Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Living With Mental Illness in America: Schizoaffective Disorder

"I grew up stuck between two dramatically different factions in my head. When I was in a Manic State, I was accompanied by a trio of friends, an old man, a large dog, and a small girl whose efforts helped me to remain positive. When I was in a Depressive State, I was stuck in the middle of a war for my mind. Angels and demons battled it out, right before my vary eyes, in their effort to take over my reality. The chaos was unbearable, and there was no middle ground." - Kent Allen Halliburton

Schizoaffective Disorder is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal thought processes and deregulated emotions. The diagnosis is made when the patient has features of both Schizophrenia and a mood disorder, either Bi-Polar Disorder or Major Depression, but does not strictly meet diagnostic criteria for either alone. The Bi-Polar type is distinguished by symptoms of mania, hypomania, or mixed episodes; the Major Depression type by symptoms of severe depression only. Common symptoms of the disorder include hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and disorganized speech and thinking. The onset of symptoms usually begins in young adulthood, currently with an uncertain lifetime prevalence because the disorder's diagnosis has been refined over time. It is generally estimated that the disorder is prevalent in at least one percent of the population, and now includes an acceptance that symptoms can appear in pre-teens, as well. Diagnoses are based on observed behavior and the patient's reported experiences.

Genetics, neurobiology, early and current environment, behavioral, social, and experiential components appear to be important contributory factors to the onset of the disorder. Some recreational and prescription drugs may also cause or exacerbate certain emerging symptoms. No single isolated organic cause for the disorder has been found, but extensive evidence exists for abnormalities in the metabolism of neuro-transmitters like tetrahydrobiopterin, dopamine, and glutamic acid in people with Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, and other psychotic mood disorders. People with Schizoaffective Disorder are likely to have co-occurring conditions which may include a variety of anxiety disorders and Substance Use Disorder. Social problems such as long-term unemployment, poverty, and homelessness are also common. The average life expectancy of people with the disorder is shorter than those without it due to increased physical health problems from an absence of health promoting behaviors, which may include a sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits, and a higher suicide rate.

Schizoaffective Disorder is presently treated with a combination of Anti-Psychotic drugs, Mood Stabilizers, and Anti-Depressants, though there is growing concern by some researchers that Anti-Depressants may increase psychoses, mania, and long-term mood episode cycling in the disorder. When there is a risk to self or others, usually early in treatment, brief hospitalization may be necessary. Psychiatric rehabilitation, psychotherapy, and vocational rehabilitation are very important for recovery of higher Psycho-Social function. As a group, people with Schizoaffective Disorder tend to have a better outcome after treatment that do people with Schizophrenia. However, they do have variable individual Psycho-Social functional outcomes compared to people with other varied mood disorders, from worse to the same. There are studies comparing these diagnoses, but they have yet to be completed.

In the past Schizoaffective Disorder and Schizophrenia were not usually classified separately from one another in psychological studies. This, however, has begun to change. The definition of Schizoaffective Disorder began to change in the early to mid 1990s. The research conducted since this period is what has made it clear that there is, in fact, a difference between the two disorders. It is the fact that the hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and disorganized speech and thinking in Schizoaffective Disorder are accompanied by varied signs of Bi-Polar Disorder and Major Depression that make this distinction.

"It was not until just a few years ago that I began to get treatment for my disorder, and I am now finally approaching a sense of balance amidst the chaos. Unfortunately, that balance has come at a cost. See, while I was glad to see the angels and demons of my Depressive State go, I now feel a deep pain as I realize that my Manic friends have to go also as, over the years, I have developed a deep affection for them." - Kent Allen Halliburton

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Living With Mental Illness in America: Bi-Polar Disorder

"Imagine that you are on the fastest roller coaster you have ever encountered. You are blasting around turns at amazing speeds. Further, imagine that it is also taking you to the highest and deepest points you could have ever imagined. Now, imagine that the roller coaster is in your mind, and it won't shut off." - Kent Allen Halliburton

"When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder the year I turned 50, it was certainly a shock. But as a journalist, knowing a little bit about a lot of things, I didn't suffer the misconception that depression was all in my head or a mark of poor character. I knew it was a disease, and, like all diseases, was treatable." - Jane Pauley

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental disorder that causes periods of depression and periods of elevated mood. The elevated mood is significant and is known as mania or hypomania, depending on its severity, or whether symptoms of psychosis are present. During mania, an individual behaves or feels abnormally energetic, happy, or irritable. Individuals often make poorly thought out decisions with little regard to the consequences. The need for sleep is usually reduced during manic phases. During periods of depression, there may be crying, a negative outlook on life, and poor eye contact with others. The risk of suicide among those with the illness is high at greater than six percent over twenty years, while self-harm occurs thirty to forty percent. Other mental health issues such as anxiety disorders and substance use disorder are commonly associated with Bi-Polar Disorder.

The causes are not clearly understood; however both environmental and genetic factors are though to play a role. For many, genetic factors of may contribute to the disorder's manifestation. Environmental factors include a history of childhood abuse and long-term stress. The condition is divided into Bi-Polar I and Bi-Polar II. If there has been at least one manic episode, with or without depressive episodes, it will be classified as Bi-Polar I. It will be classified as Bi-Polar II if there has been at least one hypomanic episode and one major depressive episode. In those cases with less severe symptoms of a prolonged duration, the condition Cyclothymic Disorder may be diagnosed. If the condition is induced by drug use or physical medical problems, such as poor diet, the condition may be classified separately. Other conditions that may present in a similar manner include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Disassociative Disorder, Schizophrenia, and Substance Abuse Disorder as well as a number of physical medical conditions. Medical testing is not required for a diagnosis, though blood tests or medical imaging can be done to rule out other problems.

Treatment commonly includes psychotherapy, as well as medications, such as Mood Stabilizers and Anti-Psychotics. Examples of mood stabilizers that are commonly used include lithium and various other Anti-Convulsants. Treatment in a hospital without the individual's consent may be required if a person is at risk to themselves or others but refuses treatment. Severe behavioral problems may be managed with short term Anti-Psychotics or Benzodiazepines. In periods of mania it is recommended that Ant-Depressants be stopped. If Anti-Depressants are used for periods of depression they should be used with a mood stabilizer. Electroconvulsive therapy, while not very well studied, may be helpful for those who do not respond to other treatments. If treatments are stopped, it is recommended that this be done slowly. Many individuals have financial, social or work-related problems due to the illness. These difficulties occur a quarter to a third of the time on average. The risk of death from natural causes such as heart disease is twice that of the general population. This is due to poor lifestyle choices made in various to self medicate the condition.

About three percent of people in the United States are estimated to have had Bi-Polar Disorder, or associated symptoms, at some point in their life. Lower rates of around one percent are found in other countries. The most common age at which symptoms begin is twenty-five. Rates appear to be similar in females and males. The economic costs of the disorder was estimated at $45 billion for the United States in 1991. This cost has since risen to an average of $52 billion a year. A large proportion of this was related to a higher number of missed work days, estimated at fifty per year. People with Bi-Polar Disorder also often face problems with the social stigma associated with the disorder, which tends tends to make dealing with disorder all that much more difficult.

"Most of the time, it feels like there are two different people in my head, and while each one is vying for total control, there is a blank canvas in the middle that is getting paint randomly strewn about on it. The struggle, of course, like an abstract painting, is to make something unique out of the chaos. The battle that then ensues is not for the faint of heart." - Kent Allen Halliburton

Monday, May 1, 2017

International Workers' Day

"Workers of the world unite!" - Karl Marx

International Workers' Day, also known as Labour Day in some countries, is a celebration of laborers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labor movement, socialists, communists, and anarchists. It is scheduled on the first day of the Month in May, which coincides with several ancient European spring festivals. The date chosen for International Workers' Day was picked by the Second International, a pan-national organization of socialist and communist political parties, to commemorate the Haymarket Affair, which occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886.

The 1904 International Socialist Conference in Amsterdam, the Sixth Conference of the Second International, called on "all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace." This established a tradition that has been carried on in some form or another ever since.

Being a traditional European spring celebration, May Day is a national public holiday in several European countries. The date is currently celebrated specifically as "Labor Day" or "International Workers' Day" in the majority of countries, including those that didn't traditionally celebrate May Day. Some countries celebrate a Labor Day on other dates significant to them, such as the United States, which celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September.