Outgrowing, avoiding, and lessening the damage of mental illness

When I read Bipolar Disorder May Be Outgrown and add to that the knowledge that schizophrenia usually remits after a certain age, I wonder how much of the damage of mental illness is from the ravages of being left untreated or under-treated during vulnerable periods.

We know about the "kindling" effect of depression, and the known triggers of bipolar episodes (stress, drugs, lack of sleep).

I wonder if we will come to a time when we look at eating disorders as a vulnerability that, if we avoid activating it during childhood and adolescence and early adulthood, could be avoided altogether. If children at risk were protected from dietary restriction, unrelieved stress, and over-exercise - would it prevent eating disordered minds?


  1. I definitely think you have a good point - I would also like to add that sometimes mental health problems are overtreated medically but undertreated therapeutically in adolescence. I was prescribed antidepressants repeatedly throughout my adolescence and early adulthood and it took my doctor eight years to work out that they were making me MORE unwell - every one of them made me either manic or suicidal almost instantly. However, my psychiatrist was much more reluctant to refer me for treatment for my post-traumatic stress disorder and I was left on waiting lists for therapy for four years until I was hospitalised at the age of 22. I have so many friends with similar stories. Antidepressants are not a panacea, especially when there is no additional psychological support. If teenagers were treated promptly, thoroughly and holistically (rather than just throwing pills at the problem) at the first sign of mental health problems, maybe recovery rates from eating disorders, depression and the like would be higher (and maybe I'd have recovered at 15 rather than 25...)

  2. I've had experiences with this and I know how hard it can be to live with bipolar disorder. Thanks a lot for this post.

  3. Interesting. As an adult with both bipolar disorder and anorexia I find this quite intriguing. I presented with depression at a very young age and had my first suicide attempt by age 13, first manic episode by age 15 and somewhere in there the anorexia crept in (ironically, the first time I starved was in a psych hospital - it made me feel better to do so.) I have a great psychiatrist now and he has commented several times over that if this had been diagnosed and treated 20 years ago, it might not be as severe as it is now. All of my "team" theorizes that the kindling effect has really done damage. That's why I think the work you do is so important. Anorexia is one of those things that the longer it goes on, the harder it is to control/manage/get over. Our best bet is treating people young, and aggressively as you know. If that could happen for every child/teen whether it be anorexia or bipolar, I wonder how different their lives could be as an adult. Too many of us are falling through the cracks.
    As a side note, the more I read about both disorders the more similarities I find, and I find a lot of layover with anorexia and bipolar. For me, the disorders both help and feed off each other. I think comoribidity is probably higher then they even realize between the two. Thus, I think posts like this are very relevant as the two disorders while seemingly are so different I think actually have a lot of similarities, at least when it comes to how the brain works.

  4. Katie,

    I wish that psychotherapy was simply a normal part of healthcare! Kids with anxiety, adjustment problems, social issues, or just plain old puberty should be able to have that resource easily available and be encouraged instead of stigmatized. Imagine if all of us had that easily at hand - how many mental and emotional problems might be avoided or serve to strengthen us for the future?!!

    Angel, I am so sorry you know this illness this way. I am hoping that you have good, effective treatment!

    And anonymous, I think you are right that there is more to the connection between bipolar and eating disorders than simple co-morbidity. I think we'll learn more about both by examining that intersection.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts