The Many Masks of Mood Disorders

October 31, 2011

Realizing that today is Halloween, I wanted to relate my post to this spooky holiday but at first was unsure of how I would do that. Then it hit me like a cave full of bats flying out of the darkness. I know for those of you who have never experienced a mood disorder or have not worked with those who have (and sadly even many people that work in a variety of positions in the mental health field) just do not understand what it’s like to live with such a disorder. I hear from my clients that their loved ones make comments telling them to snap or pull themselves out of it, as if it were really that easy. Mental health disorders such as major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder are not like wearing a costume that you can easily take off. To have a little fun, I am going to compare what its like having a mental disorder with being something for halloween.

1. As I already said, a halloween costume you can take off at any time. A person who has a mood disorder does not have as much control over it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like to use diagnoses as an excuse, but it normally takes a lot of time, work, and someone else’s help to get out of it (I guess some costumes may work that way too though!)

2. People living with mood disorders have to put on a “mask” to deal with other people in their lives frequently. I have clients that talk about how it is exhausting having to pretend and put on a happy face when they are around other people that they do not feel comfortable enough with to be honest about what they are going through.

3. Going through day to day life with a mood disorder can feel like living your life as another person. You may not recognize who you are and many times, even those closest to you do not as well.

4. Even as you dress up for halloween and play the part of a different character, you have control over the way you act because everything you do is still coming through your own filter. Mood disorders seem to hijack a person’s filter as their thoughts, feelings, and actions are expressed throug the lens of depression or mania.

5. For those on the outside, it may seem like someone with depression has been converted to a vampire lifestyle (minus the blood sucking). They like it to be dark and they sleep a lot (or in some cases are unable to sleep and are up all night). One of the ways to keep vampires away is also helpful for those with depression, let the bright light in!

6. Depression may look like living like a vampire, but those experiencing it feel more like a zombie.

There are many other ways that you can compare and contrast Halloween and living with a mood disorder. I would love to hear your ideas on this as well!


Catherine Zeta-Jones Diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder

April 14, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, M.S., Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A.     Rockledge,FL
Serving Brevard County

        Catherine Zeta Jones is the latest celebrity to come out with a statement regarding her mental health. Her publicist reported on Wednesday (4/13/11) that she had checked herself into a mental hospital for a brief stay for treatment of Bipolar II Disorder*. Looking at this beautiful actress who seems to have everything, no one would be able to tell that she has been suffering from a mental disorder. But that is the way mental disorder is, it does not discriminate! Although hard to believe, at any one point in time, about 50% of the population is experiencing symptoms of a mental disorder. And yet, a stigma still remains against mental illness and those who experience any of the many disorders.

        My hope is that more celebrities will use their fame to aid society by being upfront about their mental illness. Maybe then, the stigma will slowly start to fade and other people will feel less embarrassed about seeking treatment. In the mean time, it is up to us to try to gain a better understanding of mental illness and begin to look at it more like any other illness. As stated in an interview on the Today Show, her mental illness should not be looked at differently than her husband, Michael Douglas’s, throat cancer.

      If you are looking for aBrevard County counselor or Brevard County Marriage and Family Therapist, please give me a call. My office is located in Rockledge and I would be more than happy to talk with you.

*Bipolar II Disorder is a form of mood disorder in which a person experiences times of depression and other times of a mild mania. Most people understand what depression is but mania can come in several forms including irritability, sleeplessness, or intense energy. About 2.5% of theU.S.population (above 18 years of age) are diagnosed with bipolar disorder.