Dr. Bradt's Mailbag 4
1. Q. Hello my name is Jeremy. I am a soldier in the
My wife back home has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder
and it seems it has been the cause of a lot of problems that she has been having
lately. I was wondering if I should be worried since she is taking care of my
little girls ages 2 and 4. It explains the uncontrolled spending she has been
She seems not to be able to get along with the neighbors orfamily members who
are there to help her. Do I have reason for concern?
A. Dear Jeremy, I wouldn't worry at all. I wouldn't worry about your wife
getting along with people who are trying to help her Most people don't like to
be helped in that way. I wouldn't worry about the spending sprees and problems.
Just because she is bipolar doesn't mean that that causes everything. She must
miss you really bad.
Most of all, I wouldn't worry about your daughters. Bipolars are no more likely
to be violent than anybody else. Bipolars are just as loving as anybody else.
Thank you for fighting to protect us.
2. Q. I am in love with a 51-year-old man who has been
diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I am in love with a man who is kind and gently
as a lamb. But I have seen another side that is quite the opposite. Which is
A. Dear Ramona, both are him. That's what makes bipolar disorder so confusing.
Q. And what are the chances of us sharing a happy married life together?
A. Very high. See
Q. Does the disease cause a selfishness?
A. There's no evidence of that, and I haven't seen it among my friends.
Q. Is there a capacity to love?
A. Yes. See
http://www.willigocrazy.org/Ch05i.htm. And good luck.
3. Q. My ex-girlfriend was diagnosed with bipolar disorder this year and
she is now stating that I caused it. Is that possible?
A. It's not likely, Anthony. Bipolar disorder is mostly caused by the person 's
own genes. A tiny bit might be caused by all the thousands of people out there,
but I don't think just one person (you) would show up in your
4. Q. Hi. I have bipolar and I was wondering if you knew someone or if you
could help me design a food plan for a 5 one 130 lbs woman who takes 200 mg
Lamictal and 2 mg Risperdal. Currently, my food plan is 8 oz yogurt with fruit,
1.5 grain for lunch, 4 oz protein, 1 fruit, 6 oz cooked veggies, 4oz grain and
for dinner 4 oz protein, 6 oz cooked veggies, 12 oz salad, and two tablespoons
of fat. Do you think this is sufficient for someone on these meds and this size?
A. Dear Tracy, The food plan you have already have might not be sufficient, but
it's spectacular! You have great willpower. I recommend that you add to it just
a little by giving yourself a treat once in a while. That should make it
sufficient and make you less tempted to go off it.
I have put two questions together:
5. Q. My husband is 39 and was diagnosed as bipolar 12 years ago. He has
long well periods, then long depressed and hypomanic periods. The short of it
is, he is a journeyman electrician (9 years of hard work), but can no
longer function for any length of time. He is more and more discouraged
and feels that the illness has got the best of him. What kind of
work do people in this situation do? Where to start thinking 'outside' the
6. Q. I have been suffering from bipolar disorder for the past eight
years. First it seemed like depression, so I was taking antidepressants,
but they did not work. After four years I came to know it was
bipolar disorder. From that time I was experiencing mania and
depression in 10-day intervals. The manic stage is controllable but
the depression I can't tolerate. I can't read due to loss of
concentration. Two years ago, I started taking Valproic Acid. But
there was no result. I was frustrated and attempted suicide. But it
is my bad luck, I survived. Now I am studying in IIT Delhi, final year
Mechanical Engineering. Almost 70% of my friends have gotten jobs. I am
very talented. I have a bright future, but I have lost my memory and
talent. So I am not able to get a job. One way left is
suicide. I don't want to die. Please save me.
A. Millie and Manas, Getting a good job while bipolar can be a difficult
problem to solve, but I think it's best done in steps.
1.. Take effective medicine for the bipolar disorder. This is usually a process
of trial and error.
2.. Once you find the medicine that's right for you, work with it.
Maintain a regular daily eating, sleeping, etc. schedule. Choose good methods of
relaxation and use them.
3.. Don't let anyone criticize you for having bipolar disorder or any of its
symptoms. Being temporarily unable to work is a bipolar symptom. It's not
4.. Don't put pressure on yourself. Lots of bipolars have good jobs, and you
will too some day. Give yourself time to heal.
What kind of work do bipolars do? Many different kinds. Bipolar disorder, in
itself, rarely makes it impossible to work. It's the specific bipolar symptoms
that make things tricky. Bipolars sometimes experiment with a number of
different jobs until they find one that fits with their symptoms.
And I agree that you have to think outside the box. Relax and don't give in to
Millie and Manas, you (your husband) seem depressed. Take care of that
depression, preferably by seeing a psychiatrist. No one deserves so much
pain. And don't jump into a job until you feel strong and ready.
7. Q. I am a personal trainer at a community wellness center. Two of my
clients had a very interesting question for me the other day and I was wondering
if you could help me answer it. They have a close friend that had gastric
bypass surgery about 6 months ago. She started out at about 500 lbs and
has lost about 100lbs. Her doctor has told her she should have lost more
weight by now and she has gained some weight over the summer when she went on
vacation. My clients say that lately she has had quite a different
personality. They say she is much more forceful and sometimes really pushes the
envelope with not only them but her coworkers as well. They asked me if it was
possible for your personality to physically change due to weight loss. I
told them that more than physical/chemical personality change her
mood/personality change might be due to disappointment in her weight loss
so far or she may be upset because she thought other problems in her life
would change or go away when she lost the weight. I would really love a
doctor's opinion on this matter so I can give them a more concrete answer.
Thanks for your help.
A. Audrey, I have never heard of weight loss changing the
personality, much less that much. However, extreme stress can do it. Maybe
gastric bypass surgery was very stressful for her.
8. Q. My question is that I have been diagnosed as bipolar and was
wondering do I really have to be on meds? for the rest of my life?? I don't want
to. I actually quit taking them for six months because I don't want my
body getting used to them. Am I wrong or should I just keep taking them no
Thank you, Pam
A. Pam, there are two types of psychotropic medicines that treat bipolar
disorder, those that cause your body to get used to (dependent on) them,
and those that don't. Unsafe meds include Trileptal and Neurontin. (They
may cause dependency - addiction - or they may not.) Safe meds include
lithium and, I believe, Valproic Acid. I am not a psychiatrist. I am
simply speaking from the experience of myself and my friends.
Here's my recommendation. Choose a psychiatrist. Ask them if Trileptal or
Neurontin could possibly form a dependency (be habit-forming). If they
say, "Absolutely not," walk out, because you are looking for a
psychiatrist who is open-minded and reading about the new medicines and trying
to keep their patients safe from addiction. Look for a psychiatrist who says,
"Yes," or, "Maybe," or, "Anything's possible," so that you won't wind up
dependent on a drug and they're saying, "No, you're not," and they're not taking
care of you. A good psychiatrist should be able to find you a safe med.
In answer to your question, I recommend that you do take some kind of
9. Q. Are there people with bipolar disorder that have normal, healthy
A. Dear Rachel, Yes, there are! Please read http://www.willigocrazy.org/Ch05i.htm.
10. Q. If you have been diagnosed as bipolar for years, can you "outgrow"
or get cured, or just stop being bipolar?
A. Dear Jen, No, not really. Once a bipolar, always a bipolar, because
it's in your chemical makeup. But if you keep taking your meds, some day you'll
be a "recovered bipolar," and that's the best of all. Recovered bipolars are
better people than they ever would have been if they had never been bipolar.
11. Q. Thanks for the opportunity to write to you.
My problem is different than
the ones Iíve been reading about. I have bipolar disorder 1, and work
shift work. The day shift lasting from 7:00 till 3:45 plus overtime and the
night shift lasting from 5:45 till 2:30 plus overtime. I am requesting from
my company to allow me to work just the evening shift as I work better in
this shift, and would get the proper sleep I need. I feel the day shift is
too much for me. Is this uncommon for people with bipolar? The articles I
have read suggest that night shift has negative effects on them. Or does
it depend on the person involved.?
A. Dear Patricia, It does depend on the person whether night or day
shift is best.
Your request to work just one shift is legitimate. Many bipolars get more
sick when they canít make their sleep patterns regular. Bipolars need our
sleep! If you have a good doctor, he or she will back you up and send a
letter to your employer documenting your medical need for a regular sleep
schedule (but night vs. day is up to you.).
12. Q. 1. Why is it that when I get depressed, I begin to doubt the
reality of my faith? I have heard others express the same concern. Is there a
ďfaithĒ center in the brain which is affected by depression?
A. Dear Ceci, I donít think thereís a faith center in the brain. Iím not
sure anyone has studied this question, so please let me speculate. Faith
is resting assured that God will take care of you and things will work
out. Depression is believing that you are alone and nothing will work out.
So it might be naturally hard to keep oneís faith during depression. Not
13. Q. A friend of mine was diagnosed with BPII two years ago and he is
stabilized now. I was wondering if he could study and practise medicine.
A. Dear Ronald, Of course he can study medicine. He can do anything he wants.
Wish him luck for me.
Q. My daughter is dating a boy who is bipolar. He has all of the symptoms.
My question is: can bipolars be harmful to others? She has a baby that is
not his and he keeps her sometimes and I am worried.
A. Dear Rene, There's no cause for worry. Bipolars are no more likely to
be violent than others. The only problem is, if you or I are (am) a bipolar
and everybody keeps expecting us to be violent, that could make us angry.
Not good! Don't stay away from bipolars, stay away from prejudiced people!
Q. Can a person become dependent on sweets and, if this is true, how can
one get rid of this dependency?
A. Dear Vanya, Yes, a person can become dependent on sweets. A person
can become dependent on anything. But it's hard to tell if you are dependent
on sweets, so I wouldn't try. I would just try to prevent dependency. When
you have a craving for a sweet:
First, drink half a glass of water slowly.
Second, if the craving persists, eat something crunchy - carrots, celery, or
nuts if necessary.
Q. Dr. Bradt, I have a couple questions for you. First off I'm a student
at the University of Northern Iowa. My roommate has 3 bad habits that drive
me crazy. First, he thinks that smoking really does reduce his stress and
calm him. This really can't physically I happen, can it? Is there really
something in cigarettes that does this? From my knowledge it doesn't.
OK second, he's 20 years old and he still sucks his thumb. Is this normal?
He says it's a habit and he can't quit. But he can because he only does it
when he's around me and the other roommate. He doesn't do it in public or
around strangers. I pointed this out and he said it's because he would be
embarrassed to do this in public. Hmmm. So to me this is a habit he CAN
stop. Tell me what I should say/do about this. Thanks,
A. Dear Matt, Researchers haven't found anything in cigarettes that is
supposed to calm you or reduce your stress. But, strangely, cigarettes
are calming for many people. Possibly, like many people, your roommate
expects to get calmer, and so he does. (But there are a lot of things, e.g.
music, that can calm you that are less lethal than cigarettes.)
Second, there is no normal behavior. Find me one normal human being!
Habits can be present in private and gone in public. I'm not sure if it's
because we get too embarrassed to exhibit our habits in public or, more
likely, because we let our minds wander in private, while we're thinking,
watching TV, listening to music, or whatever, and habits will come back
during these times of relaxation.
I can think of a lot worse habits than thumb sucking. What should you say? I
wouldn't say anything. What can you do? I would watch myself and see
what my own habits are. Then you can laugh about them with your roommates.
Q. 1. Is it normal for someone who is bipolar to have thoughts of doing
things that would ultimately be suicidal without thinking about the harm in
them? For example, we live near a highway and many times as I listen to
the traffic I am compelled to go and sit in the highway. It has nothing to
do with wanting to kill myself but just seems a way to make my panic
attacks go away. I have had other thoughts like these. Take a bottle of pills,
jump out of a moving vehicle, cut myself with a knife. I have never done any of
these things, of course. However, when I get these thoughts it is a very thin
thread of rationality that keeps me back. I fear that thread will break.
When I have these thoughts, and I desire to do these things, I honestly
do not mentally connect them with bodily harm, only a way of escaping the
all-consuming sense of dread and panic that I experience. When I am
thinking clearly I obviously realize how dangerous these things are. Is this a
symptom of my bipolar disorder or something else?
2. Also in regards to therapy, I have only been once so far (next appt.
tomorrow) but I was sorely disappointed. Most of the time was spent in
silence. I was not asked any important questions or given any
advice. I thought that therapy would make me feel better or at least
give me some direction. How much feedback should I expect?
A. Jenny, I think there are two issues here.
1. I don't think your thoughts are a symptom of your bipolar disorder,
but I think you should see a therapist about them soon. It's good that these
thoughts don't lead to death, but they are harmful.
2. Therapists sometimes don't tell people, but the client is in full
control. You chose to be silent, so there was silence. To change this,
simply ask the therapist to ask you questions or give you advice
(although some therapists are reluctant to give advice). Expect as much feedback
as you ask for. If the therapist doesn't give you pretty much what you ask
for, find another therapist.
Q. I was just wondering:
1. if bipolar disorder can be passed from one generation to another.
2. And if there are degrees of severity of the illness. Some have said
that I may have it but I want to be sure for myself.
3. And what are the treatment options for bipolar disorder?
A. Daniel, the answer to:
1. is yes. Bipolar disorder is inherited.
2. Yes, bipolar disorder varies a little in severity, but the degrees of
variation are almost impossible to measure. It's like asking how
pregnant a woman is. If you're pregnant, you're pregnant, and if you have
disorder, you have bipolar disorder. But you, yourself, can never be
sure. Ask a psychiatrist.
3. Pretty much, the treatment for bipolar disorder is medication.