A Guide to Mood Disorders: Guest blog By Ellie Willis

Mood disorders encompass many disorders of how you feel from day-to-day, whether that is abnormally elevated (mania) or depressed and in low mood. They can include depressive illness such as major depressive disorder, dysthymia, postnatal depression and the bipolar spectrum disorders. They also feature anxiety and panic disorders. These are often down to brain chemistry and sometimes environment.

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(image: Pinterest/ Healthyplace.com)

 

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depression is defined as a depressive illness where you experience a significantly lowered mood and a loss of interest in activities that you would normally enjoy. While it is normal to feel sadness and grief when your life significantly changes, such as when a loved one passes away, when it doesn’t go away or gets worse, it may evolve into major depression. Some of the symptoms of depression are:

• Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness • Feeling guilty over insignificant things • Withdrawing from family and friends • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs as a coping mechanism • Having problems with concentration • Being unproductive • Having a lack of confidence • Feeling irritated or frustrated • Having a lack of interest in sex.

While sometimes a depressive episode seems to come out of the blue, there are often things that can trigger them. These may include: Genetic risk factors • Alcohol or other substance abuse • Medical problems such as thyroid issues or chronic pain • Certain medications such as steroids • Sleeping problems • Stressful life events 

Studies have shown that there appears to be a genetic component to depression. That is, if one of your parents has a depressive illness, you may end up suffering from depression yourself.

Dysthymia is a chronic form of depression that occurs when you suffer from a mild to moderate depression for at least two years. Although dysthymia causes problems in everyday life, dysthymia is often not severe enough to warrant hospitalisation. The chronic nature of the disorder means that you may believe that you have always felt like this.

The good news is that there are a wide range of medications to treat major depressive disorder, such as antidepressants. There are many kinds of medications around, and you may have to try a few until you and your psychiatrist find the perfect one with little to no side effects.

As of the time of writing, the antidepressants most commonly used are SSRIs and SNRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). These refer to the types of neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that affect mood, among other things) that they affect.

With antidepressants, it is extremely important not to stop medication all at once, unless there are serious side effects and even then, only under medical advice. This is because of discontinuation syndrome. Simply put, this means that your body gets used to the medication being in your system (different to addiction where you crave the drug) and you experience symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and insomnia, to name a few.

Another important way to treat depression is psychotherapy in one form or another. This can help you by learning coping skills to deal with depressive thoughts and negative thinking, as well as having someone to speak to with complete privacy. There are a few other ways for you to combat depression in adjunct to medications or therapy.

These are: • Maintaining good sleeping habits • Exercising more • Seeking out activities that bring you pleasure • Being around caring and supportive people

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is a depressive illness where a new mother experiences depression in the first few months after giving birth to a child.

Some of the symptoms of postnatal depression include:

• Feeling sad or empty • Lowered self-esteem • Changing appetite (usually a decrease) • A loss of enjoyment in everyday activities • Changes in sleep patterns such as insomnia • Not being able to concentrate • Feeling cut off from the baby • A loss of interest in sex • Feeling ashamed, guilty or inadequate • Withdrawing from family and friends • Mood swings • Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby

There are a number of factors that make postnatal depression more likely. Some of these may include: • A history of depression, especially postnatal depression in the past • If the baby is sick or colicky • If you are in an abusive relationship • If you are suffering from stress • If you have little support from family and friends •

Treatment for postnatal depression is essentially similar to that for major depression, such as antidepressants and therapy and in some cases intervention from a psychiatrist or hospital team is required.

 

Bipolar Disorder Spectrum

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterised by periods of extreme mood states known as mania and depression. It is one of the most serious mental illnesses and is the sixth most disabling condition in the world at the time of writing. It is chronic and potentially life threatening. However, those with it can go on to recovery and live happy and fulfilled lives between episodes. 

According to some studies, one in fifty people may suffer from a form of bipolar disorder. In many cases, there is a family history.

Mania is one pole of bipolar disorder – an extremely elevated or depressed mood, sometimes accompanied by psychosis. You may have racing thoughts or speak so quickly it is difficult for others to understand. You may also have trouble getting to sleep at night or suffer from insomnia. There is a danger of reckless behaviour such as overspending, unsafe sexual activity or aggression. You may feel a sense of grandiosity, making unrealistic plans. Despite mania feeling great at the time, the consequences of mania can be destructive.

Some of the signs of depression include a lowered mood, self-esteem or interest in enjoyable activities, pessimism, reduced energy and changes in appetite. Suicidal thoughts are also possible and must be monitored closely. As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications to maintain your mood at a normal level.

Hypomania is the hallmark of bipolar II where the patient might feel euphoria or agitation. Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes except they are less severe and sometimes pleasurable to you. There is never psychosis in a hypomanic episode. Despite hypomania increasing productivity, or making you feel increased self-esteem, the consequences can be major, especially as your mood goes down to depression.

A mixed state is a combination of manic and depressed symptoms. In a mixed state you may feel very sad or hopeless while feeling extremely energised. These can be dangerous, because of the suicide risk from being depressed as well as impulsive. If you feel you are heading into a mixed state, you should contact your psychiatrist as soon as possible.

Bipolar disorder type I is characterised by at least one episode of full-blown mania as well as depressive episodes. There is also a chance of psychosis (delusions/ hallucinations)  accompanying a manic episode. Bipolar type II features only hypomania and never mania or psychosis. While these manias are less destructive, the depression tends to be worse, and there is often a high suicide risk.

Cyclothymia is a bipolar spectrum disorder where you may have long periods of minor depression lasting at least two years alternating with hypomania. These depressive periods tend to be irritable and agitated rather than melancholic and lacking in energy.

Bipolar NOS (not otherwise specified) simply refers to bipolar disorders that do not strictly meet the criteria of any of the previously mentioned types of bipolar disorder.

The treatment of bipolar disorder involves medications such as Lithium carbonate, lamotrigine, sodium valporate, and quetiapine, as well as psychotherapy to help overcome negative thoughts that exacerbate depression or after effects of mania. 

As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications for life to maintain your mood at a normal level. Despite this, many patients continue to do well as long as they stay compliant with treatment and keep aware of their changing mood states.

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(image: MTVFORA: http://fora.mtv.ca/words-of-wisdom-celebrity-quotes-on-mental-wellness/)

 

Anxiety Disorders

The term anxiety disorder covers a wide range of illnesses from panic disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite the wide range of diseases, many share similar treatment options. There is a stigma affecting some anxiety disorders due to stereotypes in the media.

 

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

It is normal for people to feel some anxiety over normal life events such as exams, work problems or family issues. However, when it causes problems in your everyday life or is particularly severe you may have an anxiety disorder. Generalised anxiety disorder involves having irrational fears, such as being afraid harm will come to you or your loved ones, financial issues, health, relationships and work.

Physical symptoms when experiencing anxiety may include: • Light-headedness • Becoming tired easily, or being unable to sleep properly • Feeling tense or restless, or losing your temper easily • Nausea • Shortness of breath • Headaches • Trembling • Muscle tension Treatment generally involves medications or therapy.

Psychological treatments may involve: • Learning relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxing exercises or meditation • Therapy to teach you how to solve problems that cause anxiety with anxiety disorders, psychological treatments are generally more effective than medication, however it can still be useful.

The most common treatments are antidepressants or benzodiazepines such as alprazolam or diazepam. Generally, benzodiazepines shouldn’t be taken long-term, as there is a risk of becoming dependent on them.

Anxiety disorders are relatively common in the population, with statistics that approximately 25% of the people suffer some kind of anxiety disorder that may warrant treatment in their lifetime. Anxiety is treatable, and therapy or medication may minimise the effects on your life and relationships.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a mental health condition where you experience a feeling known as a panic attack recurrently.

Some of the symptoms of a panic attack include: • Shortness of breath • Dizziness or light-headedness • Tightness or pain in the chest • Trembling or shaking • Dry mouth • Muscle tension • Difficulty gathering thoughts or speaking • Tingling fingers or feet • A choking or smothering feeling • Hot or cold flushes • Nausea or butterflies • Blurred vision • Fear of dying, losing control or going mad

When you have panic disorder, you may also worry about the implications of a panic attack such as humiliation or feeling of going crazy.

You may try and flee from the situation hoping the panic attack will stop. Panic disorder is generally treated via therapeutic methods rather than medications. This may involve your doctor teaching you about panic disorder, for example, that a panic attack is distinguishable from other mental illnesses such as other anxiety disorders or psychosis – this is known as psycho education.

A therapist may instruct you not to avoid any situations where a panic attack may occur. This may be unpleasant at first, but slowly you will not feel anxious in the situation. This will help prevent agoraphobia and the disability it causes.

A common treatment for anxiety disorders is CBT – but there are many types too including exposure therapy and talking therapies. They can be incredibly helpful for you to overcome feelings of anxiety.

This guest blog was written by Ellie Willis, an expert in mental health.

 

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We are 2 Years Old! Blog Anniversary of Be Ur Own Light!

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(image: Michelle Leigh writes)

Wow! I can’t believe that Be Ur Own Light has turned 2 years old! We celebrated our second blogiversary on 1st March so I am a few days late but it doesn’t matter.

This blog has provided me with so many amazing opportunities so far. I have met more and more people who are like minded and want to speak about their own mental health to battle stigma. I have met some incredible people online too and such wonderful contributors. I love also finding and telling untold stories.

The blog  has really grown this year into a good mental health resource. We have had lots of contributors which has been fab. I (Eleanor, founder of blog) have also started a new career as a mental health writer and journalist. That is largely down to the success of the blog and I have truly found a niche. Be Ur Own Light is also a shortlisted finalist in the Health and Social care individual category of the UK Blog Awards 2018! Thank you for all your support of the blog and what we do.

I have written this year for Metro.co.uk, Glamour Magazine (online), No Panic, Happiful Magazine and Happiful.com, Counselling Directory, Mind, SANE, Time to Change, STOP Suicide,  Jewish News, Equilibrium Magazine, World Union of Jewish Students,
and been featured in Cosmopolitan UK, Elle UK and Prima.

Thank you to all these amazing people who have provided guest blogs this year. I have been humbled to work with experts and people with lived experience, to provide information and tell others stories to help end the stigma and provide a resource on mental health.

So thank you to these guest bloggers who gave me such wonderful content. There is more to come. This year March 2017-18 thanks to:

Hannah Brown- Recovery from Anorexia
Time With-  Therapy queries
Charlotte Underwood- Recovery from depression/ suicide
Trysh Sutton- Pure Path Essential Oils

Ariel Taylor- Trichotillomania guide
Jon Manning- Mental health in schools
Channel 4 and Lloyds Bank- Get the Inside Out campaign
Stephen Galloway- Inspirational lyrics
Eugene Farell AXA PPP- Loneliness tips
Peter Lang- PTSD and recovery
Kaitlyn W- Light beyond self harm
Jess Harris- Organ donation
Sam- Recovery from bipolar disorder
Ryan Jackson- Reasons for drug and alcohol addiction stigma
Redfin.com- Seasonal Affective disorder
United Mind Laughter Yoga- Job and wellbeing
Christina Hendricks- on PTSD
Reviews Bee- Child Mental Health
Consumer Money Worries- Mental Health and money
Stephen Smith- OCD and nOCD app
Arslan Butt- University students and mental illness
Tony Weekes- Unity MHS
Ellie Miles- Fighting Health Anxiety
Hope Virgo- Anorexia and recovery
Ann Heathcote- Government and mental health
Jasmine Burns- Strategies to help Binge eating
Bill Weiss- Surviving Opiate withdrawal
Jessica Flores- Bipolar 2 – depression
Jay Pigmintiello- Mindfulness and Meditation
David Baum- 365 Challenge for PTSD awareness
Karen- Mental health professional with anxiety
Dr Stacey Leibowitz Levy- CBT
Lucy Boyle- Burnout Syndrome
Diamond G Health Informer- Technology and mental health
Juno Medical- Anxiety Disorders

Thank you to everyone! This year we aim to cover even more mental health issues and disorders in our quest to provide information and be a home for all.

This year I have also written personal posts about my fight with my anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, mental health and dating, mental health and weight gain, NHS waiting lists and therapy,  book reviews for Trigger Press for Hope Virgo and Karen Mantons books, Workplace and mental health stigma, Reading as therapy and more! Time to Talk Day and Eating Disorder Awareness Week marked and many conversations had eg stigma about psychiatric medication.

We have won various awards from other bloggers- Liebster, Sunshine, Mystery and Top 30 social anxiety blog and Top 100 bipolar blog from Feedspot.com.

I am so excited that we have over 4,000 followers on Twitter, almost 600 on WordPress, over 2000 on Instagram and of course my loyal Facebook followers too.

Thank you friends and supporters! Heres to a great year talking about all things mental health and normalising it to all.

Eleanor x

Extract from Cosmopolitan UK Article by Olivia Blair on Anti Depressants- featuring our founder Eleanor

I was so excited to be featured in Olivia Blair’s article for Cosmopolitan UK on anti depressants- 6 women share what its really like to be on Anti depressants.

I am so thrilled to be in this article with 4 other brave women. My first time in Cosmo! Thank you Olivia.

Below is my part of the article but please click here to read the others experiences too:  https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/body/health/a18720313/women-on-antidepressants-working/

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(image: Getty Images/ Cosmopolitan)

I become suicidal when depressed, it’s vital I take medication for my health”

Eleanor Segall, 29, mental health blogger

“I started taking antidepressants when I was 15 after an acute depressive episode where I had to take time off school. A year later I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was hospitalised so I was prescribed a mood stabiliser as well to keep me on an even keel.

I was concerned about some of the side effects but the positives for my mind and brain chemistry outweighed the negatives. Over the years, I have been on different antidepressants including fluoxetine, duloxetine and now sertraline. I also continue to have psychodynamic therapy and have tried CBT, art therapy and meditation.

There is a big stigma around anti depressants, particularly against bipolar and other chronic conditions. But I think this new study offers proof that, for some of us, they are vital.”

Dispelling the Online stigma: Twitter, Antidepressants and #MedsWorkedforMe

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(image: amyransom.com)

I wasnt going to write a blog on this because it might feed the Twitter trolls. But I have decided that its really important that I speak out about whats been going on this week on there, in realm of mental health on social media. Theres been a lot of stigma against medication as well as much support for it.

This week, a study by Oxford University and published in the psychology medical journal the Lancet, found that anti depressants work and are effective in a large number of cases. It was hailed as the first major study to prove this. Some medications were found to be more effective than others, but it provided a fantastic proof- that anti depressant medications do help relieve depression in many cases. They are not just a placebo pill.

However, of course, there are a large number of people who have had bad experiences with anti depressants and want to make their voices heard- yet often at the expense of those of us who it works for.

On Twitter, using the trending hasthtag #antidepressants and #medsworkedforme, I shared that anti depressants coupled with my mood stabilisers, have very much helped my bipolar disorder. My brain chemistry and illness is such that unmedicated I can have episodes of suicidal depression, psychosis and mania. My medication keeps my moods balanced and well, so I can function and live a normal life. I have been on anti depressants for almost 15 years now. I have been on fluoxetine, duloxetine and now sertraline.

The only bad experience I ever had with them is when my previous mood stabiliser stopped working and due to an increased dose of duloxetine to relieve my depression (which it did), I tipped over into a fast and unpredictable manic episode. This is the risk that those of us with bipolar run.

Yet, by and large my experiences with meds have been hugely positive. They keep me stable and well.

Unfortunately, on Twitter, I got trolled for the first time by people sharing the following ‘helpful’ opinions (they were not helpful and highly stigmatised):

1) You should reduce your sugar intake as sugar causes highs and lows and is addictive as cocaine. If you reduce your sugar, your bipolar will improve.

(To this I had to reiterate that no medication and less sugar will make my illness worse… and that excess sugar does not cause bipolar 1 disorder.. i.e. it does not have that impact on my mood swings.. bipolar is a real illness in the brain. Reducing sugar may help with overall health but seriously you are going to tell me this?)

2) Others asked what alternative therapies I had tried- eg exercise instead of medication. I reiterated the above re psychosis and suicidal ideation. Which unfortunately cant be treated with exercise alone.

3) People shared their own stories eg the man who had multiple severe illnesses and takes no medication because ‘it shortens life span’ and its a medical fact apparently that these medications cause psychosis. (Some psychiatric meds cause side effects but psychosis- really? Also why would you tell me it will shorten my life?)

There was a lot of what I would call militant stigma against medication, either by people who fear it or have experienced negative effects.

While medication is not for everyone, we shouldn’t be shaming people for taking it. I shouldn’t be shamed for keeping my brain healthy and well through taking meds. And neither should any of you.

Make sure you fight this stigma (and the block button is always useful).

Love,

Eleanor