Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bipolar and the Treatment Team

Bipolar is an illness with many fronts:
  • The illness itself, its symptoms and treatment.
  • Possible blood pressure problems.
  • Possible blood sugar problems.
  • Diabetes concerns.
  • Heart disease awareness.
  • Weight issues.

Working closely with a doctor means all of the present and potential problems are on the table and are being addressed. A positive, close working relationship with a psychiatrist is basic, of course, but let’s not forget the important roles that families and caregivers play. And therapists, spiritual coaches and support groups can also prove quite helpful in remission and the probability of continuing recovery, both mental and physical.

Relationships are vital in the recovery process and they need to be built on solid trust. Spotty, irregular or infrequent visits to the doctor and other members of the treatment team are not very effective and of minimal help in recovery.

Having a brain illness is serious, so giving it our wholehearted attention and care is required to achieve maximum benefits such as long-term remission.

Taking a half-hearted approach may be more foolish than one realizes. It can forestall recovery and make someone more vulnerable to a number of additional problems--problems that may not only exacerbate the bipolar disorder but also raise the chances of exposure to risks on several additional fronts.

The smart thing to do is be an active and involved member of the treatment team, and look to a trusted psychiatrist as the captain of that team.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Be Careful of Misdiagnosis

Depression is a serious illness which can be quite disabling if it is not properly treated. The good news is that when accurately diagnosed and an appropriate treatment plan is implemented and followed, the severity of the symptoms of depression can be significantly reduced and the likelihood of future relapse minimized if not even prevented. The bad news is that depression can be difficult to accurately diagnose. All too often the illness is misdiagnosed and improperly treated, making an already challenging situation even worse.

Misdiagnosis sometimes occurs because symptoms of the depressive phase of bipolar disorder share a number of similarities to those of severe depression. Fortunately, most psychiatrists are fully aware of these similarities and understand how critical it is to conduct a thorough medical history before making a diagnosis and developing a treatment program. The treatment plans for persons who have severe depression are very different than those that are developed for persons in the depressive phase of a bipolar disorder.

Psychiatrists know this. It is the specialty in which they are board certified.

Non-psychiatrists do not know this. It is not their specialty. They may be general or family practitioners, internists, cardiologists or psychologists, but they are rarely board certified psychiatrists, as well. They do not know how to accurately diagnose patients with brain illnesses.

Avoid the serious problems of misdiagnosis. Make sure the physician doing the diagnosis is a psychiatrist. Accept no substitute.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Knowing Our Limits

Something all of us experience at one time or another are the challenges that can occur when we take on more than we’re able to handle. While these are often viewed as disappointments if not defeats, they may also be great teachers. Discovering and recognizing our limits can mean the difference between going out too far (and needing help to get back) or remaining on solid ground and keeping our sure footing (to be able to do whatever may be required).

Knowing our limitations helps us to focus on what we know we can do and gather the energy we need at the place and time it‘s needed. With our capabilities very much in mind, we may then:

  • Examine the situation or challenge and thoroughly think the matter through
  • Plan for the possibilities of unknown occurrences
  • Expect the unexpected and prepare for them
  • Do our very best…always
  • Exceed our expectations

For those of us caring for someone with bipolar or depression, it is important that we stay in good health. Our loved ones need us and may look to us to provide needed guidance and support when the challenges of their recovery become overwhelming. It’s vital that we’re able to provide the needed guidance and leadership whenever and wherever it is needed. Taking proper care of ourselves and respecting our own limits should be the goal of every companion. We never know when we’re going to be called upon, so always be ready to help.

Knowing our limits and staying grounded in our role of an effective and successful family member, caregiver or companion will help us to be ready for whatever’s next, regardless of what that may be.