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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Hidden People

Who are the hidden people? They are all around us. But in one way or another we do not see them.

They are the elderly and impaired people in nursing homes that no one visits.

They are the mentally retarded who are boarded in schools.

They are the people in prison.

There are visible people and invisible people in our society. Visible people are the ones with their pictures in the paper and on the TV. In a more mundane sense, they are the people you see in the malls and at the restaurants. They have the money, the mobility, the psychological and financial resources to take charge of their own lives and to be involved in life.

But there are all kinds of hidden people.

There are the people who hide themselves. They are depressed or have other emotional problems. They are not able to stand the glare of being around other people. They fear rejection or harm.

There are people who are hidden in plain sight. They are the people we would rather not look at, and generally we turn out heads because we do not wish to see them--the homeless, the addicted, the streetwalkers.

How is this a psychological issue? Many of the hidden people are there because of psychological reasons--dementia, retardation, schizophrenia, and so on. This is a psychological issue, but it is also a social issue and a spiritual issue. For those of us in plain sight, we need to be become aware of the hidden people of the world.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Importance of Regular Body Rhythms

Recent research has shown that in Bipolar patients, but also perhaps with Unipolar depressed patients, the 24-hour sleep/awake cycle is very important in establishing a normal mood condition. People with Bipolar Disorder are very susceptible to disruption of their moods when their 24-hour sleep/awake cycles are disrupted. Bipolar Disorder, for example, is the only psychiatric disorder which can be triggered by something positive happening in the person’s life. When a person has positive events occur it may lead to changes in their routine and in their sleep/awake cycle. When people stay up later and later, it can trigger the onset of a bipolar episode. In working with bipolar patients, we emphasize the importance of getting regular sleep, and regular waking periods. That is easier said than done, but it is important.

Research has also shown that in addition to having regular sleep/awake periods that it is important to have regular social interaction. The body sets its 24-hour cycle not just on the basis of sunlight, sleeping and waking, but also on the basis of regular social interaction. This could include something such as going to work, going to church, going at a regular time for doughnuts with a social circle, and so on. For that reason, the therapy based on this principle is called "Social Rhythm Therapy” because it involves both biological rhythms and using social events to set those biological rhythms.

For many individuals, the seasons of the year are important, and getting enough sunlight is important in stabilizing their moods. For that reason, one option is for people to stabilize their moods by walking every day at noontime for an hour. This ensures that they will get enough sunlight, and it also establishes a particular time by which the body can set its internal clock.

Persons living with Bipolar Disorder often seek out excitement and stimulation. They like change. However, too much change and too much stimulation will often trigger episodes of mania or depression.