5 Ways You Can Support Someone Who is Experiencing Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a diagnosable mental health disorder that affects many people. In fact, bipolar disorder has been diagnosed in more than 2 million adults in the United States, and researchers believe the number of Americans who have bipolar disorder is even higher. However, there are things we can do to help support those who experience bipolar disorder.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by intense mood changes, thought processes, and behaviors. The changes in mood can be intense and severe and include patterns of mania and patterns of depression. The 5 types of bipolar disorder are bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymic disorder, bipolar disorder “unspecified” and bipolar disorder “otherwise specified”. While there are differences among the types of bipolar disorder, they all encompass symptoms of both mania and depression.

Symptoms of mania include:

  • Racing thoughts.
  • Fast talking.
  • Decreased need for sleep.
  • Thinking and trying to do many things at one time.
  • Excessive behaviors such as eating, sex, and drug and alcohol use.
  • Risky behaviors such as fast driving and overspending.
  • Feeling wired or jumpy.
  • Thoughts of grandiosity, such as thoughts about being the leader of a country and exaggerating your talents and achievements.
  • Psychosis such as hallucinations (seeing things that don’t exist) and delusions (thinking you can read other people’s minds).

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Low energy and lack of motivation.
  • Increased sleep.
  • Increased appetite and weight gain.
  • Difficulty performing normal day-to-day tasks such as showering, doing dishes, and going to work.
  • Feeling hopeless.
  • Thoughts of death and suicide.

5 Things We Can Do to Show Support

1. Remind Yourself that the Behaviors are Symptoms of a Disorder, Not A Personality Trait

Bipolar disorder can impact a person’s behavior and, oftentimes, the behaviors can present negatively. For example, excessive spending, drug and alcohol use, and difficulty adhering to work and personal responsibilities can all be symptoms of bipolar disorder. While difficult to experience and accept at times, these behaviors are not character flaws but are symptoms of a person’s mental health disorder. Work on recognizing that these behaviors are symptoms of an illness and not reflective of a person’s personality or intentions.

2. Take Care of Yourself

If you love someone or care for someone who has a mental illness such as bipolar disorder, be sure to take care of your own physical, mental, and spiritual needs. Engage in pleasurable activities, take breaks throughout your day, eat well, and get adequate rest. This can also include attending support groups and seeking therapy for yourself. You’ve heard the adage about taking care of yourself so that you can support and care for others; this is certainly true when helping someone experiencing mental illness.

3. Make a Plan for Manic Episodes

When your loved one is in a healthy emotional place (not experiencing an episode of mania or depression), discuss the plan for a manic episode. This can look like creating a schedule, identifying healthy creative outlets for energy, and helping with finances and spending. You can start the conversation by asking the person “what would be helpful to you when you notice yourself experiencing symptoms of mania” or “what can I do to help you effectively manage your symptoms when you experience a manic episode?”.

4. Discuss Bipolar Disorder

Having a non-judgmental, listening ear can help your loved one feel supported and safe to discuss any symptoms. It may also help your loved one feel more comfortable asking for help or coming to you when symptoms of a manic or depressive episode begin to occur. It can be helpful to ask the person “How have you managed your symptoms of bipolar disorder so well?” or “What can I do to help you when you are experiencing symptoms?”.

5. Validate Your Loved One’s Thoughts and Emotions

Try to remember that your loved one experiences thoughts and emotions that feel real, even if they aren’t based on facts and reality. For example, disputing the thoughts of people with bipolar disorder and telling them to calm down when they are experiencing intense emotions can escalate symptoms. Instead, try to remain calm during these situations and recognize that their reality is true to them. A validating statement can look like “I see you are experiencing strong emotions right now and that’s okay” or “it makes sense why you think or feel that way”. This normalizes and validates their internal experience (thoughts and emotions).

Conclusion

If you believe you may be experiencing bipolar disorder, talk to your primary care physician and discuss whether telehealth or in-person treatment is best for you. If you have thoughts of suicide, call the national suicide crisis number at 800-273-8255. If you are considering acting on your thoughts, please call 911 or go to your local emergency department to get the support you may need. Medical and mental health professionals can help you manage these symptoms. Getting help can be as easy as contacting Valera Health. We provide psychiatric and mental health telemedicine services to help you pursue your personal journey toward wellness.

Sources:

  1. https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2005/Surveys-Reveal-Gap-in-Understanding-of-Bipolar-Dis
  2. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/
  3. https://www.nami.org/personal-stories/living-with-someone-with-bipolar-disorder
  4. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/bipolar-disorder/for-friends-family/

5 Reasons Why Inclusivity in Mental Health is So Important

Within society, you have probably heard the terms inclusivity and diversity used more frequently, and for very good reason. Respecting the culture, ethnicity, values, ability, and religious beliefs of different groups of people benefits everyone as individuals and as members of society. This is particularly true when it comes to your physical health, mental health, and wellness.

What Do Diversity and Inclusivity Mean?

Diversity and inclusivity reference the same concept: acceptance and respect of everyone, regardless of age, skin color, physical ability, sexual orientation, religion, and gender identification. However, the terms are distinctly different. Diversity refers to a group of people with a wide range of demographic, political, philosophical, religious, and ethnic differences.

Diversity can be thought of as the “what.” Inclusion can be thought of as the action or the “how.” Inclusion refers to the action steps taken to intentionally include people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, demographics, abilities, and religious beliefs. You can think of it as including people regardless of where they come from, their physical abilities, how they identify, and what they believe while respecting and accepting them as human beings.

Why Inclusivity in Mental Health Care Is So Important?

  1. They allow you access to essential healthcare services like therapy and medication by having therapists and doctors available from various backgrounds and demographics.
  2. They encourage effective problem-solving efforts. This can mean more effective and efficient services for you and an overall better therapeutic experience.
  3. They provide you with options. Having options can help you feel empowered to make your own decisions about your healthcare.
  4. They improve employee morale. Feeling respected, accepted, and included can increase motivation and improve productivity at work. This can, in turn, improve motivation and morale, which can translate into effective therapy and patient care for you.
  5. They facilitate increased trust in the therapy room. When you feel respected, heard, and valued by your therapist, you are more willing to open up and be honest. Having a positive rapport with your therapist can help you reach your therapeutic goals.

What Do Diversity and Inclusivity Look Like in Therapy?

Talking to a professional counselor, psychologist, or therapist can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Your mind and body connection is an important part of your overall health. Incorporating diversity and inclusivity in therapy is important for effective therapy. Honoring diversity and inclusivity, as a therapist, can look as follows:

  • A willingness to learn about cultures, ethnicities, religions, and demographics that are different from their own.
  • Eliminating judgments, stereotypes, and bias through education and professional development.
  • Attending continued learning courses about inequality and social injustices that groups of people experience.

This can have a direct impact on your experience as a patient. If a therapist is nonjudgmental, doesn’t support stereotypes, and has professional education in diversity, you benefit. You may feel accepted, included, and feel more comfortable expressing yourself genuinely in therapy.

As a patient, it is of the utmost importance that you feel accepted and empowered along your therapeutic journey. Being able to choose your therapist based on your specific needs and background is important. 

How Can You Tell if You Have a Therapist who is Committed to Inclusive Care?

Having a therapist who is committed to providing inclusive care can be the key element for an effective and successful therapeutic experience. An inclusive therapist will:

  • Ask about your background, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and values that are important to you.
  • Build upon your strengths and appreciate your beliefs.
  • Engage in healthy verbal and non-verbal communication with you such as making eye contact and asking follow-up questions to clarify something you have said.
  • Show openness to receiving feedback from you to help improve communication and develop trust. They will ask you if there is anything they can do differently to make you feel more comfortable.
  • Inquire and respect your pronouns.

Conclusion

The experience of bias, racism, and prejudice can negatively impact your mental health. In addition, fear of  experiencing bias, prejudice, and being misunderstood is a barrier to getting mental healthcare for a lot of people . If you are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety or perhaps your are searching  for support along your personal journey, Valera Health can help. At Valera Health, we provide comprehensive tele-mental health care that includes therapy and psychiatry services that are focused on you and your unique needs.

Sources:

https://www.qcc.cuny.edu/diversity/definition.html
https://diversity.gwu.edu/diversity-and-inclusion-defined

5 Ways the Mind and Body Are Connected and How to Use It to Your Advantage

The connection between your mind and body can’t be denied. The mind refers to the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and images that we experience. These things have an impact on your body’s physical state and well-being. You are physically affected (through body sensations and functioning) by what goes on in your mind. For example, your heart rate may increase when you experience feelings of anxiety when you have to make a speech in front of other people or when you do something for the first time.

How Does It Work?

How you think can directly affect how you feel physically, and how you feel physically can directly affect how you think and feel mentally. For example, if you have chronic back pain, you may be more vulnerable to feelings of irritability or frustration. In this instance, your body’s physical issues are affecting your feelings and thoughts.

Conversely, your thoughts and feelings can affect how you feel physically. For example, if you are constantly worrying and stressing about finances, your body responds through muscle aches and pains. It is helpful to think about your mind and body as being in constant communication with one another.

5 Ways the Mind and Body Are Connected

When you experience emotions, your brain sends signals to your body, and your body responds accordingly. Your body’s response to the brain’s signal is referred to as action urges. These urges can be unconscious, so you don’t necessarily think about how your body is responding. Also, when you experience problems with your physical body, your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are affected. Below are 5 ways your mind and body are connected.

  1. Stress and the fight or flight response: When you experience the emotion of stress, your body engages in the fight or flight response. This feels like your heart may beat right out of your chest, you are breathing so fast you can’t catch your breath, and it is difficult to move because of your muscle aches. This physical response helps us defend ourselves and avoid danger.
  2. Chronic pain and depression: Studies show that people who experience chronic pain are at risk for experiencing feelings of depression and sadness which can make it difficult to get out of bed, complete normal tasks, and feelings of hopelessness.
  3. Anxiety and eating (overeating and undereating): When you experience the emotion of anxiety, your urge may be to use food as a source of comfort to help reduce your feelings of anxiety, which can cause you to eat even when you are full. Conversely, anxiety can cause an upset stomach and other gastrointestinal issues that may contribute to a reduction in appetite, which can lead you to undereat.
  4. Anger and aggression: Anger is an emotion that exists to help protect you. Anger is part of your survival instincts, and it serves the purpose of protecting you when you are experiencing a threat to your safety. When you experience anger, the mind sends the body a message to prepare for fleeing or fighting by sending blood and other chemicals to your muscles. Clenching your fists and grinding your teeth are the body’s physical responses to the emotion of anger.
  5. Experiencing more positive emotions can improve physical health: Studies show that people who experience more happiness and joy have healthier blood sugar levels, healthier weight, have lower blood pressure, and have a reduced risk of heart disease compared to people who experience more negative emotions (anger, sadness, anxiety, fear).

How to Use It to Your Advantage

Having an awareness of your body’s physical response to your emotions can help you engage in the opposite action. Opposite action is when you act opposite of your physical urge. For example, when you experience anger and notice yourself clenching your fists, open your hands with your palms facing up. This interrupts the mind-body connection and can help reduce the intensity of your anger and prevent you from reacting to your anger. When you are experiencing depression, your urge may be to withdraw or isolate. In this case, the opposite action would be to gently approach the situation you are trying to withdraw from. For example, if your urge is to avoid going to the family get-together, the opposite action would be to go to the event, at least for a short time. Surrounding yourself with loved ones can help improve your mood and even reduce feelings of depression.

Talk to your doctor about any physical problems you may be experiencing. If you are experiencing mood or mental health issues, Valera Health can help on your personal journey with mind and body wellness. Valera Health offers psychiatric and therapeutic services through telemedicine.

Sources:

https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/mente
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5494581/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5879019/
https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/anger-how-it-affects-people
https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2015/08/positive-emotions-your-health
https://counseling.uoregon.edu/magic-opposite-action

6 Warning Signs of Anxiety and When to Get Help

Anxiety is a common mental health disorder today. Maybe you have been experiencing symptoms of anxiety for years, or perhaps your anxiety emerged as a result of a global pandemic, social divide, and other environmental factors. Often our experience of anxiety is very internally disruptive but invisible to others. We may hesitate to tell others about what we are going through out of fear of being judged, thoughts that we have failed in some way, or beliefs that if we ignore the feelings of anxiety that it will just go away.

If you have noticed your anxiety increase, regardless of the reason, you are not alone. Anxiety disorders are one the most common mental health disorders today with more than 40 million adults in the United States meeting the diagnostic criteria. Anxiety and stress are normal responses to life’s stressors, and a number of factors contribute to the development of anxiety—difficult life experiences, personality traits, family history of mental health disorders, and physical health. During moments of high distress, it may seem as though the physical sensations of anxiety will never go away; however, research shows us that anxiety is treatable and the feelings we experience are temporary.

Different Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are a number of different anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The different types of anxiety disorders share some commonalities which can include symptoms such as racing heart, sweating, and racing thoughts. There are some differences in the experience of anxiety among the different anxiety disorders. People with panic disorder feel as if they are in sudden danger, feel helpless, and feel as if they are losing control even though there is no real threat or danger. A panic attack can last for several minutes and can occur at random. Generalized anxiety refers to a persistent feeling of worry. PTSD is generally a result of experiencing a traumatic event. PTSD refers to the intense and uncomfortable thoughts and feelings related to the traumatic experience. OCD refers to the unwanted thoughts and emotions that cause a person to engage in a behavior repetitively.

What Does Anxiety Look and Feel Like?

Symptoms of anxiety can be both physical and psychological. Many of us know that feeling when we are about to give a presentation in front of a group of people, take a test, or meet someone for the first time. While our triggers to anxiety symptoms may be different, it is highly likely that we have all experienced anxiety at some point in our lives. Anxiety isn’t all bad as it does serve a purpose in helping alert us to threats and helping us prepare for important moments in our lives. However, if anxiety increases in severity and duration and begins to cause problems in your life, your anxiety may be at an unhealthy level.

Here are six common warning signs of anxiety.

1.     Difficulty Sleeping

Difficulty sleeping is a warning sign that can look different for each person. You may find yourself thinking about the past or the future as you lay in bed, preventing you from falling asleep. Or perhaps, you may notice that you are waking up every 3 to 4 hours and cannot easily fall back asleep. In both situations, it is common to begin to worry about what will happen the next day if you can’t get to a restful night’s sleep.

2.     Lack of Concentration

You are having a hard time concentrating and following through with things at home, work, school, and in relationships. You may miss important deadlines, overlook key details, and fail to follow through with important obligations. It can look like slipping grades and poor performance at work.

3.     Being Easily Irritated

You notice you are on edge, restless, and are easily irritated. You often find yourself in disagreements with loved ones and co-workers over small instances such as someone’s loud chewing or that they did something differently than what you would have done.

4.     Feeling Tired

You feel tired easily and experience more fatigue with anxiety. Your energy level is low, causing you to struggle to find the motivation to complete simple tasks like getting out of bed in the morning and doing laundry. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages are no longer doing the trick and giving you the burst of energy you need. Maybe your laundry has been piling up or you have missed several days of work due to fatigue.

5.     Intense and Prolonged Worry

Anxiety may cause you to have a hard time controlling worried thoughts. Your mind can race with “what if” thoughts about the future such as “what if I fail”, “what if they don’t like me”, and “what if I’m not good enough”.

6.     Fast Heartbeat

If you are experiencing feelings of anxiety, your heart may beat really fast. You may check your pulse and notice your heartbeat increasing and your mind jumps to the worst-case scenario about your increased heart rate.

When to Get Help

Here are some questions to consider to help you determine if you should seek help for your anxiety:

  • Am I avoiding activities, people, and places that remind me of a time I experienced a panic attack?
  • Has my anxiety contributed to conflict in any of my relationships with loved ones?
  • Have I missed important family, work, and school responsibilities because of my anxiety?
  • Have I tried to control or manage my anxiety in other ways without success?

If you answered yes to any of these questions or if you want to talk to someone about your anxiety symptoms, help is available. Many people may be hesitant to get help for a number of reasons including not knowing where to turn for help, feeling shame or embarrassment about anxiety, or confusion about their insurance coverage. A good place to start can be to talk with your doctor or medical professional. If you are confused about your insurance, you can call the number on the back of your card to determine your coverage and identify treatment locations that accept your insurance provider. Anxiety can be treated by medical and mental health professionals.

Valera Health offers therapy and psychiatric services via telehealth so you can receive the mental healthcare you need from the comfort of your home. We can help you on your personal journey to get treatment for anxiety.

Sources:

  1. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders#:~:text=Anxiety%20disorders%20are%20the%20most,develop%20symptoms%20before%20age%2021.
  2. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/what-causes-anxiety
  3. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/panic-disorder-when-fear-overwhelms/index.shtml
  4. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/living-with-anxiety-report.pdf
  5. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

It’s Time to Normalize Mental Health Care. Here’s Why It’s a Good Idea for Everyone.

The mind and the body are connected. If the mind is unhealthy, it reflects on the body, and vice versa. Dr. Brock Chisholm, the first Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said that “without mental health, there can be no true physical health.” As a society, we have seen mental health make its way into our media. Some of our favorite athletes, singers, and actors have bravely discussed their struggles with mental health, oftentimes advocating for therapy, normalizing medication, and encouraging people to seek help for their mental illness.

Impact of Mental Health on Physical Health & Quality of Life

Mental health refers to the state of our mental wellness; mental health is something we all have. Mental illness refers to a mental health disorder such as anxiety and depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults in the United States live with mental illness. Our mental health plays a role in our lives from our longevity, to our vulnerability to contract various diseases, our use of drugs and alcohol, and our ability to thrive in our jobs, at school, and with our families. Below are some statistics that shed light on the strong connection between mental health and our behaviors, physical health, and quality of life.

  1. Half of the people who experience mental illness will also develop a substance use disorder.
  2. People who suffer from depression and schizophrenia, if left untreated, tend to live shorter lives than those who do not suffer from a mental illness.
  3. Depression has been connected to a 50% increase in a person’s risk of dying from cancer and a 67% increase in developing heart disease.
  4. Almost all suicides are a result of mental illness and suicide happens to be the third-leading cause of death for young adults and adolescents.

The Cost of Mental Illness

Mental illness, if left untreated, can contribute to problems with relationships, lost income, suicide, and substance use. Researchers suggests that people experiencing severe mental illness are more likely to receive lower quality medical care, are more likely have chronic medical conditions, and are likely to die prematurely compared to people without mental illness.

Why It’s A Good Idea for Everyone

Consider the physical disease of obesity and how normalized it is in our society. Anywhere you look, you will see advertisements and apps with our favorite celebrities touting their workout routines, meal plans, and supplements all with the goal of helping you lose weight and beat obesity. Imagine what would happen if, as a society, we could normalize mental health in the way that we normalize obesity.

By not talking about mental illness we reinforce:

  • Discrimination.
  • Physical violence, bullying, and harassment.
  • Lack of understanding from friends and family.
  • Health insurance providers not adequately covering mental illness in their insurance plans.
  • Beliefs that people who suffer from mental illness can’t get better and there’s no hope.
  • Fewer opportunities at work and school for people with mental illness.

Many of us already have or will experience a mental illness in our lifetime. Nearly 20% of Americans will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives, but less than half will receive the treatment they need.

How To Talk About Mental Illness

It may feel intimidating or scary to talk about your mental health. Those feelings are normal. Consider starting small when opening up a conversation about mental health and communicate in ways that are comfortable to you. This can look like writing poetry, painting, dancing, sending a short email or text to a trusted friend. Set a certain amount of time aside (a half-hour, for example) to talk to someone about your mental health without distractions when you feel comfortable in doing so. It may help to look up some statistics on mental health to help you feel like you are not alone. Finally, get help by talking to a doctor or medical professional about what you are experiencing.

Get Help Today

Mental illness is treatable. If you experience mental illness, getting help and the treatment you need is key in improving your physical health, wellness, and overall quality of life. By normalizing mental health, we can send a message to anyone struggling with mental illness that they are not alone, they are supported, treatment is possible, and there is hope.

We at Valera Health understand that it can feel intimidating to ask for help. That’s why we offer telehealth services for both therapy and psychiatric services. Help is available on your personal journey with mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or ADHD.

Sources:

https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/91/1/12-115063/en/
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness
https://onlinedegrees.bradley.edu/blog/how-mental-health-affects-physical-health/
https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2002/Mental-Health-Parity-Benefits-Outweigh-Costs-and#:~:text=Untreated%20mental%20illness%20costs%20the,1%20percent%20of%20current%20premiums.
https://www.mass.gov/info-details/why-do-we-need-to-talk-about-mental-health