Tag Archives: anxiety

“Why Anxiety is So Common for Those Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder” by Natasha Tracy

19 Oct
From bipolar.answers.com:

Anxiety disorders are very common in people with bipolar disorder. In fact, in a major study (the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD)), lifetime prevalence for a comorbid anxiety disorder reached 51.2% while rates for a current anxiety disorder reached 30.5%. It may be that anxiety is, inherently, a part of some people’s experience of bipolar or it may be entirely comorbid. Anxiety disorders are also known to exist even when the bipolar disorder is subsyndromal (with less that clinical symptoms).

People with bipolar disorder have been shown to frequently suffer from more anxiety subtypes as well. People with bipolar disorder commonly also experience generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, simple phobia, social phobia, posttraumatic stress disorder, and panic disorder. (Note: Obsessive-compulsive disorder will no longer be considered an anxiety disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5; rather it is considered its own type of disorder.)

What is An Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorders come in many shapes and sizes (subtypes) and each type comes with its own list of symptoms. Symptoms of an anxiety disorder can include:

– Sleep disturbance

– Palpitations

– Trembling

– Chest pain

– Dizziness

– Feeling of detachment from the surroundings and from others

– Difficulty concentrating

– Exaggerated startle response

– And many others See: Symptoms of Anxiety Subtypes

What Impact Does an Anxiety Disorder Have on Bipolar?

Anxiety tends to have a worsening effect on bipolar disorder course and treatment. Bipolar symptoms appear to be intensified when anxiety is present. Those with comorbid anxiety also appear to have a lower age of disease onset, decreased response to standard treatments like lithium, increased rates of suicide and substance abuse, and a decreased quality of life. Impacts of anxiety disorder with existing bipolar disorder can be seen at school, work, and home.


22 Jun

I’m afraid to go to sleep. For the last four nights, I’ve woken with the residuals of nightmares. The moods they evoke take time to dissipate. I drink coffee and will the feelings back. Numbness rushes in to fill the space.

Then yesterday I started having flashbacks, dissociating, and hyperventilating. Nothing triggered it. I haven’t had intrusive PTSD symptoms for over two months, even with the stress I’ve been under. I was in the middle of a support group meeting. It was embarrassing.

The flashbacks receded today, but the anxiety and dissociation keep creeping up on me. I can’t drive because I intermittently float out of my body. People speak to me and I can’t focus on their words; I just stare at them and do my best to feign comprehension. I dig my nails into my arm to try to keep my mind connected to my body. I breathe diaphragmatically.

These past couple of days have reminded me not to get cocky. Never turn your back on your illness. Your mind will get the better of you if you don’t keep your eye on it.

I don’t want to backslide. I’ve made a lot of progress in the past few months. I’m determined to learn to live with this and not let it control my life. Concurrently, I know that I need to be honest with myself about my limitations. It’s a balancing act.

I don’t think I’ll ever get it fully under control. Things happened to me when I was too young to articulate them and they come to the surface sometimes. I don’t try to process them. I attempted that several years ago with a therapist, desensitization therapy. It was too much all at once. My symptoms have been much more frequent and intense since then. Because I can’t clearly recall things, and because no one can fill in the gaps, it isn’t possible to examine the memories and put them in perspective. All I get are sensations, shards of visions, and waves of confusion and fear.

I have no desire to dig into that mess, so I have to contain it. I’m hoping that it will die back down after a couple of days of TLC and sustained efforts. But it will always be straining beneath the surface. All I can do is breathe and prepare for the next time.

Amber Alert

26 Apr

I’m having a rough patch. I can look at in two ways. The first way is that I’m a mess who is never going to get her shit together and woe is me it’s so hard. The second, more constructive way, is to acknowledge that as much as I’m struggling right now, I haven’t fallen to pieces and as long as I get and keep my sleep cycle under control, I am not going to find myself giving in to the Swamps of Sadness–which for anyone who’s never seen the 1984 fantasy classic The Neverending Story, is this:

I used to cry my eyes out during that scene.

Anyhoo: I’m not doing great, but I’m still on a somewhat even keel, except I’m having the worst insomnia I’ve had in a very, very long time. Once I get that under control, I’ll be almost somewhat okay.

Unfortunately, my appetite has dwindled. Food isn’t appetizing and my stomach’s in knots. This morning, I stared at my breakfast and actually felt repulsed. I’ve never had an eating disorder but I think I may have achieved some empathy today.

I also keep clenching my jaw. Not exactly grinding my teeth, but certainly applying pressure.

But I’m up. I’m showered. I’m cleaning and cooking and doing things. I’m not having any flashbacks or thoughts about hurting myself.

I think of mood management as a ship at sea. Sometimes the waters are clear and calm. Sometimes they’re choppy. Just try to keep the damn ship upright.

So: how do we do that in this particularly stormy time?

1. SLEEP CYCLE. That needs to be addressed posthaste. To whit: limit consumption of coffee to one cup in the morning. Begin winding down for bed two hours before intended bedtime. Benedryl and sleepy time tea. I hate sleeping pills, so I work with what I’ve got. This isn’t going to be easy, but if I keep at it for a couple of days, I’m confident I can get it under control.

2. Once the insomnia is in check and I no longer wake up embarrassingly late in the day feeling like I was hit by a bus, back to exercising. Walks in Forest Park are excellent for both fitness and general peace of mind.

3. Take a hiatus from reading about and engaging in the culture wars online, and limit my news consumption to local and international current events. I’ll skim the headlines on the national stuff, but nothing more in depth than that.

4. Go back to my support group–I missed it last week because I’m embarrassed to be around people when I’m like this, but that’s the entire goddamn point of the support group, so I need to put my big girl panties on and engage.

5. Answer my phone when it rings and answer texts when they come. I let my phone die and ignored it for two days. No more of that.

6. Lots of reminders to pause, take a diaphragmatic breath, and be mindful about whatever loopiness my mind is currently producing.

7. Stop watching dark messed up shit like Hemlock Grove. If a television show, film, or piece of writing gets even slightly rape-y, immediately put it aside and cleanse the palate with lighter fare. Watch and read enjoyable things; my sweet spot is standup comedy.

8. Make myself eat light things that can get me through the day, such as bananas and yogurt. Carbs and meat are too heavy and sit in my stomach.

9. Do the dishes and laundry. Once I break through the inertia and start, it’s actually quite soothing.

We’ll start there and build on it in a few days when things are more manageable. I’m stoked.

“The Boston Marathon Bombings: You Don’t Have to Watch the Media Coverage” by Julie Fast

18 Apr
From the blog Bipolar Happens by Julia Fast:

“Regarding the bombings at the Boston Marathon in the United States

It’s so important to remember that we don’t have to follow the news if
it upsets us. We can read about it next week- or ask others for an

A 24 hour CNN stream of the aftermath of this event is detrimental if you are not doing well.

If you are upset right now, I highly suggest staying off the internet
and turning off the TV. That is what I do. Anxiety, especially OCD,
paranoia, fear, depression and worry about the future can be triggered. I
always remind myself that I can learn about a world event and then let it
go. If donations are needed, I always find it helps to support an
organization like the Red Cross.”


9 Apr

I have a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. on the cover of the binder I use for all of my mental health info. It reads:

If you can’t fly, then run.

If you can’t run, then walk.

If you can’t walk, then crawl.

But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.

Woke up from an unpleasant dream with the image of a helpless baby seal with a broken flipper (don’t ask) stuck in my head. Began my morning ritual: coffee, news, Facebook. My instincts said: you should not go on Facebook today. I ignored my own advice and am now working to gain control over the second panic attack of the day.

I have family issues and the very first post on my feed was a picture directly reminding me of them; people I dearly love but have had to remove from my life because they were detrimental to my mental equilibrium. Like a shot in the solar plexus: oof. My heart rate ramped up almost immediately. I breathed diaphragmatically to try and slow it down. Having just consumed a cup of coffee didn’t help.

Normally, my response when this sort of thing happens in the morning is to surrender and hide for the duration of the day. But today I thought of that quote. I remembered the excellent discussion in yesterday’s support group about how working towards your own recovery shows others that it can be done, and how managing your illness fights stigma.

I continued breathing diaphragmatically and turned to the mountain of laundry dominating my bedroom. I tackled the laundry, then the dishes. Doing something tactile and repetitive that doesn’t involve higher order thinking can be very soothing. Some people knit to calm down, others bead jewelry.

The panic began to recede. Encouraged, I turned to other things that needed cleaning (there are usually many) and occupied myself for several hours. My anxiety abated.

Then I logged onto Facebook again and immediately confronted a post from a friend about gun control in which he referred to the Sandy Hook shooter as a “drooling loony” and said that a few crazies make life interesting, like an ugly sweater in your wardrobe, but that there are a lot of psychos out there.

I don’t think he meant any harm by it. Many people without mental illness are unfamiliar with the issue of stigma, and disparagement and fear of the mentally ill are ingrained in our culture. The “psycho killer” trope is omnipresent in films, music, and literature. Even our vocabulary reinforces it. The word “crazy” has overlapping meanings–it can mean mental illness,  someone who is unpredictable and volatile, or someone or something that flies in the face of logic. Like everyone, I use it to describe the latter all the time. There’s no getting away from that word or separating its multiple meanings. This is a slippery issue.

But we react emotionally before we react intellectually. Once again, my heart started beating that familiar tattoo within my chest. More breathing. I already had momentum, and that made it easier to keep going.

I thought writing about it would help. It does. Later, I’ll hit the gym, and that will help more. I’m taking a week-long break from social media to better concentrate on all of the things that need doing, and there are many because I’ve always shut down when the world bitch-slaps me into an anxious depression. However incremental my progress, I must keep moving forward.

Great website: “Meditation-PTSD”

4 Mar


Meditation is a wonderful and often overlooked method to help recover from and manage post-traumatic stress disorder. The techniques taught in meditation–breathing, mindfulness, and focus–can also be used to regulate intrusive symptoms of PTSD such as panic attacks and flashbacks. A study recently conducted about the efficacy of using meditation to treat American soldiers’ PTSD reported not only gains in their recovery, but also in their ability to retain new information:


Meditation has also been shown to lower blood pressure, aid digestion, mitigate insomnia, enhance immune system functioning, decrease pain from migraines, muscle tension, menses…you get the idea.


I attended meditation sessions at my local Zen Center while I was working through my trauma, and they were very helpful in calming my mind and lowering my anxiety.

I understand people’s reluctance to try it, but one of the great things about meditation is that there’s no one “right” way to do it. You don’t have to bend yourself into a pretzel: you can meditate in a simple kneeling or cross-legged position. I’ve also attended a meditation group where we sat in chairs.

If you’re intimidated by the idea of sitting in a Dharma room breathing incense smoke while surrounded by a bunch of Buddhist monks, please know that there is a variety of meditation styles and groups out there: do a little digging and find what works for you. There are low-key groups that approach it from more practical, less spiritual angles. I will say that I find doing it in a group to be very helpful because it provides support and instruction. Most communities have meditation centers and groups. You can find them through a simple Google search, through Meetup.com, or through review sites such as Yelp. The meditation meetings are usually inexpensive or free with the option of a donation. Many meet on evenings during the week and on weekend mornings.

If you’re the solitary type who prefers to try it solo, there are numerous DVD’s, CD’s, and online resources that can guide you through it.


Bottom line: there’s no harm in trying it, it’s affordable, and you might find it to be a natural, healthy alternative to piling on more meds to treat your anxiety and insomnia.

“What to Do If You Were Sexually Molested As a Child” –Excellent Article

16 Feb

Read this. Read it even if you’ve spent years discussing and working on your trauma.

I highly recommend exploring the whole blog. I don’t agree with absolutely everything the author says, and I do wish that he or she would put up a page about him/herself (I’m inclined to believe the author is female, but I could be wrong). BUT I have found helpful information and insights in every article I’ve read on it. This one is especially good, in part because it advises you about what you should look for, and look out for, when treating your trauma–psychiatrists and therapists can mess you up more if they don’t know their business. I learned this the hard way when my shrink pushed desensitization therapy too quickly and I ended up agoraphobic and paralyzed by panic attacks and dissociation for an entire summer.


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