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12/11/2012 08:43 AM

Anxiety & Major Mental Illness


I was asked by a member here to comment on this – anxiety that is comorbid with a major mental disorder like bipolar or schizophrenia is not the same as an basic anxiety disorder and will not respond to the same non-drug recovery tools.

Anxiety that is secondary to these conditions is a biological anxiety that results from organic brain and neurotransmitter dysfunctions. This is not the causation of a general anxiety disorder.

I ran community anxiety groups for over 20 years and we were compelled to exclude people with these conditions. While they often describe their sensations as anxiety they are not and I REPEAT not what a primary anxiety disorder person experiences.

The cause is far different, the experience is different and the treatments are different. It is a great disservice to everyone to mix the two patients into one group. People with major mental illness need specialized help and their expressions of their experience can frighten a common anxiety disorder person....because of their fragility (called in psychology as a Brittle interpretation) they can also be disruptive and understand other people posts with skewed interpretations.

When you do a psychiatric triage the most critical thing is to track the patient appropriately so they get help – just as this is not to exclude anyone from any group if you are not in an appropriate treatment or group their time is wasted and other people may be harmed by the presence


12/11/2012 02:48 PM
Posts: 4158
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I'm an Advocate

Thank you for this commentary about common anxiety disorder and the

anxiety disorder a person suffers from with a diagnosis of bipolar

disorder or schizophrenia and the like.

I Facilitate a support group for DBSA - Depression & Bipolar Support

Alliance, a nation wide support group. The majority of those attendees are

bipolar and

can tell the difference in a heart beat between these two very different

conditions. It just seems to come natural to them after listening to the

common anxiety people's sharing about their experience with anxiety.

The bipolar people are much much more ill and their experiences with

anxiety can and does scare the common anxiety ones half to death!

So what I do to balance out the group is split them into two groups.

I have a Facilitator assistant that I assign to the common group one week

then we switch groups the next week. Sometimes it does take a while to

learn who needs to go into which group, usually b/c they haven't shared

much yet. Not everybody says upfront they have bipolar. The last 15 minutes

of the meeting we switch gears and talk a little about how we feel about

what we heard during the meeting. Now one would think that could be a very

unstable thing to do. But to the contrary it works quite well. We invite

people from the common group to join us and they do but usually the next

week they are ready to go back to their regular group.We do the same

with the bipolar group and when they come back to the bipolar group they

always say basically the same thing; and that would be that group must

have something else besides anxiety, when in all reality it is the bipolar

group that has something else. Very interesting. And in Facilitator meetings

this is always a hot topic to talk about. Now I have no idea if other DBSA

meetings do this or not but the reason we started doing it was basically

to keep the peace. Both groups get quite upset rather quickly over the most

simple things and upset the meeting. It is a pleasurable service to provide

but one must be on top of everything said at all times.

So, since we cannot say who can attend and who cannot we choose to be

open to all. After all we are here to serve all of the public including

friends, family, co-workers, employers and anybody else who would like to

attend. Our only requirement for membership is the desire for support

and must be well enough to sit through a 1 1/2 hour long meeting. Unfortunately

I see people who are so disruptive I have no choice but to let them go.

Post edited by: Kelti, at: 12/11/2012 03:02 PM


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