Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Parent’s BSD Challenge

Raising children is a rewarding journey with a most steep learning curve. Any new parent’s notion that since they are older than their child means they are wiser soon learns that it is the child who teaches the parent many things.

Think of the journey of a parent of a child who for no apparent reason engages in aggressive anti social behavior, angry unending tantrums, or a child who is ultra sensitive to all stimuli and overreacts to ordinary things in life, or a child who acts out in school seeking to always be the center of attention.

This is the life of a parent whose child has possible BSD disorder. The word possible is included in the sentence because BSD in children and teens is very difficult to diagnose, and before the 1980s was rarely described in children. Symptoms include rage, hyperactivity, sleep disturbances/night terrors, risk taking and giftedness.

BSD is manifested differently in children and teens than adults. Diagnosis is based on behavioral observation over a period of time and family history. Very often children suffer several depressive episodes before a manic episode. Depressive symptoms are not typical and include increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings, and extreme fatigue despite excessive sleeping. BSD in children and teens is often accompanied by other behavioral issues, such as behaviors that are like ADHD. The manic phase is often overlooked and attributed to normal development stages. Cycling of episodes in children and teens is more rapid and less clearly defined as manic and depressive. 20-30% of adult patients report that they had their first episode before 20 years of age.

Yet correcting behavioral issues is crucial to the child’s social, academic, and emotional development. There are no FDA approved drugs for children and antidepressants are not recommended for them. Yet despite this they are in widespread use.

Lithium has been proven to be less effective in children. Even a widely prescribed drug such as Ritalin for ADHD slows production of the human growth hormone because of how it affects the pituitary gland. This has detrimental irreversible consequences for children.

Studies have shown that drugs do not work for 50% of patients who have a mental illness, and the remaining 50% discontinue use because of side effects.(2).For children this statistic is alarming because they have less choice as to whether they will or won’t take the medication and they are less able to articulate the impact of side effects.

Questions have been asked about the effects of decades of drug use on brain damage. This gives even more credible urgency to such alternative therapies such as psychoeducation, cognitive behavior therapy, family focused therapy, and diet. Psychosocial factors such as life events, cognitive style, family dynamics, and social support influence the extent of BSD. It is these factors that psychotherapy addresses in the hope that a patient will have a brighter future.

(2) Healing Depression and Bipolar Disorder Without Drugs. G. Guyol Walker Press 2006 p14

Bipolar 101 A Practical Guide to Identifying Triggers, Managing Medications, Coping with Symptoms and More. R. White J. Preston New Harbinger Publications Inc. 2009

New Hope for People with Bipolar Disorder. J. Fawcett, B. Golden, N. Rosenfeld. Three Rivers Press 2007

Consumer’s Guide to Psychiatric Drugs. J Preston J. O’Neal, M. Talaga Pocket Books 2009

Break the Bipolar Cycle E. Brondolo, X. Amador McGraw Hill 2008

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Healing Instead of Dealing With: Getting Back in the Driver’s seat With Mental Illness Part 2

Part 1 of this intro article on bipolar disorder is here.

To carry on with the exploration of some treatments....

Lifestyle changes are more about addressing the root cause of BSD, which are chemical imbalances. The biochemistry of the brain is very complex and not well understood which is why drugs cause side effects.. Positive emission tomography is able to show images of the living brain. Glucose metabolic rates indicate brain activity. Images of a bipolar patient’s brain during manic and depressive stages show marked differences in brain activity with cooler colors showing less activity during depression and brighter colors during the manic stage.

Addressing the root cause will bring a permanent benefit that allows body to function at maximum potential. All changes are interrelated and influence each other that can produce an additive negative or positive change in the body. For instance, assisting and optimizing digestion is crucial to allow the brain to function at top capacity both in controlling emotions and cognitive reasoning. Improving thyroid function allows for better regulation of many body functions though its release of hormones. Many BSD patients have impaired thyroid function. Yet often these connections are ignored by both doctors and patients.

In the diet lack of certain minerals and nutrients impair brain abilities. Excess consumption of sugar, fat, caffeine, alcohol, and illegal drugs affects moods and the ability to control them. The role of supplements such as omega 3 fatty acids in offsetting depression are being examined and tested in more detail.

Exercise increases blood circulation which aids and creates hormones that assist moods and prevents depression. Exercise and weight loss also helps patients cope with medication side effects.

All of the above helps BSD patients recognize avoid or cope with stress and triggers that could set off an episode of mania or depression. It helps them regain control of their life and condition.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Healing Instead of Dealing With: Getting Back in the Driver’s seat With Mental Illness

We get visitors who know very little about bipolar disorder and so why not educate and arm readers with some basic information?

Bipolar disorder is a mental condition that affects both mood stability and cognitive functioning. The condition is characterized by extreme variations in mood from elation and high functioning to depression and withdrawal. Those extreme variations are cyclical in nature. Some doctors have named the condition bipolar spectrum disorder(BSD) because of the continuum of characteristics.

There is a genetic predisposition to BSD, it tends to run in families. Research has uncovered certain genes that may indicate BSD tendencies in the brain but there is no physical test for it. Diagnosis is by observation of behavior and self reporting of the manic depressive cycles. Often the depressive stage of BPS is identified and treated with medication but the manic stage is downplayed and attributed to the unique personality of the patient. As a result people suffer for years as episodes or cycles can last that long. BSD takes a toll on relationships and careers, because of the irrational and extreme behaviors that ignore consequences and boundaries.

Treatment of BSD produces less than optimal results, because is difficult to diagnose correctly, some drugs have the reverse of the desired effect, and patients are not compliant in their treatment. Treatment usually involves drug therapy. Psychotherapy with a drug regime has been proven to be more effective. Although drugs such as lithium are prescribed as a mood stabilizer, often patients are prescribed more than 1 drug. All drugs have side effects, some minor, but patients have reported major side effects such as rampant tumor growth which ended when they gradually came off the drug. Yet society today has been conditioned that treatment of symptoms must produce results quickly. Want proof this is true? The majority of prescriptions of these psychiatric drugs are written by family physicians.(1)

Drugs have an advantage over other lifestyle changes that could have a longer term benefit, because they act quickly. Yet in the last 2 decades more Americans have been consulting alternative medical practitioners such as naturopathic doctors than regular MDs for their ailments. There is a growing awareness of the influence of lifestyle and environment on chronic diseases and BSD is no exception. So how can lifestyle changes affect a patient with BSD? Those who have discovered the answer would like to pass on their life experience by publishing their findings in the hope that others will regain their quality of life with less suffering.

In part two we'll continue to explore treatments.

(1) Healing Depression and Bipolar Disorder Without Drugs. G. Guyol Walker Press 2006 p 16