Bipolar blog

Free rTMS, Brain Changes in Depressed Females, Why Anti-Benzodiazepine? – 3 New Things

→ September 29, 2011 - 4 Comments

Last week I didn’t post three new things but don’t take that to mean I wasn’t learning because I certain was, and always am. For this week I have these three new pieces of information to share:

  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) treatment for depression to be free for (some) Canadians
  • Brain changes are noted in depressed females
  • Why are some doctors anti-benzodiazepine?

1. Free rTMS in Manitoba (Canada)

RTMS stands for repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation and is a treatment for treatment-resistant depression. RTMS is considered a neurostimulation therapy, like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), but is non-invasive. RTMS has its pros and its cons.

  • Pros – rTMS is drug-free, has few side-effects and can produce remission from depression in some people
  • Cons – rTMS is expensive, intensive and its therapeutic effects are generally temporary

Cost of RTMS

Most people don’t get rTMS due to the cost. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation requires 2 sessions per day for 10 days (weekends off) plus and additional possible 5-10 sessions depending on the reaction to treatment. Needless to say, this is one expensive therapy. In Canada that works out to $5000 – $7500 and in the States lord only knows how much.

Differences in Brains of Depressed WomenFree RTMS

And Manitoba is taking the very civilized step forward of offering rTMS as part of the public health care system, which is how it should be. The only reason why it isn’t is cost. You can get rTMS in Canada, but this is the first time I’ve heard of it being free.

Congratulations to Manitoba for taking a step forward in helping people with a mental illness. I hope this is the sign of things to come across the country.

2. Brain Changes Noted in Depressed Females

Women are twice as likely to develop depression as men but no one knows why. This study takes a look at female brains to look for biological identifying markers between depressed brains and well brains.

. . . depressed women had a pattern of reduced expression of certain genes, including the one for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and of genes that are typically present in particular subtypes of brain cells, or neurons, that express the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA.) These findings were observed in the amygdala, which is a brain region that is involved in sensing and expressing emotion.

BDNF and GABA in Depressed Brains of Women

BDNF is something I’ve mentioned before as to a biological cause of depression. Yes, just another fact to chalk up for all the people saying depression is just “in your head.”

And work toward identifying the gene that contributes to depression:

. . . researchers tested mice engineered to carry different mutations in the BDNF gene to see its impact on the GABA cells. They found two mutations that led to the same deficit in the GABA subtype and that also mirrored other changes seen in the human depressed brain.

I keep telling people: We’re getting closer to effective treatments and understanding every day.

3. The Religion of Benzodiazepines – Why Some Doctors Don’t Prescribe Benzos

I’ve taken benzodiazepines (benzos) of one type or another for a decade and never once had a problem with them, but many people do develop tolerance, dependence and drug-seeking behavior around this type of medication.

My opinion is that benzodiazepine medications can be used quite safely when properly handled, but that some people have the tendency to get addicted to medications, and for them, these medications may be contraindicated. In other words, it’s down to the individual and prescription of benzos cannot be characterized as “bad” or “good” in a blanket statement.

I plan on writing a whole article about this, but if you’d like a sneak peek about why some doctors are anti-benzodiazepine, check out this article in Psychiatric Times.

Until next week all, when I shall learn more and do better.

Should Ecstasy (MDMA) be a Psychiatric Medication?

→ September 26, 2011 - 27 Comments

Should Ecstasy (MDMA) be a Psychiatric Medication?

You may not know this, but ecstasy (MDMA) has been studied as a psychiatric medication. Yes, that’s right, that stuff kids take at raves. The stuff that makes you thirsty and fall in love to the person next to you. That stuff. And MDMA was shown effective in several psychiatric uses.

But research on MDMA (ecstasy) was curtailed in 1985 when the US government named it a class 1 drug (like heroin) over the objections of doctors. Psychiatric research on MDMA is gearing up again though and it has shown promise in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and possibly depression and anxiety.

What is Ecstasy (MDMA)?

The active substance in ecstasy is MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine). However, when ecstasy is purchased on the street, MDMA is common mixed with methamphetamines and other drugs.

So, to be clear, this means that while taking MDMA in a clinical setting may pose limited risk, taking it illicitly is a different risk profile altogether. I do not recommend you buy ecstasy off the street to treat mental illness. (Particularly if you suffer from bipolar 1 or any psychotic symptoms.)

Ecstasy Use in PsychotherapyHow Does Ecstasy (MDMA) Work?

The subjective effects of ecstasy (MDMA) are produced, in part, by a huge release of serotonin. This may be responsible for reducing the perception of threats and of negative emotions in others.

Ecstasy, MDMA, also increases levels of the neurohormones oxytocin, prolactin and cortisol. Oxytocin is thought to reduce feelings of fear and increase social affiliation and trust while cortisol is a stress hormone which may explain why some people experience anxiety while using MDMA.

How is Ecstasy (MDMA) Used in Psychiatry?

Interestingly, ecstasy is being used during psychotherapy and not as a psychopharmacological treatment, per se. MDMA is administered during elongated therapy sessions (8 hours) and patients work through emotions and memories that were impossible to handle beforehand. Two or three MDMA treatment sessions may be done with preparation therapy sessions beforehand and follow-up therapy sessions after.

Patients claim,

“. . . enhanced self-understanding [and] insight into personal patterns or problems, greater self-confidence or self-acceptance, lowered defenses [while] undergoing a therapeutic emotional process,” and “less negative thoughts or feelings.”

Studies on MDMA

Right now all the studies are on MDMA-treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but look for other studies in the future. These studies on PTSD and ecstasy (MDMA) look extremely promising. Right now, several countries have completed phase one research and are onto phase two.

Risks of MDMA in Psychiatry

Risks vary depending on who you ask but in controlled, clinical use the risks of ecstasy (MDMA) appear to be minimal. While some worry about the effects on memory and cognition, some studies have shown there is no effect to these areas. There haven’t been enough participants in studies to make conclusive statements about MDMA risks.

My Thoughts on MDMA in Psychiatry

I’m very interested in such medications. MDMA works on the brain in a powerful way that other drugs do not. In this way ecstasy is unique and is hopeful for people with treatment-resistant disorders. I have a feeling that flooding the brain in this unusual way may be helpful in improving intractable disorders. This is mostly a hunch on my part, but I look forward to seeing what the future holds.

Reference

Psychiatric Times, Does MDMA Have a Role in Clinical Psychiatry? By Michael C. Mithoefer, MD, 06 May 2011

I Can’t Get Pregnant – I Have Bipolar Disorder

→ September 22, 2011 - 221 Comments

I Can’t Get Pregnant – I Have Bipolar Disorder

Should People with Bipolar Have Kids?

I am now 33. And that’s one of those ages where the biological clock starts to have a deafening ring. But the thing is I can’t get pregnant; I can’t have kids; I have bipolar disorder.

Read more

Breaking Bipolar Articles You Should Read

→ September 20, 2011 - 10 Comments

Admit it – you haven’t kept up with your bipolar reading. Come on. I know it. I can barely keep up and I write the bipolar articles.

Luckily for you, I like you a lot, and I’m happy to give you a little cheat sheet on what’s been getting attention at Breaking Bipolar. We’ve got mental illness and higher education, mental illness and physical pain, how to tell if it’s a med side effect and oh so much more.

Breaking Bipolar at HealthyPlace by Natasha Tracy

Articles Breaking Bipolar Over at HealthyPlace

Here is a sampling of recent articles written for Breaking Bipolar at HealthyPlace to which people have positively responded:

Popular Articles at the Bipolar Burble

And just in case you haven’t been glued to the Bipolar Burble, here are a few things you should read here:

Let me know what you think and of course feel free to suggest topics any time.

No Evidence of the Effectiveness of Psychotherapy? – 3 New Things

→ September 15, 2011 - 20 Comments

This week I learned three new things about psychotherapy and depression.

I’m a fan of psychotherapy for everyone. In fact, if we could get the mid-East folks to sit down for some good counselling, I think it would be more effective in bringing peace than anything you can do with a gun.

With that said, there are limitations to therapy and sometimes therapy is not all it’s cracked up to be. So this week, a look at three perspectives on psychotherapy:

  • Psychotherapy is no better than placebo in treating depression?
  • Which type of psychotherapy is better for depression?
  • How does psychotherapy change the brain?

1. Is Psychotherapy Better Than a Placebo in Treating Depression?

When the study came out  a couple of years ago alleging that antidepressants were no better at treating mild-to-moderate depression than a placebo, the antipsychiatry world went crazy (if you will). All their dire claims, it seems, had been proven true.

Well, the sky hasn’t fallen yet, but interestingly the same kind of analysis, when applied to psychotherapy, can also allege that psychotherapy is no better than a placebo too.

Can Psychotherapy Treat Depression?Placebo for Therapy

Of course, there is no such thing as a placebo in therapy. There is no “inert” counselling session. Scientific literature attempts to compare cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IP) and others against wait-listed participants and those who have received therapy not containing the specific therapeutic technique being tested. Basically, they tell a therapist not to therapy. Which is a pretty tough thing to ask a human to do. And naturally, humans aren’t going to do it well.

Does Psychotherapy Work to Treat Depression?

I would say yes, therapy, various types, including cognitive behavioural, interpersonal and supportive therapy, all help treat depression. However, some suggest the jury is still out on how effective therapy really is in treating depression.

2. What Therapy is Best for Depression?

[push]Psychologist Gary Greenberg states CBT is more of an ideology and a “method of indoctrination into the pieties of American optimism.”[/push]

When selecting a therapy for depression one has many choices but the prevailing one in the scientific community right now is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Everybody loves it. It’s the golden child. CBT is a highly intellectual and analytical therapy that is short-term and action-oriented so it’s no wonder that people like it.

In the same article as the one talking about therapy effectiveness in the treatment of depression, they also discuss which therapy is best for depression, and it kind of seems like none of the therapies are best. (This could be because, statistically, some people respond better to one treatment while others respond to other treatments and when you lump them all together, a similar percentage responds to each.)

3. What Does Psychotherapy Do to the Brain?

As I have mentioned several times, depression decreases brain volumes over time – ie, depression shrinks your brain. It does this through decreasing neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons); however, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and antidepressants have both been shown to increase neurogenesis and brain volume.

Interestingly, so does psychotherapy.

More on brain changes as a result of psychotherapy here.

Until next week all. I’ll learn more and do better.

Cutting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Hurts Mentally Ill Children – Guest Author

→ September 13, 2011 - Comments off

The Bipolar Burble welcomes today’s guest writer, Allison Gamble. She provides resources about psychology degrees.

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a federal program that supplements income in order to help the elderly and disabled, including those with a mental illness, pay for food, clothing, health care and shelter. [push]Many who receive SSI money are children with diagnosed mental illnesses without any access to health insurance. SSI covers adults with similar conditions.[/push]

Unfortunately, recent economic proposals force many of these individuals to face reduced SSI funds or a complete cessation of aid. This would mean adequate medical and therapeutic treatment would disappear, income support for their families would be gone, and, all in all, this would represent a huge step backwards for those affected by mental illness.

Controversy Over Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Funding

Controversy over SSI funds has been brewing in recent months. Most critics’ main concern centers on aid provided to families who have children qualified to receive SSI moneys. One expose dubbed SSI “the other welfare,” alleging, among other things, that some families are medicating their children not out of medical necessity, but in an effort to obtain government assistance. The incentives to do so are considerable, argue the critics:

  • SSI doesn’t come with time limits
  • SSI doesn’t require those who receive benefits to be employed or to even be looking for work
  • More money is typically available through SSI than through welfare

Cutting Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

[push]People who rely on SSI assistance to provide care for their children are opposing the proposed cuts. Many people on SSI are traveling to Washington to lobby lawmakers and provide testimony about the positive effect receiving SSI funds has had on their children’s quality of life.[/push]

Those who believe families are receiving SSI funding for fraudulent reasons are now looking to slash SSI benefits for everyone. Republicans in Congress have put forth two resolutions seeking such cuts. They claim the government could save considerable money by reducing incentives for parents to place their children in positions to receive SSI funds, believing parents are making their children appear disabled, or more insidiously, disabling their children or putting them on unneeded psychiatric medication, in order to collect benefits.

Effects of Cutting the Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

If the proposed cuts to SSI are approved, they will largely affect children, particularly children with a mental illness. Conditions covered by SSI benefits include:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Autism
  • Long-term illness
  • Physical disabilities

Most of these children come from families living well below the poverty line and without adequate (or any) health insurance coverage. SSI money may be helping these children receive the specialized care they require to maintain their physical and mental well-being.

How to Protect Your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits

SSI Cuts Hurt Mentally Ill

One of the best ways to spread the word and advocate against SSI cuts is to get in touch with local charitable organizations. Support groups, charities and foundations aimed at providing assistance and advocacy for such mental illness can all be rallied to support SSI. They may also have resources and materials to facilitate advocacy for the need to continue to support SSI even during financially challenging times.

SSI provides a fundamental and necessary service for millions of children across the country. Without it, an entire generation of sick children stands to suffer a reduction in quality of life if they can no longer receive the specialized care they require. Families struggling at or below the poverty line have a legitimate need for this valuable governmental assistance.

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About Allison Gamble

Allison Gamble has been a curious student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of internet marketing with psychologydegree.net.

How to Get Off Antidepressants Effexor/Pristiq (Venlafaxine/Desvenlafaxine)

→ September 12, 2011 - 94 Comments

How to Get Off Antidepressants Effexor/Pristiq (Venlafaxine/Desvenlafaxine)

Or other bothersome antidepressants.

Generally, following the rules I wrote about last week on how to stop antidepressants while minimizing withdrawal work, and most people can successfully withdraw from antidepressants with few side effects.

Some Antidepressants Are Hard to Get Off Of

Unfortunately, some antidepressants are not so easy to get off of no matter what you do. (You can learn more about this through http://drugabuse.com/ and other similar sites.) Some antidepressants:

  • Resist a taper strategy
  • Have intolerable withdrawal effects anyway *

People Have Trouble Withdrawing from these Antidepressants

Any antidepressant can feel impossible to withdraw from, but the antidepressants people have most trouble withdrawing from are:

But by far, venlafaxine and desvenlafaxine (Effexor and Pristiq) are the ones I hear about. In my opinion, these two drugs are a nightmare to come off of for most people. ^ (I’m not saying everyone has trouble with these antidepressants, just that many do.)

Here are tips on how to get off of horrible~ drugs like venlafaxine (Effexor) and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq).

Did I mention yet I’m not a doctor? Ah, well I’m not. None of this is to be considered medical advice; this is an informational article only. Never alter your treatment without talking to your doctor. Thanks.

Read more

Antipsychotic Warning, Saffron for Depression, Polypharmacy – 3 New Things

→ September 8, 2011 - 2 Comments

It’s a bit of a short week what with the holiday and all, but still, there is time for three new things about mental health. Today’s three new things are:

  • A safety warning on the atypical antipsychotic drug asenapine maleate (Saphris)
  • Saffron and depression
  • Multi-drug (polypharmacy) treatment of mental illness

Serious Allergic Reactions Reported with Asenapine Maleate (Saphris)

Asenapine maleate (Saphris) is an atypical antipsychotic drug recently approved for use in the treatment of bipolar type 1 mania and mixed episodes (as well as schizophrenia).

In slightly less than two years of approval, about 87,000 people have been prescribed asenapine maleate. The FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS) has had a significant number of serious allergic (hypersensitivity) reactions reported. These serious allergic reactions were reported in 52 cases and are considered Type 1 hypersensitivity. From the FDA:

“Signs and symptoms of Type I hypersensitivity reactions may include anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction), angioedema (swelling of the deeper layers of the skin), low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, swollen tongue, difficulty breathing, wheezing, or rash . . . Several cases reported multiple hypersensitivity reactions occurring at the same time, with some of these reactions occurring after the first dose of Saphris.”

Any such reactions require immediate medical attention.

You can report serious allergic reactions to the FDA’s MedWatch program here.

FYI, asenapine maleate’s label has been changed and updated with this new information.

Saffron used to treat depressionCan Saffron Help with Depression?

Saffron (crocus sativus) is the most expensive spice by weight and is integral in French bouillabaisse. And someone asked me this week, “Can saffron help with depression?” Initially, I did a search on the Alternative Medicine Index at the University of Maryland Medical Center and turned up nothing. This alternative index lists most everything so my immediate answer to “can saffron help with depression,” was no.

However, I may have spoken slightly too soon.

Upon closer inspection I did find one study that asserts, in treating mild-to-moderate depression:

“Saffron petal was significantly more effective than placebo and was found to be equally efficacious compared to fluoxetine and saffron stigma.”

Now, hold on a minute. This is not a good, particularly scientific, study. This is just a review of studies, some of which are very questionable in nature. The above statement is premature at best. All that can really be said (in my opinion) is that saffron deserves further study and that some formulation of it might work.

Prescribing More Than One Drug for Mental IllnessWhy Are People Treated With Many Drugs At Once?

Good question. This is called polypharmacy and most doctors agree it’s a bad thing. The reason polypharmacy is bad is because it greatly increases the chance, and severity, of side effects. (There are other reasons too.) People who have been through rounds of polypharmacy will tell you this is true.

However, doctors continue to prescribe many drugs simultaneously for a condition. This article explores why polypharmacy is so common.

The article may make you take a look at your drug regimen and talk to your doctor about reducing some of your medication. This isn’t always possible, but a good idea if you can get away with it.

Note on Polypharmacy

It’s worth noting some conditions do warrant polypharmacy.

According to the Psychiatric Times article, the best indications for polypharmacy are few and well established:

  1. Bipolar depression
  2. Psychotic or agitated depression
  3. Co-morbid conditions that require independent medications (e.g., ADD and major depression)
  4. When partial response to the first medication requires adding another adjunctively
  5. When there is a combination of psychiatric and pain problems

OK all. Until next week when I will learn more and try to do better.

Saffron pictures provided by Wikipedia.

How to Stop Antidepressants While Minimizing Withdrawal

→ September 6, 2011 - 15 Comments

How to Stop Antidepressants While Minimizing Withdrawal

While antidepressants can absolutely be life-saving medications, sometimes antidepressants aren’t the right medication at the right time for you. Or sometimes, it’s just time to try to get off of antidepressants. (For simple depression, this is often done if you have been stable for 6-12 months.)

Can't Get Off Antidepressants

But the key to getting off antidepressants successfully is to minimize withdrawal symptoms because otherwise you may feel like you’re trapped on the antidepressants. Additionally, the withdrawal symptoms may get mistaken for returning illness symptoms, which you do have to watch for, but if possible, it’s best not to get withdrawal and returning symptoms confused.

So, here are some tips on the best way to get off antidepressants while minimizing withdrawal.

Learn About Getting Off Antidepressants

Firstly, by reading this you are taking the first step. Learning about your antidepressant, the time it takes to get off, and what might happen, is an excellent first thing to do. Your doctor can guide you in this process.

DO NOT STOP ANTIDEPRESSANTS SUDDENLY.

DO NOT STOP THEM ON YOUR OWN.

ALWAYS TAPER ANTIDEPRESSANTS UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF A DOCTOR.

(And as always, I am not a doctor and none of this should be considered medical advice. Only your doctor can offer that.)

Taper Antidepressants More Slowly

How to Stop Antidepressants

I can’t comment on individual doctors, but I will say in studies and in the literature they take people off medication, including antidepressants, way too fast. This is likely because they don’t want to wait around to do it the right way, but still, it gives people the false sense that you can get off antidepressants quickly – you shouldn’t.

Track Your Mood During Antidepressant Decrease

I know, it seems like I’m trying to strong-arm you into tracking your mood, but during medication tapering, it’s essential. You need to track your mood every day during medication changes – this goes for all mental illness – as well as write down when you change dosages because:

  • You need to know if you’re getting worse
  • You need to know if you do better at a lower dose, but not off the drug completely
  • You’ll have those records should you try to do it again in the future (or with another medication)

Please, please, please, even if you track your mood at no other time, do it when withdrawing from medication. (More on mood tracking here.)

(If you don’t want to track every part of your mood, then at least track the global assessment of functioning (GAF).)

Wait Six-Eight Weeks between Antidepressant Dosage Decreases

Seriously.* You are waiting so long between antidepressant dosage decreases because:

  • You want to prevent withdrawal
  • You do not want to induce mania, cycling or a mixed mood which is a real danger in bipolar

Changes to the Antidepressant Taper Schedule

You may want to slightly alter the antidepressant dosage decrease schedule:

  • Increase speed if feeling better as dosage decreases
  • Decrease speed if anxiety is a factor
  • Decrease speed if feeling worse on a lower dose
  • Decrease speed if feeling good at a specific dose (that might be the right dose for you)
  • Decrease speed for any reason if you feel the need

Never try to decrease or get off an antidepressant when:

  • You’re in a time of stress
  • There is an upcoming holiday

Decrease the Antidepressant in the Lowest Dose Possible

Slow Antidepressant Taper

This does not mean cutting your current pill. Some pills cannot be cut for safety reasons. This means getting a prescription for the smallest increment available and decreasing the antidepressant dosage by that much.

When you’re closing in on getting off the antidepressant completely, slow down even more. Cut the pill if you can. If you can’t, alternate on the higher dose for one day and then the lower dose for one day.

Exceptions to the Antidepressant Withdrawal Rules Above

As with all things in life, there are exceptions:

  • If you’ve been on the antidepressant a very short time you may be able to get off of it quickly
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac) may sometimes be tapered more quickly
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) (and sometimes other antidepressants) can be too hard to get off of using this method (see next article in series)

Getting Off an Antidepressant Takes Too Long

Look, you are getting off a medication that has altered the chemicals in your brain. This is not a minor event. While this method is slow, it gives you the very best chance of successfully getting off the medication without inducing withdrawal or worsening illness symptoms.

Don’t Freak Out When Coming Off Antidepressants

Remember not to freak out. Some withdrawal symptoms and some bipolar/depression symptom fluctuation may occur and you’ll still be all right. Just maintain a close relationship with your doctor to make sure it isn’t the start of something more serious

How to Get Off of Antidepressants with Minimal Withdrawal Series

Previously we saw:

Up next is:

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If Your Doctor Doesn’t Get This, Send Them to Psycheducation.org for Their Own Education

* This information (and other information in this article) is provided by psycheducation.org and Dr. Jim Phelps.

New Antipsychiatry Discussion, L-Theanine, Rapid Cycling Markets – 3 New Things

→ September 1, 2011 - 2 Comments

This week’s three new things include:

  • A new supplement that may help brain health and mental illness: l-theanine
  • A poor comparison between rapid cycling bipolar disorder and the financial markets
  • A new discussion of antipsychiatry

1. New to Me: L-Theanine as an Antidepressant

Maurya, a commenter, asked if I knew anything about l-theanine. Well, I didn’t. Every once in a while even I run across something of which I haven’t heard.

So, for those of you in my boat, here’s a bit about l-theanine:

As always, as this is a supplement it is not FDA-controlled and there is no guarantee as to what you will get in the bottle and you should never take any supplement without first checking with your doctor.

More studies on l-theanine can be found here.

Rapid Cycling Brings Out Stigma Comments2. What I Don’t Like – A Half-Assed Comparison Between Bipolar Disorder and the Financial Markets

I’m a writer so questionable metaphors irk me. And rapid cycling bipolar disorder as a metaphor for the financial marketplace? Really? That’s a whole new level of irk.

If you really want to make that comparison then the bulk of the article should be on the markets and not mental illness, and not the other way around like Lloyd I. Sederer M. D. did in Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder: In the Office and On ‘The Street.’

Comments of Mental Illness Stigma

All this poorly-written article did was confuse people and elicit a bunch of anti-bipolar comments like:

“The foundation of the Bi-Polar epidemic is based in suppressed biochemist­ry, outdated understand­ing of genetics and a complete misunderst­anding of our true spiritual nature.”

And,

“So how exactly is this different from saying some people dramatical­ly over-react to external circumstan­ces?

Sorry folks, but this one goes into the notebook for the next philosophi­cal discussion of “medicaliz­ation” as a way of discussing deviance.”

Seems to me he just wanted to use mental illness as an eyeball-grabber, tricking readers onto a topic they would never otherwise read – with the extra bonus of eliciting remarks of stigma.

Gee, thanks.

3. What I Find Interesting – New Discussion of Antipsychiatry

As you might know, I’m not a fan of antipsychiatry folks. I have written a lot on this topic and I’m sure I will write much more in times to come. But I can across this article, Getting It From Both Sides: Foundational and Antifoundational Critiques of Psychiatry which has an interesting discussion of antipsychiatry viewpoints.

Two Sides to Antipsychiatry

It astutely notes there are two sides of antipsychiatry – those who feel that nothing can be defined and thus no mental illness can be defined; and those who feel illness is rigidly defined and mental illness doesn’t meet that definition.

Both sides, as the author says,

“. . . have had the effect of discrediting and marginalizing psychiatry and of delegitimizing psychiatric diagnosis and nosology.”

It’s a very intelligent view of antipsychiatry criticism that is elevated far beyond what we normally see online. Check it out.

Until next week: Smarter and Better.

Bipolar Disorder – When to Get Off Antidepressants

→ August 31, 2011 - 18 Comments

I try not to give medical advice here because I am not a doctor. But so many people ask me about this I felt I had to address getting off antidepressants without withdrawal. So many people with bipolar disorder (depression and others) need information about getting off psych meds and they are not getting it from their doctors.

This is the first in a three-part series:

  1. When to Stop Antidepressants in Bipolar Disorder
  2. How to Stop Antidepressants in Bipolar Disorder While Minimizing Withdrawal
  3. How to Stop Taking venlafaxine (Effexor) and Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) – as they are particularly nasty to get off

This is an informational article only and should not be considered a recommendation. Talk to your doctor before any and all changes to your treatment. I’m not kidding about this.

These recommendations are primarily from PsychEducation.org and Dr. Jim Phelps with some commentary by me.

Bipolars Shouldn’t Take Antidepressants

Some doctors are on the fence about this, but more and more bipolar specialists are recommending people with bipolar disorder not take antidepressants. There are lots of reasons for this, and I have to tell you, they are compelling.

Why Shouldn’t People with Bipolar Disorder Take Antidepressants?

Some reasons people with bipolar shouldn’t take antidepressants:

  • Antidepressants may not work in bipolar disorder – believe it or not, the literature is mixed on how well antidepressants even work for bipolar depression.
  • Antidepressants can induce mania or hypomania (known as switching) – most of us have seen this and it happens all the time to bipolars who are prescribe antidepressants by non-psychiatrists because they just don’t understand the danger. And it is very dangerous because once switched, this type of mania or hypomania can be treatment resistant.
  • Antidepressants can induce rapid-cycling or mixed moods – same as above, this cycling can be treatment-resistant.
  • Antidepressants can worsen a bipolar’s illness overall – this is more controversial and I suspect varies case by case.

Bipolar Disorder and No AntidepressantsTo be clear some people with bipolar disorder will always need antidepressants temporarily, or long term, for their mood, but more and more, doctors are saying to avoid them whenever possible. (Alternatives will be presented in a future article.)

When to Stop Taking Antidepressants

Here are some guidelines from Dr. Phelps about when to stop taking antidepressants in bipolar disorder:

  1. If they have been on antidepressants a short time, I stop them.
  2. Less than a week, stop; two weeks, cut in ½, a week later stop.
  3. Likewise, if they just increased their antidepressants dose I will do the above, decreasing to their previous dose and get rid of the rest later.
  4. If manic or severely hypomanic, get rid of antidepressants now.  Usually can stop abruptly.
  5. If cycling or mixed get rid of the antidepressants.
  6. If they are not getting better after several add-on meds then slowly decrease.
  7. There are more exceptions to the above rules than there are rules.

When to Stay On an Antidepressant if You’re Bipolar

More guidelines from Dr. Phelps: When a bipolar should stay on an antidepressant:

  • If the patient is doing well, no mixed state symptoms or cycling, leave it.
  • I usually wait until the patient is doing better to much betterto stop an antidepressant; why:
  • Trust is an issue.  If the first thing we do is make them suffer more they will be unlikely to stay around long and may not even go to another psychiatrist.
  • Even though we know the antidepressant is causing harm often time the patient thinks either the antidepressant is helping or every time they try to go off they feel much worse.
  • Waiting until they are better is usually a good thing.
  • Also waiting longer usually means that the patient is going to be more educated about bipolar in general.

When to Get Off an Antidepressant Recommendations

I think Dr. Phelps’ recommendations are good ones, otherwise I wouldn’t have them here, but note where he says there are more exceptions than he has listed, so keep in mind, you might fall into one of the unlisted exceptions.

And I think the part above where Dr. Phelps talks about trust and making sure the patient is better before messing around with their cocktail is key. It shows he’s respecting the patient and their health, not to mention the doctor-patient relationship which is very important.

Talking to Your Doctor about Getting off Antidepressants is Scary

I know it’s scary to think about going off antidepressants, even if you do think they are causing problems. But think about it, discuss it with your doctor and make the right decision for you. And don’t do anything until you read the next part about how to get off antidepressants without withdrawal.

Bipolar Disorder – Getting off Antidepressant Series

  • Bipolar Disorder – When Not to Take Antidepressants

Coming up:

Selling True Hope to People with a Mental Illness

→ August 29, 2011 - 24 Comments

The Bipolar Burble doesn’t sell anything, not to people with a mental illness, or anyone else.

It will one day. One day soon it will be selling my book. And then another book after that. We writers do stuff like that.

And maybe one day there will be ads here trying to sell you other things too – therapeutic lights or omega-3 supplements for mood.

But one thing I do not now, nor will I ever sell:

Hope.

I will never, ever try to sell you hope, true or otherwise. Hope is free and selling it is a lie.

Read more

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