Understanding What They Are and How to Cope with Them
Last month, we started talking about 7 common mental health disorders. Now it’s time to continue that conversation.
In this post, we will cover:
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Personality disorders
We’ll identify what these disorders are, their prevalence in the US, and how to cope with them. Let’s get started:
People experiencing bipolar disorder have mood changes and varying energy and activity levels. You can feel really good one moment, then depressed shortly after. Bipolar disorder used to be called “manic depression” because it involves major mood shifts.
Often, bipolar disorder is a lifelong mental illness that seriously disrupts your everyday life and well-being. It’s also incredibly prevalent in the U.S. According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance:
- Approximately 5.7 million American adults experience bipolar disorder (2.6% of the US population).
- You can begin experiencing bipolar disorder in your early childhood or as later as your 50’s.
- Bipolar disorders affect men, women, all races, ethnic groups, and social classes. However, women tend to experience more depressive mixed and depressive episodes than men.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
We’re still learning about what causes bipolar disorder. Environment factors, like stress, medical conditions, and exposure to certain drugs, may also cause the disease.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests the disease could have a heritable component. More than two-thirds of people experiencing the disorder have at least one close relative also dealing with some form of major depression. However, we still have much to learn about the genetic components and their relation to the condition.
What we do know is that bipolar disorder involves chemical imbalance in your brain, including your “happy hormones” like serotonin and dopamine. It can also cause imbalances to norepinephrine, which affects your energy level and attentiveness.
Common symptoms of bipolar disorder include:
- A decrease in need or want for sleep
- Starting tons of tasks and projects, but never finishing them
- Making unrealistic plans
- Reckless behavior
- Inability to respond to social cues to stop talking and let others speak
- Poor temper control
- Self-esteem fluctuations
- Disregard for your safety or the safety of others
Self-Managing Bipolar Disorder
If you’re experiencing bipolar disorder, we recommend seeking a physician’s help. There are also some coping strategies that can help improve your everyday life, including:
- Creating a routine and sticking to it. Routines help stabilize your mood.
- Get the right amount of sleep—usually somewhere between 7-9 hours.
- Find ways to reduce the stressors in your life.
- Don’t make any snap decisions. Take your time, and think them through.
- Build a strong support network of family and friends that you love and trust.
- Chart your mood or use an app to track your symptoms.Doing this helps you identify triggers and patterns, so you can better prevent relapses.
Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder characterized by having abnormal thoughts or behaviors and an anti-social mood. In many cases, people experiencing schizophrenia don’t identify with reality at times.
- 3.5 million Americans experience schizophrenia
- Men are impacted 1.5x more than women
- Schizophrenia is commonly diagnosed in people ages 16-25
Types of Schizophrenia
People experiencing schizophrenia exhibit five types of symptoms:
You experience paranoid behavior, and may display anxiety, anger, and hostility.
You vary between extremes: you’re either immobile or all over the place; say nothing or mimic everything you say and do.
You may display reactions or emotions unrelated to your surroundings or situation at-hand. Disorganized thought patterns can disrupt your everyday activities.
You may experience disorganized speech or behavior, delusions, or hallucinations.
You’ve had at least one schizophrenic episode in the past, but currently have no symptoms or are in remission.
What Causes Schizophrenia?
Causes of schizophrenia vary. Schizophrenia is believed to have multiple, interrelated causes, including:
- Brain chemistry
- History of abuse
- History of neglect
- Environment issues
How to Cope With Schizophrenia
Getting diagnosed with schizophrenia can be devastating. You may feel like you’ll never be able to live a normal life. However, most people experiencing schizophrenia get better over time. While there’s no cure, schizophrenia is treatable, and your attitude towards your diagnosis can drastically improve your ability to cope with it.
Here’s what we recommend:
- Don’t feed into the stigma of schizophrenia. It’s an illness that you should take seriously, but it shouldn’t dictate your life, and you definitely shouldn’t buy into the myths surrounding your disorder.
- Help manage your symptoms with self-help, therapy, and openly communicating with your physician.
- Set goals and routines to maintain a sense of normalcy. You can still work, build and grow relationships, and live a great life.
- Exercise regularly to improve your mood
- Build a strong support network of family and friends that you love and trust.
PTSD is a stressor-related disorder that you may develop after enduring a traumatic event, such as a near death experience, physical or sexual abuse, or serious injury. It’s commonly associated with wartime violence, but anyone can develop PTSD.
A PTSD attack makes you feel like you’re re-experiencing the traumatic event through flashbacks, nightmares, or other intrusive memories. You may become numb, close off your feelings, or go out of your way to avoid potentially triggering events.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs:
- 6% of people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.
- Around 12 million US adults experience PTSD during a given year
- Women are twice as likely to experience PTSD than men
What Causes PTSD?
When you’re afraid, your body triggers your “fight or flight” response and releases adrenaline in your body. Once you’re out of immediate or perceived danger, your body begins returning to its normal state, shutting down your stress response. If you’re experiencing PTSD, you’re likely to have higher levels of stimulating hormones and lower levels of calming ones, putting you in a naturally heightened state.
PTSD can be treated with psychotherapy and/or medication. Both treatments are effective, but the best way to help your symptoms is by working with a mental health professional.
Common psychotherapy treatments include:
- Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TFCBT): Involves processing traumatic memories, overcoming problematic behaviors and thoughts, and developing coping methods and interpersonal skills.
- Eye movement desensitization and repossession (EMDR): A therapy type comparable to TFCBT that focuses specifically on controlled eye movement linked to processing traumatic memories.
- Exposure therapy: Extinguishing your fear response by re-experiencing a scenario without the negative consequences (exposure and response prevention).
Personality disorders are long-term patterns of inner experiences and behavior that differ from someone’s expected actions. They can impact:
- How you think about yourself or others
- How you relate to others
- How you control your behavior
- How you respond emotionally
Approximately 9% of US adults have one of ten types of personality disorders. These mental health conditions include:
Antisocial Personality Disorder
Having a disregard for the rights of others; you may lie or deceive repeatedly, act impulsively, and not conform to social norms.
Avoidant Personality Disorder
Feelings of extreme shyness, inadequacy, and sensitivity to criticism.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Experiencing instability in personal relationships, intense emotions, and going through great lengths to avoid abandonment.
Dependent Personality Disorder
Excessive clinginess, submissive behavior, and a need to be taken care of.
Histrionic Personality Disorder
Excessive emotional appeal and a need for attention.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Excessive need for admiration while lacking empathy for others.
Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
Experiencing a need for perfection, orderliness, and control.
Paranoid Personality Disorder
Excessive feelings of suspicion and distrust of others.
Schizoid Personality Disorder
Expressing little to no emotion and social detachment.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Experiencing eccentric behavior and thoughts, while being repeatedly uncomfortable in close relationships.
What Causes Personality Disorders?
Scientists are still trying to determine what causes personality disorders. However, they believe they can be attributed to many factors, including:
- Cultural factors and experiences
- Changes in your brain chemistry
- Verbal child abuse
- Traumatic childhood experiences
Treating Personality Disorders
Some forms of psychotherapy prove effective in treating personality disorders. There are also coping strategies that can be helpful to you, including:
- Getting experiences to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
- Educating yourself about your condition
- Working with a physician or mental health professional
- Expressing your emotions through art, crafts, and/or a journal
- Meditation and yoga
- Avoiding drugs and alcohol
- Maintaining a strong social circle of friends and family
Mental Health Services
Everyone needs help sometimes. If you’re experiencing any of the mental health conditions we’ve covered in this post or in our previous post, contact us. We can help