Bipolar 2 From Inside and Out

Posts tagged ‘questions’

Questions (And Some Answers)

They say there’s no such thing as a silly question. But I’ve heard a few that come darn close. I understand that some of the people who ask them are genuinely confused about brain illnesses in all their variety. But some of them – I just don’t know. Here’s a look at some of the questions I’ve encountered.

Some people are concerned that various practices can affect mental illness or its treatment. I’ll tackle a few of these.

Can chanting a mantra harm someone who is mentally ill or has schizophrenia?

Can people with mental illness practice mindfulness meditation without hindering their treatment plan or making symptoms worse?

To these questions, I would say that chanting a mantra or practicing mindfulness meditation poses no threat. In fact, these practices are often encouraged as ways to reduce harmful stress.

Does astrology have any cure or remedies for mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, etc.?

As to astrology, I’d have to say no. It has no place in the treatment of brain illness. It’s not science and has nothing to say about the inner workings of the human mind.

Can mental illness be caused by external factors such as mind control or manipulation?

While manipulation exists, mind control doesn’t, unless you’re talking about cult indoctrination. Manipulation in the context of gaslighting can cause stress-related disorders or possibly trauma.

Can too much intellectual curiosity cause mental illness or psychological problems later in life?

Intellectual curiosity is a good thing. Honestly, I don’t see how anyone can have too much. At any rate, it has no relation to mental problems.

Some questions come with relatively simple answers.

How can you find out if a doctor has diagnosed you with a mental disorder?

Your doctor will tell you what the diagnosis is. They won’t keep it a secret.

Can someone with bipolar disorder join Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)?

Sure, they can join. But not all AA groups are comfortable working with people who have psychiatric diagnoses. They concentrate on alcoholism and not mental disorders, so the bipolar disorder likely won’t be addressed in many meetings.

Can covert bullying and gossip harm a person? Would the said person seem mentally unstable or unwell?

Absolutely, bullying and gossip can harm someone. Some people even see bullying as a contributor to teen suicide. The victim is likely to show symptoms of depression and anxiety.

There are questions that ask about specific populations.

What can be done to help teachers that have mental disorders?

The same treatments that work for other people will work for teachers, too. The teacher may need to take a sabbatical to work on their issues without the pressures of their job.

How do the constant pressures of fame and scrutiny affect the mental health and overall well-being of celebrities, and what steps can be taken to better support their mental health and prevent the negative effects of celebrity culture?

While I’m sure there are special pressures on celebrities and they certainly can have mental illnesses, there really isn’t much chance of changing celebrity culture. Supporting their mental health might involve not penalizing celebrities for taking time off from their careers to seek treatment.

What are the most common mental problems among thru-hikers?

I’ll be honest. I had to Google “thru-hikers.” They’re people who hike a long, multi-state trail like the Appalachian Trail from end to end. That said, their most common mental problems are the same as the most common problems of the general population. There’s nothing about being a thru-hiker that poses a special risk.

Then there are questions about family matters.

Does being raised by a single mother cause mental illness or personality disorders?

Just being raised by a single mother doesn’t cause any mental illness. Single mothers are perfectly capable of raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted children. That said, any parent – single, married, mother, father – can have a child with mental problems.

Can tough love from parents prevent mental illness in children?

No. There is no one technique to ensure that children do not develop mental illness. Tough love may not be the best approach for a child who already shows signs of mental difficulties. Tough love can be traumatic, which can make a mental illness worse.

There are the questions that simply perplex me.

What are the effects of watching cute animal videos on mental health?

Aside from saying “Awww” a lot, none that I can see.

What are the effects of reading creepy pastas on mental health?

WTF? Is this about alphabet soup controlled by a Ouija board? A reference to the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

What is the worst diagnosis made by a fictional doctor?

Fictional doctors can’t diagnose fictional characters. They’re fictional.

Did Fred Flintstone ever experience mental illness? If so, what was the reason for it?

See previous answer.

Then there’s the ultimate question.

How can we address the mental health crisis in our society?

A simple blog can’t answer this question. No one person can. It will take the work of thousands of people (or more) to convince the rest of the people to take appropriate action. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick. We need to convince the general public that, first, there is a problem, and then, that there are things we can indeed do to address it. Even making a dent in the problem is a long-term project. So we’d better get busy. The problems aren’t going away on their own.

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The Question I Hate the Most

There are many things you shouldn’t say to a bipolar person: Cheer up. Smile. What have you got to worry about? We all have mood swings. Calm down. You’re overreacting. You don’t look depressed.

Each of these remarks contains a hidden assumption, from simple – you can choose your moods; to dismissive – your anxiety is not as severe (or as important) as mine; to possible gaslighting (see,,

I’ve gotten all of those and more. Once I revealed my disorder to a coworker and she’d ask me, “How are you?” with a concerned look several times a day, taking my emotional temperature. But the question I hate most is a simple one.

Are you off your meds?

Let’s unpack this, shall we?

First, the underlying message is that, to the speaker, you are acting in a strange, inappropriate, frightening, incomprehensible, or otherwise “off” manner.

The second assumption is that you must be on medication in order to appear “normal” at times.

Third, that since you do not appear “normal” to the speaker, the only explanation is that you must not be medicated at the moment.

Fourth, that the speaker has the right to give you advice on how medicated you need to be in order to appear “normal.”

And, finally, that “meds” are the answer to all your problems. If you want to fit into society you must be on your guard at all times and medicate until you are acceptable to them.

There is a slightly less offensive version of the question: Have you taken your meds today?

This might be marginally acceptable from a loved one, who knows that you take medication for your disorder and also knows that you are sometimes forgetful.

But really. Most psychotropic medications build up in a person’s system over time and leave the body over a long time as well. Missing a single dose is not likely to have an appreciable effect on a person’s moods or actions.

There are some anti-anxiety medications that have short-term effects, and a bipolar person might have forgotten a dose or two.

But unless the speaker is the bipolar person’s caregiver, official or unofficial, it’s still rather parental and demeaning – suggesting that we aren’t competent to handle something as vital as our own medications.

Of course, sometimes it may be necessary to help a loved one remember to take medication, whether that person is bipolar or not. On a vacation, for instance, when one’s normal routine is disrupted, a gentle reminder may not be amiss. When one has just started treatment and the routine is still unfamiliar. Or if the person actually is a child.

You wouldn’t ask an adult with the flu “Have you taken your antibiotics today?” You wouldn’t say to a blind person “Now, don’t go out without your service dog.” Most people, most of the time, are deemed competent to know their needs and take care of those needs themselves.

But bipolar disorder and other psychiatric conditions, being largely “invisible illnesses,” seem to invite meddling. Everyone else knows what’s best for us, from a different drug to herbal medicine to a walk in the park to prayer.

They know a little bit about the disorders, perhaps, largely through television and celebrities. But they don’t know your particular version of the disorder (bipolar 1 or 2, rapid cycling, dysthymia, hypomania, anxiety, etc.)

So if I snap at you, or seem anxious, or don’t want to go out, don’t assume. I have regular “normal” moods too, even when I’m on medication. Sometimes I get annoyed if my husband has lost his cell phone for the third time this month. Sometimes I feel sad if my picnic is rained out. Not every mood is pathological.

So don’t assume you know what’s going on inside my head. Unless I ask for help, refrain from putting in your oar.

And don’t ask me, “Are you off your meds?” It’s an insult, not a question.

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