Guest Author - Carissa Vaughn
Often, a diagnosis of a mood or personality disorder comes about after a period of time that an individual has been observed by others participating in or acting on certain behaviors. Family members become concerned or that person will decide to go in to their doctor for treatment. Frequently, those diagnosed with manic depression or bipolar disorder (to name one) will engage in activities or behaviors that are considered ‘high risk.’ What is considered high risk?
High risk behaviors include, but are not limited to: drug use of any kind, including alcohol; numerous partners for intimate activities, including prostitution; gambling/betting; inappropriate online conversations, invitations; gang involvement; lying, stealing, ‘sneaking out,’ explosive anger or aggression, and suicidal tendencies including self mutilation/ self harm.
It is important for each individual with any sort of psychiatric diagnosis to follow up with their physical and mental care. Others without an understanding of your disorder will ultimately hold you responsible for things that you do or say. So it goes without saying that maintaining self-control is crucial.
Situations to avoid
• Don’t try to manage important things in your life while you are really tired. Things like finances, intense conversations, grocery shopping, and homework. None of us does well on empty. Focus and concentration are hindered and impaired. For those who work night shifts especially several nights in a row, be aware that your guard is down and it can be difficult when getting off of work to make wise, fully educated decisions. Wait until you are rested. Several studies have shown that the human response time and reflexes are slower when we are sleep deprived and some of those participating in driving tests have reflexes similar to someone who has had quite a bit of alcohol to drink.
• Playing the ‘what-if’ game is risky! When we start questioning decisions we’ve made. When things seem too tough to deal with and you begin to look for a way out. This is a red flag! Indecisiveness and vacillating in your thinking can cause mood changes, depression and irritability.
• The use of alcohol and/or illicit substances is always high risk and should be avoided at all costs – regardless of whether one has a personal or family history of drug use or not. Prescription medications like pain pills containing narcotics, sleep aids, or benzodiazepines such as Ativan or Klonopin have a high addiction rate and are typically meant only for short term use. For those with disorders that cause them to have periods of poor impulse control these substances are often not a good idea. Always make sure your physician/psychiatrist is aware of all medications you are taking, any history of illegal drug use and previous medical or psychiatric diagnoses. This information is not for use against you but to assist your doctor in making the most accurate assessments, evaluations and recommendations for treatment or medications for you- as an individual.
• Take your medication! If you have medication prescribed for you then usually there is a reason. If you don’t know what that reason is take the time to have a heart-to-heart with your physician and find out why. Keep taking it even when you ‘feel better.’ Maintaining a therapeutic level of the medicine in your blood stream is important to continue helping you stay in control. Without the medication your blood levels will do down and the symptoms that were present at first may very well come back.
• Let your doctor know if you start to feel different. Ie. Not sleeping well, sleeping too much, involuntary muscle movements, fever, rash, depression, suicidal thoughts – or anything else that doesn’t seem right for you.
• Find new friends. Get involved in support groups specifically for what you are experiencing. Go to church. Start a blog on the internet about your feelings and avoid persons who feed into negative behavior. Find those who are uplifting, positive and help you feel thankful.
More to come about treatments and diagnosis information. Email me with questions you have about yours or an acquaintance’s diagnosis so I can include these in future articles!