Dr. Bradt's Mailbag 3
1. How much education does it take to be a psychologist?
Q. Me and my partner have a relationship. We both have
bipolar disorder. I
Q. I have a
twin brother (21) who was recently diagnosed with psychosis. My
Q. I just found out my boyfriend is
bipolar. When we first met, he was
Find a counselor and BOTH of you sit down and talk to
your boyfriend. Are
Of course, this seems like a managable issue to me, but
I was wondering what
1. You break down and maybe end up in a psychiatric hospital, or
2. You tough it out and analyze yourself and, if you survive (if you're a
survivor), you end up better off than you would have with a therapist.
2. Hi, my question is how do I tell if I have a chemical imbalance? And if I do have a chemical imbalance what do I do?
My good friend is going out with a girl that has an imbalance and he thinks I might have one.
3. How do you know if you are bipolar? Some of my friends have thought that I was. Can you change it automatically or do you take pills?
4. My father has bipolar disorder. How do I know that I don't have it?
A. I will answer all your questions at once. The only way you can know if you're bipolar or have some other chemical imbalance is if a psychiatrist tells you you are or you do. Your friends don't know. Even family doctors and psychologists don't know for sure. If a psychiatrist tells you you don't have a chemical imbalance, don't listen to anybody else who tells you that you do.
#3., do you mean: Can you treat bipolar disorder with talk therapy?
No, it doesn't usually respond to talk therapy. It responds much better to pills.
Q. My name is Mary and I am fourteen years old. My best friend (who is also fourteen) is bipolar. I've noticed recently that during her mania she has been spending outrageous amounts of money during spur-of-the-moment shopping sprees. Here's my question: when I notice that she is spending too much, should I call her on it ("That's expensive, and you've already spent two hundred dollars.") or should I let it go by and deal with her afterwards, when she feels guilty about spending that much? Most other things I've learned to handle (because my mom was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few years back) but I've never had this problem with my mom and I don't know what to do. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
A. Let me guess! You've already tried both calling her on it right away and afterward, and neither has worked. You are trying to do what people much older than you have done, and they often fail. You are trying to foster positive behavioral change. Good luck with this admirable endeavor! Eventually, you will probably have to decide whether to stop shopping with her (and do something else with her instead) or just let it go. Are there other people on your side, such as her mother?
Hint: It's usually best to respond immediately, but not until you're calm.
Q. Iím a student at Wayne County Community College and will
graduate in afew months. My major is psychology; however, I'm not totally sure whattitle a four year degree will give me.Will I be considered a psychologist, or do I need a masters or a doctoral degree?
A. Nikia, you will need to go on for a Ph.D. (doctorate) to be considered apsychologist.
Q. I am currently going out with someone who has been
diagnosed with manic depression. I have been reading up on the effects of this and I was just wondering what it is like while in a relationship with people in this situation and what I should expect. I have noticed slight mood changes but nothing majour at the moment.
Dear Michelle, Expect bipolars (manic depressives) to act exactly the same as you or anyone else would act.
Q. But everybody acts differently.
A. Exactly. Every bipolar acts differently too.
Q. I was recently admitted to hospital, where the doctor immediately assessed that I was bipolar. I had been getting two hours of sleep a night for the past month. My thoughts were not making sense and I had rapid speech. I was in a crisis situation and basically delusional, I think from severe exhaustion and trauma. I had lost my job, and my car had been written off. I had gotten married, driven 6000 km. in three weeks, survived a hurricane, and dealt with three deaths, all in a four-week period. I have never had mood swings, I have never been suicidal, I have not gone on wild spending sprees, nor have I ever been euphoric except on my wedding day. Do you think it is possible that I had a nervous breakdown and donít have bipolar disorder? I am terrified that my life will be one long emotional roller-coaster, when it never has been before. My psychiatrist has painted a picture of a lifetime of meds and psych. hospitals.
Dear Britta, Hey! Iím bipolar myself. Please donít be terrified to be like me. Now that Iím on effective medication, my life is pretty good.
A. Dear Cary, Not at all. Iím a bipolar psychologist myself.
Q. I am a psychology student here in the Philippines. I'm so confused about the articles saying that mental illness is hereditary. Is it really true? According to my professor, mental illness is "not" hereditary.ó Harold
Q. We are in the processes of adopting and we are considering a birthmother who is bipolar. What are the chances of the baby inheriting the illness? ó
Dear Harold and Christina, Since you two have asked the same question, Iíll give you both the same answer. If one of your parents has bipolar disorder, you have approximately a 30% chance of having it. Thatís the hereditary part of the answer. Bipolar disorder is not JUST hereditary, though; the environment plays a part too. For information about this, see
Q. Am seeking a therapist for my son who is 21 and recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. How in the world do I find one? The phone book just seems too random for me. Is it customary to interview the choices, since they will be such a relevant part of the treatment?
Dear Stephanie, Your best bet for finding a good therapist is http://www.nostigma.org. If it isnít customary to interview possible therapists before you choose one, it should be. In this case, comparison shopping is crucial.
A. Dear Eileen, Please go to http://www.willigocrazy.org/08e06.htm and read a story called "A Real Catch". My guess is that you are young, attractive, and a little too loving. (I don't mean to say you're like Lizzie, the storyís star, though. She's a real dummy; I think you just care about others more than about yourself.)
A. Dear Chaanda, The definition lists only the necessary elements of the disorder. The description can tell more. For example, by definition, bipolar disorder, mixed, isďan illness in which the current (or most recent) episode involves the full symptomatic picture of both manic and major depressive episodes, intermixed or rapidly alternating every few days.Ē The definition doesnít tell you much about bipolar disorder. A good description would tell you much more.
A. You donít. There is too much danger that you might make things worse. I recommend that you wait until you see a sign that they are ready for your help. If you donít see one, be glad, because thatís less work for you.
Q. Every time I'm ready to go for a job interview, I become extremely depressed and anxious. I usually end up calling the interviewer at his business and telling him/her that I've changed my mind and no longer wish to apply. After that, I usually feel a lot better. I have an intense fear of getting a job that I'm mentally unable to cope with. Aside from bipolar disorder, I also have dependent personality disorder. The job I'm applying for this time is called a "direct support worker." I'd be going out into the community and helping other mentally ill people learn basic living skills, take them to appointments, and whatever other things they need. I'd be the one putting their individual service plans into action. I'm really scared about my future. I keep following the same pattern repeatedly. At times, I feel like I might be capable of doing the job I'm applying for, but then I worry that being around all those mentally ill people might make me very depressed. Do you have any insight into what makes me act this way, and how I can stop this horrid cycle I've put myself in? If not, is it possible for someone like me to be considered mentally incompetent and get disability?
A. Dear Michelle, it is possible for someone like you to get disability. But that wouldnít make you mentally incompetent. If you were mentally incompetent, you couldnít produce such a well-written email as this. You need to talk to someone local, of course. Someone who can help you on a weekly or even daily basis. But I can tell you a few things. First, most people become depressed and anxious before a job interview, so donít assume that you have to go on disability. Give a local psychological professional a chance to help you.
Second, you might want to visit your local office of vocational rehabilitation. They do more than just train people. They can teach you what to say in a job interview and negotiate to get the employer to understand and accommodate for your anxiety. And they are just good people to talk to about job-related problems.
Q. 77 My sister was just diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She lives in Florida and is at a mental hospital in West Palm Beach. All the rest of the family is out of state. We just obtained temp guardianship. We would like to find a TOP in patient treatment center in Florida but don't know where togo. We would like to find a center that will give her the proper therapy and education. Do you have any suggestions?
A. Dear Sue,
Your best bet is to click on www.nostigma.org. They have nationwide info about mental-health services.
Q. What is the difference between talking to a licensed psychologist and just talking to a friend? I know that when you're a psychologist you have training and stuff in the area, but what is the difference between that and a friend?
A. There are many differences. A psychologist is trained to have better listening skills than most friends. A psychologist can ask the right questions to guide the patient, and so the patient may have more insights and be less likely to be bogged down in not-so-helpful thinking. Perhaps most important, the psychologist isnít too close to you to be objective.
But if you are lucky enough to have a friend who is a good listener and cares enough to spend time with you, keep them. They are precious!
Q. I am a doula, a woman who provides support for women during childbirth. I was recently contacted by a woman with bipolar disorder who would like my support at her upcoming birth. My experience with this disorder is nil, but I am willing to read and learn.
Birth is a stressful experience for all women even without bipolar disorder. Are there any specific needs, do's or don'ts for the bipolar birthing woman?
A. We (bipolars) are the same as others and, as far as I know, have no special needs in this context, but thanks for having the consideration to ask.
It's kind of like a dream and usually when I am just about to fall asleep but I see a passing parade of faces with little substance, almost like spirits and that's how I look at them, either as people who have passed on and very occasionally, very strong, 'fighting for good', type of spirits, I think those ones are angels. These faces are constantly changing shape and sex etc, there are more faces than I can keep up with.
Sometimes these faces become very scary and evil but I am able to recognise this as all just a dream and not real and I can stop the faces immediately and have a pleasant scene appear, I am grateful that I have remembered to call on God in my dream during these times. I think these spirits are aware of my presence in their territory and I'm not sure, but I can't help but wonder if they are trying to pass messages on to me and I wonder where I fit in on the big scheme of things if this is some sort of spiritual battle etc.
I welcome your advice.
A. Dear Catherine,
As long as you have these experiences mostly as you fall asleep, they are not psychotic. They are normal, prodromal experiences.
A. I have a word for you: detachment. Detachment is a way of thinking, even a way of life. You love your depressed loved one, but you are able to stay happy yourself. There are lots of good books describing detachment, but the authoritative one is Codependent No More, by Melody Beattie.
This was a tough question, so I consulted with my mother about it. She says that you remember that God made you, and so you are a wonderful person. That will keep your spirits up. And project to your loved one that you see great value in them too. That will keep their spirits up.
Q. Dear Dr. Bradt, I just found out that my psychiatrist is leaving town for a new job. I am distraught and highly emotional about this news. I feel as if someone I care about has died. I had a very open relationship with my psychiatrist, he knew every detail of my life. I admired the way he listened to me and actually took into account my opinion about my treatment.
A. Yes, it is quite natural to grieve a psychiatrist. Some psychiatrists work with their clients for many weeks before they leave, to help them cope with the transfer to a new psychiatrist. If your psychiatrist isnít doing this, ask for help. You deserve it.
The fact that you are grieving is proof that you have put your ALL into working with your psychiatrist, and you must be recovering really well.
Q. Hello, I'm doing a graduation project for school. It's on
the psychology of friendship, and why friends are so important. Well I have read
on many websites, this is an exact quote, "people who had no friends increased
their risk of death over a 6-month period." In another study, those who had the
most friends over a nine-year period cut their risk of death by more than 60%."
What does that mean? I'm so confused. Does it mean that people with friends live
6 months longer?
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