Monthly Archives: August 2022

How Does Mental Health Impact Parenting?

If you’re a parent living with a mental health condition, the way you interact with your child and how you care for yourself may be impacted.

Parenting is challenging, no matter what state of health you’re in.

Living with a mental health condition can affect your ability to be present with your child. But certain self-care practices may help you stay or become responsive, engaging, and attentive.

These key qualities help ensure your child develops a sense of safety, security, and a positive relationship with their environment.

In this article, mental health experts explain how mental health conditions can affect your parenting and what you can do to foster a strong, healthy parent-child relationship.

How do mental health conditions affect parenting?

“Parenting is a tough job, and mental health challenges most importantly impact the quality of parenting,” says Emily Chinitz, PsyD, of New York, NY.

For example, if you live with depression, you may find it difficult to manage your fatigue with an excited child in the room.

Suppose you experienced trauma in childhood and are living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In that case, your child’s age-appropriate behavior may remind you of previous trauma, which may cause you to feel overwhelmed or hostile.

Karen Bridbord, PhD, of Karen Bridbord & Associates in Brooklyn, NY, states that “mental illness is a thief of a parent’s ability to be present, responsive, and engaged with their children.”

She also notes that being removed from the present can lead to inappropriate and sometimes neglectful parenting, like forgetting to buy food or have bath time.

Tim Dowling, LPC, of Apple Valley Behavioral Health in Plantsville, CT, explains the importance of modeling healthy behaviors and how mental health conditions can interfere.

“If your child is misbehaving and you’re struggling with a high level of anxiety, you can sometimes react in a way that may damage the relationship.” Indirectly, this can teach your child that this is how they should react.

Having difficulty managing your emotions as a parent can feel like excessive:

These emotions can lead to feelings of guilt and shame surrounding your ability to be an effective parent.

Recognize that what you’re feeling is valid and shared by many parents. Parenting is one of the world’s most stressful and difficult jobs, regardless of your mental health.

Can my mental health affect my child’s development?

Your behavior as a parent influences how your child relates and interacts with others. In other words, your mental health will likely affect your child’s development.

According to research from 2021Trusted Source, parental mental health conditions increase the risk of children developing psychiatric disorders. The likelihood of developing anxiety and depression may be linked to genetics and parental behaviors.

Dr. Chinitz explains that children are deeply impacted by their environment — which consists mainly of their caregivers. “If you’re unavailable because of mental illness, it can impair your ability to be a sensitive and responsive parent, which is what develops a secure attachment.”

A secure attachment ensures that your child feels safe, loved, and understood throughout their development. According to Dr. Chinitz, “all of the research shows that a strong attachment to at least one parent buffers the impact of stressors in their lives.”

Though parents are important in their child’s development, the burden of ensuring that your child develops a secure attachment style doesn’t have to fall entirely on you.

According to the experts, these protective factors can benefit your child:

  • support from school teachers and parent advocacy groups
  • relationships with warm and loving neighbors, family members, and friends
  • fun skills and hobbies that build your child’s pride and self-esteem
  • parental warmth and positive reinforcement
  • parental employment to ensure financial security

How can I care for my child while caring for myself?

All of the experts we talked to agree that caring for yourself is crucial for sound parenting.

Whether it’s a 5-minute meditation session or cooking a nutritious meal, it’s important that you build some form of self-care into your daily routine.

1. Get regular exercise

Regular exercise doesn’t just benefit your body but also your mind.

“All of the research shows that exercise is essential for mental health,” says Dr. Bridbord.

Try to explore different types of exercise to find one that’s enjoyable and sustainable for you. For example, you can walk a few laps around the neighborhood, join a class, or hit the weights.

2. Eat nourishing foods

Although specific associations between food and mood are still under investigation, research is promising.

For example, it’s believed that eating certain foods — like walnuts and avocados — can improve mood-related chemicals like serotonin levels.

A small 2017 studyTrusted Source also showed that a 12-week nutrition program improved depression symptoms.

You can read about foods that can influence your mood here.

3. Prioritize sleep

Dr. Chinitz stresses the importance of quality sleep — it impacts everything about our wellness, especially mental health.

Parenting is a 24/7 job. Without restful nights of sleep, being attentive and patient toward your child is much more challenging.

Consider aiming for at least 7 hours of sleep per night to feel refreshed and ready to take on the day.

4. Seek community support

Sometimes, self-care means asking for help.

For example, you can chat with a trusted friend, support group, or mental health professional. There’s no shame in asking for help or trying to improve yourself.

“It really does take a village. Having support structures in place for both children and their parents creates more opportunities for secure attachments and shared healthy experiences,” says Dr. Bridbord.

5. Communicate

In parenting, it’s important to encourage open communication.

Dowling expresses the importance of “openly processing your feelings.” By doing so, your children will be able to identify when they’re experiencing similar feelings.

Dr. Bridbord states that it’s helpful to be clear about how you’re feeling, provided that you do it in an age-appropriate way. “If you have to, get some support about how to express yourself in a way that your child can understand.”

6. Meditate

“The research is overwhelming around the positive impacts of meditation. We know that brain structure changes to accommodate less reactivity and greater reflectivity,” says Dr. Bridbord.

Reflectivity allows you to move through moments with an improved sense of calm and without attachment to your thoughts.

Conveniently, meditation doesn’t have to take up a large chunk of your day. Dr. Bridbord emphasizes that meditating for just five minutes can be beneficial.

To give it a try, consider using a meditation app to get you started.

7. Pursue creative outlets

Dowling explains that activities like mindless eating, watching TV, or scrolling through your phone can be ways to unplug or detach from the present.

These actions can become unhealthy coping tools that distract you from acknowledging your feelings.

“We all need some type of creative outlet, like art, music, or journaling. It teaches emotional intelligence and helps us process our feelings,” says Dowling.

So, instead of unplugging, it may help to search for a creative passion or way of expressing yourself that you can practice regularly.

Let’s recap

Parenting with a mental health condition can leave you feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, or out of touch with your own needs. It’s important to recognize that taking care of your children often begins with taking care of yourself.

You can take many steps to improve your mental health and parenting skills.

Remember that it takes more than just one or two people to raise a child; there’s no shame in asking for help.

See the original article on Psych Central.

Bipolar Relapse: Triggers, Signs, and Tips to Cope

All About Bipolar Disorder Relapse

Symptom recurrence is common in bipolar disorder. Managing your stress and following your treatment plan may help.

Were you recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder? Or have you been feeling symptom-free for some time but now feel like your symptoms are returning?

No matter what type of bipolar disorder you have, symptoms are likely to recur at some point. Even if you’ve been following all your prescribed treatments, you may still experience a return of symptoms.

A recurrence of symptoms in bipolar disorder isn’t uncommon, but there are ways to prevent it and manage it when it happens.

What’s a bipolar disorder relapse?

The natural course of bipolar disorder includes periods of wellness followed by periods when symptoms return or recur.

A recurrence occurs when symptoms such as depression, hypomania, or mania return after a symptom-free period.

Instead of “relapse,” using the words “recur” or “return” is a more accurate way of framing the overall nature of bipolar disorder. It also eliminates the negative associations with the word relapse, such as feelings of failure or shame.

How common is it?

So, just how common is a symptom recurrence in bipolar disorder?

The rate of symptom recurrence can vary depending on the following factors, according to a 2016 studyTrusted Source:

  • the type of treatment you receive
  • your overall adherence to the treatment plan
  • whether you have a family history of mood disorder

With medication treatment alone, research from 2015Trusted Source found that recurrence rates were be anywhere between 40% and 60% over 2 years.

According to research from 2019Trusted Source, psychotherapy in combination with medication delays the overall symptom recurrence rate. Indeed, those who pursue psychotherapy may find that symptom recurrence is less common.

How long does it last?

The duration of each recurring episode can vary depending on which type of bipolar disorder you’re living with and the type of symptoms you’re experiencing.

According to a 2017 studyTrusted Source, depressive episodes generally tend to last longer than manic or hypomanic episodes. Researchers found that depressive episodes lasted about 5 months, whereas manic and hypomanic episodes lasted about 3.5 months.

In the same study, depressive episodes were also found to last longer in those with bipolar II disorder than bipolar I disorder.

What triggers a bipolar disorder relapse?

Two of the most well-known triggers that can result in a recurrence of bipolar disorder symptoms are stressful life events and non-adherence to medication.

Karen Bridbord, PhD, of Karen Bridbord & Associates in Brooklyn, emphasized the effect of stressful life events and self-care on symptom recurrence in bipolar disorder.

“If you aren’t sleeping, eating nutritious foods, or are under significant grief, it can easily push you into symptom recurrence,” Bridbord says. “The fundamentals of health are profoundly important in bipolar disorder.”

Stressful life events

Stressful life events can assume many different forms, but each can impact the stability of your mood. Additionally, the particular event can determine whether you experience a manic or depressive episode.

According to a 2019 studyTrusted Source, recurrences of manic symptoms were associated with social life stressors, whereas depressive recurrences were associated with personal life stressors.

Examples of common life stressors can include:

  • marital or family conflicts
  • sleep disturbances
  • financial loss, difficulty, or unemployment
  • moving
  • death of a friend or family member
  • troubles with a neighbor
  • traveling

Bridbord states that stressors can be positive events too such as getting promoted or having a baby.

Discontinuing medication

Taking prescribed medications regularly is important in bipolar disorder because they can help stabilize your mood. While taking them helps to prevent symptom recurrence, skipping them hastens recurrence.

Lithium helps to reduce symptom recurrence in about half of people who take it, according to research from 2022Trusted Source.

A 2021 reviewTrusted Source found that other common medications for bipolar disorder — such as aripiprazole, lamotrigine, and quetiapine — may also delay recurrence rates.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of bipolar disorder typically include episodes of depression, hypomania, or mania.

Since bipolar disorder is further classified into bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder, the specific symptoms you experience during a recurrence will first depend on the type you’ve been diagnosed with.

Additionally, symptoms might differ from those you’ve experienced at an earlier date. Keeping track of your symptoms can be a helpful way to identify symptom patterns that are unique to you.

If you’re living with bipolar I disorder, you may experience a return of either manic symptoms, hypomanic symptoms, or depressive symptoms.

If you’re living with bipolar II disorder, you may experience a return of hypomanic or depressive symptoms.

In cyclothymia, you may experience a return of hypomanic symptoms or depressive symptoms.

Manic episode

  • increased or faster speech (being very talkative)
  • sense of extreme happiness or very high self-esteem
  • extreme irritation
  • racing or uncontrollable thoughts
  • quickly changing ideas or topics when speaking
  • easily distracted
  • restlessness, increased activity
  • risky behavior such as reckless driving, quitting your job, spending lots of money, etc.
  • needing fewer hours of sleep

Hypomanic episode

The symptoms of hypomania are essentially the same as manic symptoms. But hypomania, which literally means “below mania,” isn’t as severe and doesn’t last as long. These symptoms also:

  • don’t interfere as much with your life
  • don’t result in the need to visit a hospital
  • are present for at least 4 consecutive days

Depressive episode

  • overall depressed, hopeless, or helpless mood
  • lack of pleasure or loss of interest in the things you usually enjoy
  • feeling tired or lethargic
  • feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • trouble thinking, focusing, or concentrating
  • increased or decreased appetite
  • changes in weight
  • suicidal thoughts or actions
Tips to prevent a bipolar disorder relapse

An effective way to prevent bipolar disorder recurrence can be to ask a healthcare or mental health professional about adding another type of therapy to your treatment plan or additional therapy sessions.

There are various psychotherapies that have been shown to reduce the overall rate of symptom recurrence in bipolar disorder. According to research from 2019Trusted Source, these include:

Aside from these, it’s also crucial to:

  • take any prescribed medications regularly
  • seek treatment for other mental health conditions that you may be living with
  • visit a mental health professional if you’re experiencing or anticipate a stressful life event
Let’s recap

A recurrence of bipolar disorder symptoms can be frustrating and disheartening. If you’re currently experiencing symptoms, remember that it’s not your fault.

Before and during a recurrence, it’s crucial to manage your life stress and continue taking prescribed medications. Both these factors are proven to help manage symptoms.

When medication and stress management isn’t enough, another type of psychotherapy or additional sessions may offer additional benefit. Consider talking with a mental health professional about which therapy might be right for you.

See the original article on Psych Central.