as a treatment for mania. Off the top of my head, I think the risks outweigh any possible benefits, but the topic is worth discussing.

In 2010 I reported on a study looking for links between cannabis and the development of psychosis and bipolar. And back in 2005 a Dutch study found that marijuana use doubled the risk of developing schizophrenia.

Since both bipolar depression and mania can have psychotic features, there is at least some evidence that even medical marijuana use might increase the likelihood of hallucinations and delusions.

As McManamy says, substance abuse is quite prevalent among those with bipolar disorder. People have used alcohol and drugs to try to control their systems in great numbers. When the "cure" is the disease, it's called dual diagnosis.

What do you think?

Photo: Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
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Illness, Injury or Surgery - The Effect on Bipolar Disorder

Tuesday January 7, 2014
DoctorSince being diagnosed with bipolar disorder I have had two surgeries, a significant injury, and a severe illness. In my case, I don't think any of them had a significant impact on my mental illness, but for many people this is not the case. A serious illness might lead to a depressive episode. An injury could do the same - or perhaps make a person angry enough to precipitate mania or hypomania. Fear of surgery might lead to rapid cycling. Really, any substantial change in physical health can have a profound effect on mood.

Several readers shared their stories, including:

You can also see the full list of stories.

Photo: Kurhan, Stock.xchng

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Using Social Networking to Gauge Suicidal Thoughts

Tuesday December 31, 2013
Some time ago Nancy Schimelpfening of About.com Depression posted an interesting blog about research into suicide. "By analyzing posts made on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, it may be possible to help prevent suicide, according to Victoria University researchers Dr. Tiong-Thye Goh and Yen-Pei Huang." The researchers are scanning posts with a goal of identifying phrases that may indicate a person in trouble. Nancy asks, "What do you think about this idea? Would it help people at risk? Or would it prevent users from speaking freely about how they are feeling?"

Suicide is a very real issue for those with bipolar disorder. Some estimates put the rate high as twenty percent of those with bipolar disorder who will kill themselves. That's one out of every five! And as many as thirty percent of all people with this disorder may attempt suicide at least once in their lives. So, the subject of suicide is not something we can ignore. Each of us needs to know the warnings signs, the red flags, of suicide so we may be prepared to help a friend in crisis, prepared to see the cry for help from a loved one, prepared to seek help when our own resources for coping have worn thin.

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Brittle Bipolar Disorder

Tuesday December 31, 2013
I recently read a post where a woman noted she had been diagnosed with "brittle" bipolar disorder. When we talk about a diagnosis of bipolar disorder there are many descriptors medical professionals and patients use to further define the illness. However, "brittle" is not included in the formal DSM-IV classification system nor is it a diagnostic specifier.

I did some research and found that the term brittle may be used when there is a history of easy relapse or when symptoms associated with the illness fluctuate unpredictably. When applied to bipolar disorder, brittle usually denotes that your mood swings are easily triggered and quickly switch between the poles of depression and mania.

What terms has your doctor used to describe your diagnosis?

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