Saturday, October 14, 2017

Warning Signs of Bipolar Disorder

What Is It?

Sometimes called manic depression, bipolar disorder causes extreme shifts in mood. People who have it may spend weeks feeling like they're on top of the world before plunging into a deep depression. The length of each high and low varies greatly from person to person.

What the Depression Phase Is Like

Without treatment, a person with bipolar disorder may have intense episodes of depression. Symptoms include sadness, anxiety, loss of energy, hopelessness, and trouble concentrating. They may lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy. It’s also common to gain or lose weight, sleep too much or too little, and even think about suicide.

When Someone Is Manic

During this phase, people feel super-charged and think they can do anything. Their self-esteem soars out of control and it’s hard for them to sit still. They talk more, are easily distracted, their thoughts race, and they don’t sleep enough. It often leads to reckless behavior, such as spending sprees, cheating, fast driving, and substance abuse. Three or more of these symptoms nearly every day for a week accompanied by feelings of intense excitement may signal a manic episode.

Bipolar I vs. Bipolar II

People with bipolar I disorder have manic phases for at least a week. Many also have separate depression phases, too.

Those with bipolar ll have bouts of major depression, but instead of full manic episodes, they have low-grade hypomanic swings that are less intense and may last less than a week. They may seem fine, even like the “life of the party,” though family and friends notice their mood changes.

What's a "Mixed Episode"?

When people with bipolar disorder have depression and mania symptoms at the same time, or very close together, this is called a manic or depressive episode with mixed features. This can lead to unpredictable behavior, such as taking dangerous risks when feeling hopeless and suicidal but energized and agitated. Mood episodes involving mixed features may be somewhat more common in women and in people who develop bipolar disorder at a young age.

What Are the Causes?

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes bipolar disorder. Current theories hold that the disorder may result from a combination of genetic and other biological -- as well as environmental -- factors. Scientists think that brain circuits involvedin the regulation of mood, energy, thinking, and biological rhythms may function abnormally in people with bipolar disorder, resulting in the mood and other changes associated with the illness.

Who Is at Risk?

Men and women both get bipolar disorder. In most cases, symptoms usually start in people who are 15-30 years old. More rarely, it can begin in childhood. The condition can sometimes run in families, but not everyone in a family may have it.

How It Affects Daily Life

When it’s not under control, bipolar disorder can cause problems in many areas of life, including your job, relationships, sleep, health, and money. It can lead to risky behavior. It can be stressful for the people who care about you and aren’t sure how to help or may not understand what’s going on.

Risky Behavior

Many people with bipolar disorder have trouble with drugs or alcohol. They may drink or abuse drugs to ease the uncomfortable symptoms of their mood swings. Substance misuse also may be prone to occur as part of the recklessness and pleasure-seeking associated with mania.

Suicidal Thinking

People with bipolar disorder are 10-20 times more likely to commit suicide than others. Warning signs include talking about suicide, putting their affairs in order, and doing very risky things. If you know someone who may be at risk, call one of these hotlines: 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433) and 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). If the person has a plan to commit suicide, call 911 or help them get to an emergency room immediately.

How Doctors Diagnose It

A key step is to rule out other possible causes of extreme mood swings, including other conditions or side effects of some medicines. Your doctor will give you a checkup and ask you questions. You may get lab tests, too. A psychiatrist usually makes the diagnosis after carefully considering all of these things. She may also talk to people who know you well to find out if your mood and behavior have had major changes.

Which Medicines Treat It?

There are several types of prescription drugs for bipolar disorder. They include mood stabilizers that prevent episodes of ups and downs, as well as antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs. When they aren’t in a manic or depressive phase, people usually take maintenance medications to avoid a relapse.

Talk Therapy for Bipolar Disorder

Counseling can help people stay on medication and manage their lives. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors that accompany mood swings. Interpersonal therapy aims to ease the strain bipolar disorder puts on personal relationships. Social rhythm therapy helps people develop and maintain daily routines.

What You Can Do

Everyday habits can’t cure bipolar disorder. But it helps to make sure you get enough sleep, eat regular meals, and exercise. Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs, since they can make symptoms worse. If you have bipolar disorder, you should learn what your “red flags” are -- signs that the condition is active -- and have a plan for what to do if that happens, so you get help ASAP.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

This treatment, done while you are “asleep” under general anesthesia, can rapidly improve mood symptoms of bipolar disorder. It uses an electric current to cause a seizure in the brain. It’s one of the fastest ways to ease severe symptoms. ECT is often a safe and effective treatment option for severe mood episodes when medications have not led to meaningful symptom improvement. It’s a safe and highly effective treatment.

Let People In

If you have bipolar disorder, you may want to consider telling the people you are closest to, like your partner or your immediate family, so they can help you manage the condition. Try to explain how it affects you and what you need. With their support, you may feel more connected and motivated to stick with your treatment plan.

Concerned About Someone?

Many people with bipolar disorder don't realize they have a problem or avoid getting help. If you think a friend or family member may have it, you may want to encourage them to talk with a doctor or mental health expert who can look into what’s going on and start them toward treatment. Be sensitive to their feelings, and remember that it takes an expert to diagnose it. But if it is bipolar disorder, or another mental illness, treatment can help.

What Your Hair Says About Your Health

Does Bad Hair Mean Bad Health?

Is your hair trying to tell you something about your health? Maybe. Some conditions and medications affect your body as well as your hair. In other cases, you may just need to take better care of your hair or scalp. Use this pictorial guide to see what separates myth from fact when it comes to your health and your hair.

White Flakes Pose No Health Risk

Dandruff isn't contagious. So how do you get it? Doctors aren't sure, but one theory is that it may be due to an overgrowth of a fungus. Other possible risk factors include oily skin, stress, obesity, cold, dry weather, and having eczema or psoriasis. Although it's embarrassing -- and the itching can be bothersome -- dandruff isn't harmful.

Tips for Dandruff Treatment

To decrease the buildup of dandruff's dead skin cells, try using an antidandruff shampoo daily. Leave shampoo on for 5 minutes, then rinse well. You may need to try several dandruff shampoos to find one that works best for you. If one stops working, try another. If that doesn't help, call your doctor.

Yellow Dandruff?

If the dandruff flakes you see are greasy and yellow, you may have seborrheic dermatitis. It's an inflammatory skin condition that can occur where there are lots of oil glands, like the scalp and face. Though seborrheic dermatitis is related to hormones, fungus, and even some neurological problems like Parkinson's disease or HIV are treated the same as dandruff: with antidandruff shampoos. Severe cases may need a prescription steroid or antifungal medicine.

You May Shed More Than You Think

It's not a perfect measure, but some experts estimate that we may shed up to 100 or more hairs a day. That's not cause for alarm, nor does it mean you're going bald. About 90% of your 100,000 hair follicles are producing hair at any given time. The other 10% are in a resting (telogen) phase, and the hair falls out after about 2 to 3 months. It's replaced by new hair, and the growth cycle starts over again.

What Causes Telogen Effluvium?

A shock to your system -- surgery, vaccinations, giving birth, some medications, crash diets, severe stress, thyroid problems -- can push hair into its resting, or telogen, state. About two months later, you may see hair falling out and thinning -- a condition called telogen effluvium, sometimes described as hair "coming out in handfuls." In most cases, new hair starts growing right away.

An Attack on Hair Follicles

In alopecia areata, your immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, causing hair to fall out -- often suddenly. Most people will have one or two bald patches, which can be treated easily with injections but in some cases all body hair falls out. Alopecia areata isn't harmful or contagious, but it can be tough psychologically. Hair may grow back on its own, and treatment may help it grow back more quickly. Unfortunately, some people may experience alopecia areata repeatedly.

Genes Cause 90% of Male Hair Loss

Though hereditary, the trait may be more influenced by your mother's family than your father's. So a look at your maternal grandfather's locks may give you a better clue about the future of yours. Male pattern baldness often starts with receding hair at the temples, then on the crown, leaving a horseshoe-shaped ring of hair around the sides of the head. Medications to slow hair loss include finasteride (Propecia and Minoxidil (Rogaine).

Female-Pattern Baldness

Age-related thinning may mean hair thinning all over the head, but pattern hair loss is usually most common on top of the head. Unlike men, women rarely go bald, and they tend to lose hair more slowly than men do. Contrary to popular belief, longer hair won't put a strain on the roots, causing more to fall out. Nor will shampooing pull hair out -- it just gets the ones that were falling out already. Minoxidil 5% applied once daily may help hair growth and prevent thinning. Spironolactone and Flutamide (oral medications) can also be used in women.

Avoid Sun Damage to Hair

Too much sun can turn your hair into a brittle, dry mop that breaks and splits easily. This is especially true in those with blonde or grey hair. And if you already have thinning hair, you risk a sunburn on your scalp. Choosing hair care products with sunscreen provides some protection, although it can be hard to coat your hair evenly. That's why it's a good idea to wear a hat when you're out in the sun -- especially if your scalp is exposed. Choose a hat made of sun-protective fabric with UPF 30 (ultraviolet protection factor).

Luscious Locks Need Nutrients

Could a crash diet cost you your hair? In extreme cases, it could. Your hair needs protein and iron to stay healthy, along with omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin A, but not too much -- which can promote hair loss. Very low-calorie diets are often lacking in sufficient nutrients and can stunt hair growth or leave hair dull and limp. If the nutritional deficiency is big enough -- like for someone with an eating disorder -- hair can fall out.

A Hair- and Heart-Healthy Diet

Help keep hair shiny by eating salmon and walnuts for omega-3 fatty acids; spinach and carrots for vitamin A; brazil nuts for selenium; and oysters and cashews for zinc. All help maintain scalp and hair health, as do low-fat dairy, whole grains, and vegetables. Double the results: Foods good for your hair are also good for your heart.

Premature Gray Hair Is Genetic

Going gray isn't always related to aging. If you're not yet 40 and see more than a few gray hairs, chances are it runs in your family. Gray usually isn't a sign of poor health, though anemia, thyroid issues, vitamin B12 deficiency, and vitiligo can cause premature graying. You can highlight or color hair to cover the gray, but beware: Some people are sensitive to the chemicals in dyes. The result could be an itchy, burning scalp.

Traction Alopecia Damages Follicles

Pulling hair too tight -- as can happen with ponytails, braids, and cornrows -- can damage hair follicles and cause hair to break or fall out. Hair extensions and hairpieces can sometimes cause traction alopecia, too, because their extra weight pulls on existing hair. Changing your hairstyle usually lets hair grow back. Pulling hair back tightly for a long time, though, can lead to permanent hair loss.

Overstyling Weakens Your Hair

Blow drying, using a flat iron, coloring, bleaching, even over-brushing -- all can damage the outer layer (cuticle) of your hair. When the inner core of hair is exposed, your locks become dry and dull. Although it doesn't cause any permanent health damage, you can overstyle to the point that your only option for healthy hair is to cut it off and start over. When it comes to your hair, doing less leads to healthier tresses.

A Surprising Side Effect

Among the medications that list hair loss as a side effect are anticlotting drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, antidepressants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and drugs for menopause, birth control, and antibiotics. Usually, hair grows back when the medication is stopped, but may not in some cases.

Scalp Massage Feels So Good

There's no evidence that massaging your scalp will slow hair loss or improve any scalp conditions -- but it can do wonders to relieve stress. Your scalp is covered with nerve endings that make it super-sensitive to touch. Rubbing your scalp may help release tension. Massage may also trigger the release of feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin.

Hair Analysis Not Reliable

Some companies claim they can analyze hair clippings to see if you are deficient in vitamins or have health problems. Although hair analysis can detect some poisons like lead or arsenic, findings can be inconsistent and varied. Everything from air pollution to shampoo may affect test results. The American Medical Association is against hair analysis to determine treatment.

Inspirational Quote – October 14, 2017

“I’m going to make the rest of my life, the best of my life.”

This should be a mantra for everybody to follow. It doesn’t matter what has gone before in your life, how old you are, what you possess or don’t possess, who you know……. Just to have the insight to realize that, by your own thoughts and actions, YOU have the power to ensure that every day, from this day forward, can be the first of many best days of the rest of your life. How amazingly liberating is that? It may take us a long time to learn that every day we live is a gift but the fact that we have gained this insight leaves us no excuse for then not living life to the full from the very second we do…….no excuse whatsoever.

The Refuge

For hundreds of generations, the Gwich'in people of Alaska and northern Canada have depended on the caribou that migrate through the Arctic Refuge. They believe that they are guardians of the herd, and that the fates of the people and the caribou are forever entwined. For the last 30 years, the Gwich'in have been fighting to preserve a pristine coastal plain where the caribou calve their young, "the Sacred Place Where Life Begins." With their traditional culture threatened by oil extraction and climate change, two Gwich'in women are continuing a decades-long fight of to protect their land and future.

How to Hack Your Brain to Stay Safer

A new book reveals how our minds make us careless and what we can do to overcome this.

Society has become safer over the past century. In the United States, the chance of death by preventable injury dropped by about half from the 1920s to the 1990s. However, our progress has plateaued for the past couple of decades, which is an obstacle to well-being. How can we do better?
While common safety tips (e.g., “Don’t run with scissors”), laws (“Click it or ticket” seatbelt enforcement), and even safety design features (child-proof pill bottle lids) have helped, “The next safety revolution is going to have to happen in our own minds,” writes Steve Casner, a research psychologist at NASA, in his book Careful: A User’s Guide to Our Injury-Prone Minds.
Casner’s book guides us through common mental pitfalls that put us in harm’s way and presents practical solutions for preventing injury—whether it’s indoors or outdoors, at a doctor’s appointment, watching kids, or simply growing older. 

How our brains put us in danger

According to Casner, many of our mental habits—some deliberate, some less so—can compromise our safety and the safety of others.
We are worse at paying attention than we think we are. To get things done faster, we’re often tempted to multitask. But research suggests it doesn’t work: For example, multitasking while driving—say, looking down at your phone to change the music—translates to slower reaction times. This is because multitasking is essentially switching your attention quickly between two things. In fact, it can take drivers up to 27 seconds to fully recover from an attention shift. Paying attention to one thing is already difficult enough because of our wandering minds and limited mental energy.
We are prone to making errors, even when we have mastered a skill. We also have a tough time admitting that we make errors, which can leave us ill-prepared when they do happen. For example, neglecting to double-check your medication dosage could lead to unpleasant consequences.
We take risks—sometimes by choice, sometimes because we underestimate or don’t understand the risks involved. We tend to feel invincible to the consequences of taking risks and are influenced by seeing others take the same risks. Some people are more accepting of risk in certain situations, including menadolescents, and people with a “sensation seeking” personality.
We don’t think ahead enough. Most of us don’t go about our days preparing for the worst to happen; we tend not to be “worst case scenario” thinkers. [Here’s a quick exercise: What’s the best emergency exit route where you are now?] We also may not have the experience to recognize impending trouble in different situations.
Our concern for others can be compromised. The more bystanders present in a situation where someone needs help, the less likely each person is to feel responsible to act. We may decline to intervene and prioritize our own needs if we’re under stress, in a hurry, or simply not in the mood. Casner cites the tragic murder of a woman in New York in the 1960s, when 38 people witnessed her attack but none intervened or called the police.
We are bad at taking advice. Even when face-to-face with helpful tips, we may fail to follow them if we’re confident in our abilities, if we didn’t ask for them, or if we’re (again) not in the mood.

How to keep yourself safer

<a href=“”><em>Careful: A User’s Guide to Our Injury-Prone Minds</em></a> (Riverhead Books, 2017, 336 pages)Careful: A User’s Guide to Our Injury-Prone Minds (Riverhead Books, 2017, 336 pages)
Casner presents ways to combat these mental traps and make ourselves more safety-prone. The first step is simply to be aware of them, which can then open us up to following his other suggestions:

  • Be prepared for what could go wrong. It may not be practical to learn about all the risks involved in, say, shopping at the grocery store. However, if you live near an earthquake fault, it would be important to know earthquake safety and have emergency supplies on hand. Even when you’re embarking on a new activity, such as ziplining or kayaking, doing your homework could save lives. Ask yourself, “How could this go wrong, what are some preventative measures, and what would I do if something did go wrong?” Be a proactive, preventative thinker.
  • Recruit others for support. If something important requires attention, it helps to have more than one person’s focus. As Casner explains, this is why there are two pilots, two air traffic controllers, and two computer systems monitoring every commercial airline flight.
  • Create a culture of “bystander intervention.” Working together and watching out for each other increases everyone’s safety. Many colleges offer bystander intervention training on how to respond to a variety of situations, such as sexual violence, eating disorders, discrimination, and relationship abuse (such as the Step Up! Program created by the University of Arizona).
  • Make safety a lasting habit. Increase your chances of success by engaging social support to help keep you accountable. Set up a system of reminders and rewards for staying on track, and deliberately practice your safety procedures.
Where public service announcements, law enforcement, and technology fall short, we can all be empowered to help ourselves and each other make lasting changes in being safer. Casner’s book may seem like an information overload upon first read, but his tips and examples are humbling and hopefully make us think twice.

How to Argue with Your Partner in a Healthy Way

New research suggests that romantic conflict can hurt our health. How do we fight right?

Robert W. Levenson, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, studies how couples interact, looking for clues to marital stability and satisfaction. In his latest research, Levenson has found that the ways people argue in a marriage can have long-term consequences for health. He talks below about his findings, and what they mean to the health and happiness of couples.
Peter Jaret: All couples squabble. What differences have you observed in the way people argue?
Professor Robert W. LevensonProfessor Robert W. Levenson
Robert W. Levenson: Couples differ in terms of the things they get stuck on, the areas of disagreement, and the emotional quality of their conversations. In our latest research, we looked at two different ways people deal with conflict in a marriage. At one extreme are people who express a lot of anger. Some of our angriest couples would express four discrete moments of anger every minute in their discussions. That’s a lot of anger. At the other extreme are people who suppress their anger and other negative emotions, or stonewall. Rather than express their feelings, they hold them in.
PJ: How do those choices affect health?
RWL: We’ve known for a long time that marital distress in general is associated with health problems. In our latest findings, we were able to focus in on specific emotions and their connections to specific health outcomes. Over the 20 years we followed our couples, people who expressed a lot of anger were significantly more likely to develop heart problems. Some of them were well on their way to serious heart disease. In contrast, people who held back their emotions were at significantly higher risk of suffering from back and muscle problems. Those findings remained even when we controlled for age, education, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, and other behaviors that influence health.
PJ: What links emotional expression and health?
Robert W. Levenson: Anger, we know, activates the cardiovascular system. The body is designed to do that. It’s a healthy response, enabling us to get revved up to do something about whatever has made us angry. But if we overdo it and the reaction becomes chronic, it starts to damage the cardiovascular system itself. Findings from many studies show how high levels of cardiac response can damage the insides of arteries, making them vulnerable to plaque buildup. We assume that’s one of the things going on in the arteries of our angry couples over the years.
On the other hand, holding back your emotions is like stopping a runaway train. You’re holding back a powerful biological impulse to express the way you’re feeling. We do that by tensing up our muscles. We think that, over many years, this kind of chronic tension leads to back and muscle problems.
PJ: Are there healthy ways to argue that don’t make people sick?
RWL: It’s an important question. Disagreements are an inevitable part of all intimate relationships. Couples have to come up with ways of dealing with disagreement so they can make progress on the underlying issues and, hopefully, create an emotional climate that allows them to work together rather than at odds. It isn’t always easy.
We think that moderation is a good strategy—expressing feelings but in a measured, moderate way. And we think that expressing a wide range of emotions is a healthy way to confront conflict in a relationship. It’s helpful, when you’re dealing with conflict, to include both negative and positive emotions. In our research, we’ve shown that what we call “emotion regulation,” being able to cool down after powerful negative emotions, is a strong predictor of marital satisfaction.
We’ve also found that these patterns of expressing and regulating emotion get set early in the relationship. Certainly after a decade of marriage, the patterns are well-established. For young couples, I’d say, it’s especially important to practice moderation when dealing with the inevitable disagreements that arise in a marriage.
PJ: Can long-term couples change the way they argue?
RWL: It wasn’t part of our study. But when people go into couples therapy, it’s often to work on the emotional quality of their relationship. And it’s almost always difficult. It’s hard enough to change ourselves. To change the way we interact with another person, a spouse, can be even more difficult, especially if the patterns are set. But let’s say you do change the emotional quality of your marriage—you replace anger or stonewalling with a more moderate approach. Will you avoid some of the negative health consequences we observed? Again, our research doesn’t look at that question. But I’d like to think it would help. It’s certainly well worth trying.

An Unexpected Friend at Our Awakin Circle

Awakin Circles started two decades ago when a family in California decided to open their living room on a weekly basis for people to practice stillness, participate in a circle of sharing, and partake of a meal together. Today there are dozens of Awakin Circles held in homes that span the globe. In these ordinary settings, extraordinary stories unfold. Such as this one from an Awakin Circle held earlier this year in India: "As the talking stick passes, each one shares for a little bit. Until the stick arrives at the hands of first-time guest, who seems to be about 25 years old." After confessing to a life ridden with crime and trauma the young man is astonished at the warmth of the circle. He wonders out loud "I wonder what makes you all trust and open doors for a person like me at this gathering?" Read on to learn how the welcome and acceptance he received profoundly impacted this first-timer.

A Visit to the Possibility Alliance

Peter Klamus returns to a simpler time, as he visits Possibility Alliance, a Missouri homestead with no electricity, gas, cars, or planes. Dinners are shared by candlelight and fireflies bring light to the night sky. Owners Ethan and Sarah Hughes acquired the land in 2007, and have welcomed thousands of visitors whom they educate about post-fossil-fuel-living. Their community is close-knit and self-sustaining, coming together for morning meditations and home cooked meals. "While my stay was brief, it felt full in terms of the ingenuity, beauty, and love I experienced." Kalmus writes. Click the link below to learn more about these restless explorers of the good life.