Dr. Kimberly Dennis is the Medical Director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bipolar Disorder, a Serious Psychiatric Disorder, Often Misdiagnosed By Professionals and Unrecognized by Loved Ones

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive disorder or manic depression, is a psychiatric disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out everyday tasks. It is a serious mental illness requiring specialized treatment, but the problem is that bipolar disorder often gets misdiagnosed by professionals and is unrecognized by loved ones.

Bipolar disorder commonly co-occurs with other illnesses and addictions, making it hard to diagnose without a thorough diagnostic workup that includes looking at substance/drug abuse and use, and an evaluation for possible early life trauma – both of which can produce symptoms that look like bipolar disorder. Many times, residents come to Timberline Knolls with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but once evaluated are properly diagnosed with a drug abuse problem, which looks similar to bipolar disorder when an individual is going through stages of intoxication and withdrawal. Additionally, the diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be missed by professionals who think the patient is just suffering from substance abuse or dependence.

Not only do professionals miss the diagnosis, but loved ones and family members many times do not recognize the real problem – either because they do not know what bipolar disorder is, or because they are focused on something else, such as a co-occurring drug abuse problem.

Signs of bipolar disorder in its manic state include:

•extended periods of feeling overly happy or outgoing
•extremely irritable mood, agitation, or jumpiness
•being easily distracted
•little to no sleep for several days in a row without feeling tired
•having an unrealistic belief in one's abilities
•behaving impulsively
•suicide attempts

Signs of bipolar disorder in its depressive state include:

•isolation from friends and family
•loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
•feeling tired or slowed down
•having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
•abuse of alcohol and drugs, especially cocaine
•dependence on sleeping pills

A correct diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and ensuring the appropriate treatment is offered, is critical for those who face and treat bipolar disorder and co-occurring disorders. People with this illness can achieve long-term physical, emotional and spiritual recovery. Everyone needs to remember this is a disease, and the individual did not choose to have the disease. Sufferers can choose to get treatment and recover. Help is available and manageability is possible when someone is connected to the right support system and specialized treatment is sought.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Self Injury a Growing Problem among Adolescents

According to the Cornell Research Program on self injury, 12 to 24 percent of young people have self-injured. Self injury, such as cutting, scratching or burning, can be a way to release or relieve unmanageable feelings and express intense inner pain. It is a growing problem among young people that needs to be addressed. Parents are a first line of defense and a key part to seeking help and I understand that the first conversation between a parent and a child can be a difficult one.

Using a ‘I see, I think, I feel’ formula is an effective way to approach a complex and delicate subject, and it allows parents to remain on their side of the street. This formula can be applied by saying to your child: “When I see cuts on your wrist, I think ‘this is a problem, my kid is cutting,' and I feel scared.” But I encourage parents to make their own observations and speak from the heart as this formula is just an outline for that conversation.

Having an open and honest dialogue is key when parents suspect there is a problem. Many times parents are worried their child will be mad or upset about being confronted, but this formula makes it more about a parent’s concerns, rather than adding to the guilt or shame the child likely already feels for his or her actions. Help is available and it works - at Timberline Knolls, we focus on healing from the inside out.

More often than not, self injury is associated with another co-occurring problem like depression, trauma, eating disorders or substance abuse. These young adults need attention - sometimes medical, sometimes emotional, sometimes spiritual. It’s important to not only recognize the signs of self injury, but as a parent, to know what steps to take to get proper care for your child. These are serious and deadly diseases, but there is hope and life long recovery is possible.

By fostering an environment of acceptance and understanding, facilities such as Timberline Knolls provide a safe space where those facing self-injury and co-occurring disorders can heal physically, emotionally and spiritually.