Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Depressed moms make depressed kids

A new study out of Minnesota found that adopted children with a depressed mother were more likely to suffer from depression that those with a non-depressed mother.

That certainly makes sense to me. Children tend to spend quite a bit of time with their moms and a depressed mom is less involved, less enthusiastic and less engaging than a non-depressed mom. Being a good parent means being a good role model and that's quite a tall order with major depression looming around. I suppose the knowledge that your pathologies detrimentally impact your kids is a good inspiration to fight harder, to aggressively pursue an effective therapy. At the end of the day, even if you don't think you're worth it, most parents would go through hell and back for their kids.

Speaking of chillins, my moods have been impressively steady since the birth of my first child about 9 months ago. I think there are a multitude of reasons for that. First, she's an alarm clock that I can't ignore and she wakes up just about the same time every morning. Since I love my sleep, I tend to go to bed around the same time each night and getting a regular sleep schedule is useful. I can easily tell if I want to sleep longer (which usually accompanies my depressions) because it changes my bed time.

Second, my diet improved dramatically while I was pregnant and a lot of those dietary changes have stuck around. I haven't been taking any meds for about 2 years and I've lost most of the weight I put on with various SSRIs and lithium. That's something to cheer about.

And third, I think I've been a bit more vigilant about intervening when I feel my moods beginning to slip one way or another. The last thing I want is to stumble into a major depression while I'm trying to raise a child so I've been doing my mental best to guard against it. When I notice my mood starting to dip, I'll purposefully go out and do something fun or go trot around the park or the mall with the baby in tow. Those things won't kill a major undertow, but I feel like they stop a snowball on my moody mountain from becoming an avalanche.

At any rate, motherhood agrees with me and I've been enjoying the longest period of mental stability that I've had since I was a teenager (and we all know how mentally stable we felt as teens). It's been a bit challenging trying to sharpen my mind again after it was dulled by such a devastating depression, but I'm getting there, slowly but surely. I'm starting to remind myself of how I was before this drama unfolded. It's kind of like someone dropped a bomb in the middle of my mental landscape and I have to adjust the plans I had for myself before that bomb went off because life didn't just stop because part of me did. I guess it never does.


Monday, September 22, 2008

BPD in children

The NYT has an interesting article on bipolar disorder in children, rife with quotes from sources intimately profiting from the creation of this new diagnosis. You can read a good critique of the article here.

Personally, unless my kid was a clear danger to themselves or my family, I would be extremely hesitant to put them on any kind of psychiatric drug that hasn't been specifically studied for its impact on children and developing brains. To my knowledge, there are no drugs that fit those criteria.


Friday, September 12, 2008

I'm not depressed, I'm hibernating

Or so say German researchers who found that the molecular changes in the blood of a bipolar woman during depressive cycles resemble the changes seen in hibernating animals.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bipolar linked to older fathers

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What bipolar is like

The NY Times has a good series of short interviews of bipolar people that paint an excellent picture of what it's like to be bipolar. I highly recommend listening.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Drugs and Growing Brains

The Huffington Post has an interesting article on the emergence of the bipolar child and the increasing popularity of drugging children and teens with powerful psychiatric agents that have not been rationally tested for their impact on developing brains. Personally, unless my child was exhibiting unquestionable symptoms of an extremely dangerous disorder, I would hesitate to give them medication. Truly life-threatening psychiatric diseases in children have always been rare and having spent quite a bit of time around children, I don't think that their scarcity is due to a lack of diagnosis. A psychotic child is unusual.

Much like a psychiatric drug isn't going to cure a situational depression--prozac won't resurrect a loved one, for example--mood stabilizers are not going to eliminate children's tantrums, nor should they! Fiery tempers and intense rebellion are normal for the three and under crowd.

Drugs that manipulate brain chemistry should be the absolute last resort and if a child is involved, I would get a second opinion before medicating.

I guess drugging unruly children might be part of our Brave New World.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fear and Mental Illness

In the wake of the horrible Virginia Tech shootings, a number of colleges and universities created mental health task forces designed to determine whether mentally ill students should be allowed to remain on campus and continue their education. As a result, some students have reported that they were asked to leave school after dealing with a mental health issue through school administrators.

There are a whole host of problems with this approach. First, the vast majority of mentally ill students will never go out, purchase a weapon and butcher their classmates and these task forces make it more difficult for that majority to seek effective intervention and treatment. If I had known in college that there was even the slightest chance the administration would kick me out of school for being bipolar, I would have hidden my illness. I would have hesitated to get the help I so desperately needed for fear that the label "bipolar" would be devastating for my future. And feeling like I had to hide my illness would have made me more ashamed of it.

Policies like this that purport to protect the student body by assessing risk actually make students less safe because they discourage the mentally ill from aggressively getting the treatment we need. It's traumatic to realize that you have a mental illness, that it's out of control and that you need outside help to deal with it. For me, while I was enduring the indignities of my mind's sojourn into reckless impulsivity and wide, debilitating mood swings, the consistency of my education was integral to my ability to pick myself up after the storm clouds cleared a bit. I may have been a complete mess, but I still managed to graduate magna cum laude. I went to grad school.

But that's me and perhaps my experience isn't representative. But maybe it is. Maybe the best thing for the mentally ill is not to pull us out of society and send us to some happy fairy camp where we'll magically recover from our illnesses and then allow us to re-enter society when some risk manager has deemed us safe. Maybe the best thing is for us to continue to try to be functioning members of society, to force us to contend with the reality of managing life with a chronic illness.

Where does that leave college administrators? With the realization that all the risk management policies in the world would not stop something like the Virginia Tech shooting from happening again, but they will hurt students who need help.