This page is a really exciting project I’ve been working on that pulls together the wisdom of the mental health blogging community to support people who’ve just been diagnosed with a mental illness. It’s a work in progress, and it will continue to grow over time.
We’ll start off with some general advice and resources that are broadly applicable regardless of diagnosis, and then we’ll dive into specific diagnoses. Each diagnosis section includes brief info tidbits that you may find useful, advice from bloggers living with that condition, a list of resources (including bloggers who write about that condition), recommended books and videos, and links to info about treatment options.
You might find these MH@H posts helpful:
- A Glossary of Psychiatric Terms
- Psychotherapy Alphabet Soup: CBT, DBT, ACT, and More
- The Mental Status Exam (MSE) in Psychiatry
- Understanding Mental Health Credentials
- General Tips on Living with Mental Illness
- Mental Health Resources
- Living with Co-Occurring Conditions
- Anxiety Disorders
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
- Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)
- Eating Disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
- Psychotic Disorders
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
If the disorder that you live with isn’t on this list and you’d like to give tips to others living with it (or if it is and there’s anything you’d like to add), feel free to share in the comments below! A huge thanks to everyone who has shared already!
General Tips on Living with Mental Illness
These tips come from Wandering Sprout:
1) understand you are in control of what to discuss in therapy
2) do the ‘homework’ between therapy sessions
3) being open and honest in sessions can be scary, but in the long run beneficial
These words of encouragement come from Karina of I Will Not Be My Mental Illness:
1. It proves your strength that you’re now in the process of getting help.
2. Having a solid (correct) diagnosis is an essential step to recovery. You’re closer to finding the right medication, therapy, support system, etc. that can really change your life for the better.
3. You’re not weak for being diagnosed with a MENTAL illness. It’s just as real and significant as any physical illness. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
4. Remember that you’re so much more than your new diagnosis. It’s not YOU, it’s something you’re struggling with.
5. You’re not alone in your illness and you’re likely to meet others going through similar things. It can feel very liberating to talk about it with others who understand/relate.
6. If you feel like your diagnosis is wrong, speak up and explain yourself…it’s always worth it!
7. If you don’t feel comfortable with a new therapist/psychiatrist/psychologist, it’s your right to find the proper person/team.
8. If you feel like your own symptoms don’t match what’s commonly listed for the disorder, remember that everyone is unique and that includes the expression of symptoms of mental illness. It’s NOT a one size fits all.
Finally, good luck to you, we’re sending strength and courage. Keep up the good fight…you can make it!
This tip comes from Jason Kehl, founder of Rocking Mental Health:
Be patient with yourself. Be patient with the process. We don’t get to snap our fingers and everything is better. This takes time. Everything good takes time to form roots and become a part of our lives. Acknowledge each step as a success, even the smallest steps, while being patient with the whole process.
Mental Health Resources
- Andrew Huberman (neuroscientist) – recommended by Maja of Lampelina
- DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) – recommended by Lori Bernstein
- FitnessBlender: free fitness videos – recommended by Johnzelle of Panoramic Counseling
- Libero Magazine – recommended by Matt of Matt’s Mishaps
- Mark Manson – recommended by Maja
- Mental Health Forum – a UK-based forum for those with mental health issues just to chat, ask questions, get support – recommended by Caz of Invisibly Me
- Merck Manual: This is a solid source of information on symptoms and treatment. If you want more detailed information than the consumer version offers, you can check out the professional version.
- Mindful.org – Living more mindfully, dealing with anxiety and stress – recommended by Caz of Invisibly Me
- NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) – recommended by Lori Bernstein
- NAMI Family & Friends course -–”After [my mom] took that course at NAMI, it was like 100% turnaround. Or it felt like it…. She no longer asked about my therapy topics or progresses or lack there of. She got much much better at listening and also much much better at just giving support without having to be the problem solver. I credit NAMI for this stark reversal. It really and truly helped our relationship a lot. I think it also helped her let go of some of the blame she later admitted that she sometimes felt as playing a part in my diagnosis which came out of nowhere in our family…..” – MentalHealthBlogger
- Dr. Nicole LePera (The Holistic Psychologist) – recommended by Maja
- Online courses from Coursera and Udemy – recommended by Maja
- Psychology Today – general interest, information, tips (like on mindfulness, for instance) – recommended by Caz
- Rocking Mental Health – a not-for-profit organization set up by Jason Kehl that brings together expressive media created by people living with mental illness to generate awareness and challenge stigma
- To Write Love On Her Arms (depression, addiction, self-injury, suicide) – recommended by Alana, Something Worth Fighting For: Life Goes On
- Wellness Recovery Action Plan– recommended by Wandering Sprout
From Sara of Surviving Sara:
an action or strategy which may be adopted in adverse circumstances.
“sometimes anger is the only resource left in a situation like this”
expedient · resort · means · measure · method · course · way · scheme · [more]
a leisure occupation.
pastime · activity · leisure activity · hobby · pursuit · interest · entertainment · recreation · diversion · amusement · divertissement
My top three resources:
1. Being outdoors. Find an area that’s easy for you to access, maybe a park, trails, city streets. Even if you just sit in your car somewhere you enjoy being. Be mindful. What do you hear? What does it smell like when you breathe? Who and what do you see? Being present in a different space than usual and intentionally experiencing it, gives your mind a rest.
2. Anti-resource: Took me a long time to understand this but be prepard for friends and family to give LOTS of advice, well-meant, but just as you can’t imagine living with no symptoms of mental illness, they really cannot comprehend what’s going on for you; unless, they’ve also been ill. Shit, it’s hard enough for me to work through the detritus left in the wake of some pretty terrible seasons of my life. Friends and family? Hang out, share what you want, when you want, or don’t. If you feel awkward, have a couple comments at the ready, such as “Huh, that’s interesting.” Change subject. I sometimes say, “Yeah, I’m in the middle of trying a new approach now. Takes time.” Change subject. Use support groups and professionals for advice on handling your particular circumstances. My familiy and close group of friends have stayed with me for 27 yrs of this, so they’ve seen the struggle is real. And they still give of advice, bless their hearts.
3. Give yourself the same grace you would give to a friend dealing with being ill, being sick. Take care of yourself or ask someone close to help run errands or whatever. Do not be ashamed that you have an illness. You didn’t pick it. It’s not because you did something wrong or weren’t strong enough to handle. Feed your soul. Breathe. You’re not alone.
Living with Co-Occurring Conditions
Having multiple co-occurring conditions is very common. These tips come from people dealing with co-occurring conditions.
“Diagnosed with Autism, ADHD, Chronic depression and some things that I’m seeking help for now that are still without diagnosis… The most important thing, for me, was also the hardest thing: learn to accept that your old life is a chapter you’ve closed upon and a new chapter is ready to be written! You may feel helpless and alone, but once you’re truly ready, you’ll reach out and help may be provided. If the first help you get isn’t giving you a good feeling, don’t be afraid (I know, this is hard to do!) to ask for other options of help. Many things may help many people, but it doesn’t automatically mean it’s all ready and good to help you as well. It’s not really three things, more my experience. I also struggle with physical health ailments that sometimes make my mental ones more challenging.
And no, I don’t see my autism as a mental health illness! It is a mental health matter though, in my opinion, and I figured there may be more people struggling with this as well.” – Cynni Pixy
“I was diagnosed with BPD at the age of 15. Then when I was in my twenties PTSD, and major depression was added. I guess that the first thing I would want to get is a full simple explanation of my disorder, I would want to know the truth, and mostly that I am not alone. That someone truly understands how I feel. I know I felt alone for a long time and I think that was the worst feeling. Having family try to arm-chair-psychologist me was awful too. Even now at 57 years old I still get the feeling of being unheard and alone.” – felicia3regina
“When it comes to depression and anxiety, remember to breathe, you are not alone, and make sure you have at least one person that you can always contact that can help you get through things.” – rockysilverrisa
I’ve been diagnosed with depression and anxiety since about age 30, 27 years ago.
1. Routine is a great foundation, regular meals and sleep. If these get off kilter, you’re not in your strongest position from which to handle your mental health diagnosis and treatment.
2. Find professionals you trust, psychiatric, therapeutic, counselor, etc. Do not waste your time or your energy w/someone you don’t feel good about just because you don’t want to deal with finding another provider. Worth the trouble.
3. Alcohol really does not help. It interacts with medications and exacerbates your illness. Took me 25 years to get this even though I knew it. Adding alcohol makes a tough road much steeper. This is a journey.
Great support here. Breathe. – Surviving Sara
From Alana of Something Worth Fighting For: Life Goes On:
- You can’t get sober for anyone else. It has to be for you. And you HAVE to be ready. If you’re not really ready, it won’t stick.
- You very likely WILL fail. Nearly everyone does. But that doesn’t make you a failure. It takes the majority of people multiple attempts to get sober.
- You can’t do it alone. You have to do if for you, but you CAN’T do it alone. You need support. And that’s okay.”
There are two different kinds of addictions, which both involve reward pathways in the brain: substance use disorders and process addictions (also known as behavioural addictions). Currently, gambling addiction is the only process addiction diagnosis that’s made it into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
There are two elements to substance addiction: physical and psychological dependence. Physical dependence involves tolerance (increasing amounts are needed to get the same effect) and withdrawal symptoms when going without the substance.
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Addiction: An Information Guide from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
- BASIS: The Brief Addiction Science Information Source
- Breaking Free of Addiction from Between Sessions Resources
- Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction
- Joshua Shea, trauma & addictions coach, pornography addiction expert
- My Recovery Plan
- Narcotics Anonymous
- National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Partnership to End Addiction
- Recover Together by Google: a collection of substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery resources
- Recovery Dharma: based on Buddhist practices and principles – recommended by Finding Grace
- Shatterproof: a non-profit organization supporting treatment and challenging stigma
- SMART recovery: mutual support based on rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT)
- An Old Companion – a poem by Kat’s Gems
- In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Mate
- Book Review: The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction
- US National Institute on Drug Abuse: Evidence-Based Approaches to Drug Addiction Treatment
From Strangely Irid:
- The meds don’t do what you think they do. It doesn’t mean you can concentrate, it means you’re given the choice to do so. You can still get distracted and do dumb stuff because ADHD was never restricted to only a short attention span.
- This goes in general for what seems to be a lot of mental disorders, but it’s more so about knowing yourself and being smart about what you do with it before doing more of something you think is good for you. For example, forgetting a bunch of stuff each day when you go out? Get a box and put all your outgoing items in it and near the door, make the box brighter than its surroundings so it’s hard to miss.
Have you ever wondered why stimulants are used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? It’s because your brain’s air traffic control centre in the prefrontal cortex is underactive. When the air traffic controllers are dozing, there’s chaos on the tarmac. When you activate them with a stimulant, your mental airport starts flowing much more smoothly.
Not everyone is able to tolerate a stimulant, and there are some non-stimulant options that you may find helpful (this Cleveland Clinic page has more details).
From Johnzelle of Panoramic Counseling:
- Be open-minded to the possibility that you may need to treat your illness in multiple ways. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket; for example, only doing medication and not trying therapy or vice versa.
- The diagnosis may be a lot to digest but this is the time to step up your self care game. Some of my favorites are massage therapy, books, writing, podcasting, and having a hobby Instagram account.
- Not everyone is safe. You don’t need to explain your struggles to anyone who may weaponize it. Find your safe people and place boundaries with those who may magnify your distress.
These tips on emetophobia come from Anxiety and Liz:
1. Take a deep breath. It’s okay. Emetophobia is a scary thing. It leaves you afraid of being inside your own body. Don’t panic, there is help out there. 2. Everyone’s Emetophobia is different. Some are scared of being ill, others are scared of seeing someone else being ill. 3. Therapy and Medication are options. Whilst Emetophobia is a complex phobia, there is help out there. I think it’s important to stress here that not all therapists are the same. Some may ‘get’ you, others won’t. Keep going until you find the therapist who understands you and your phobia. 4. Meditation. Practise living in the moment and not jumping ahead to the ‘what ifs?’
There are tips on dealing with selective mutism in this post on Motivational Coping and Healing (C.J. Grasso)
Not everyone who has panic attacks has a diagnosis of panic disorder; it has particular criteria, including unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks have an abrupt onset with four or more of the following symptoms:
- heart pounding or racing heart rate
- trembling or shaking
- feeling like you’re choking
- feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- nausea or abdominal discomfort
- numbness or tingling
- fear of losing control or going crazy
- shortness of breath or feeling smothered
- chest pain/discomfort
- chills or heat sensations
- derealization (feeling of unreality) or depersonalization (feeling detached from yourself)
- fear of dying
When you’re having a panic attack or even just experiencing anxiety, the natural tendency is to start to hyperventilate. This leads to breathing off more carbon dioxide than usual, and your carbon dioxide level being out of whack causes you to feel more anxious. Instead, try taking slow, deep belly breaths, which signals to your amygdala (the brain’s alarm centre) that it’s time to chill out and calm down.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
- Anxiety Canada
- Beyond Blue [Australia]: anxiety, depression and suicide prevention resources
- BounceBack: a Canadian Mental Health Association program for Canadians dealing with low mood, stress, and anxiety
- Merck Manual: Generalized anxiety disorder | Panic disorder | Social phobia
- Rootd app for panic attack and anxiety management
- The Selective Mutism Association
- CBT group program manuals for Anxiety from the University of Michigan: this manual is meant to be used as part of a group program, but it’s clearly laid out and has exercises you can work on on your own
- Centre for Clinical Interventions self-help resources on Anxiety | Health anxiety | Panic | Social anxiety
- Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression patient treatment manuals on Generalized anxiety disorder | Panic disorder | Social phobia | Specific phobias
- Mindfulness and Acceptance-Based Group Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder: a therapist manual and participant handouts
- Panic Attack Workbook from Between Sessions Resources: focus is on practicing skills
- Social Anxiety Group Participation Workbook from Hamilton Family Health Team: a patient manual for group therapy that’s laid out in a way that makes it pretty easy to use on your own
Anxiety Disorder Blogs
- Anxiety and Liz – including this post on emetophobia
- Anxiety Is My Personality Trait
- Confessions of a Socially Anxious Introvert
- Through Anxiety and Beyond (Marimeia)
- Calm & Sense by Wendy Leeds
- Everything Isn’t Terrible by Kathleen Smith
- Freedom from Health Anxiety by Karen Lynn Cassiday
- Mindful Somatic Awareness for Anxiety Relief by Michele L. Blume
- Overcoming Anticipatory Anxiety by Sally M. Winston and Martin N. Seif
- Red Face by Russell Norris
- Show Your Anxiety Who’s Boss by Joel Minden
- The Anxiety Skills Workbook by Stefan G. Hoffmann
Autism Spectrum Disorder
While autism isn’t a mental illness, I wanted to include resources for folx on the spectrum on this page.
- Merck Manual
- Neurodivergent Affirming Therapy – blog post by MichiganCRS
- Traditional CBT doesn’t work well for autistic people, but there is an autism-adapted version that can be helpful—there’s more info in this paper in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Mental Health @ Home: What Is… Autistic Burnout
- Cynni Pixy
- Just a Square Peg – she addresses topics like misdiagnosis and self-diagnosis
- Lyric Holman, Neurodivergent Rebel
- themanyseasonsofautism, Autism and Mental Health
- Luftmentsch, Vision of the Night
- Magda Regula, Autistic and Me
- The Autistic Ambassador
- The Autistic Panda
- Unmasking Autism by Devon Price
Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD)
Avoidant personality disorder has similarities to social anxiety disorder, but there are differences in the pattern of the illness over time.
Tips from Eirlysgwenllian of My Inner Mishmash:
- Even though it probably very much feels like this to you, you are NOT alone. Seriously, there are people going through very similar, maybe even some of the same things as you. The whole new diagnosis thing can feel huge and overwhelming, especially so when you suddenly hear “PERSONALITY DISORDER”, but there’s also another side to it. If such a diagnosis exists, there are also other people who deal with this shit. It may be difficult to find us, because, duh, we’re avoidant, and, I don’t know about you, but for me it feels very exposing when I tell people that I have it because it’s basically like saying out loud all the things I struggle with the most and all my weaknesses, so we may not always want to share our diagnosis, but we are here.
- Embrace your inner child. I’m sure you can hear your inner critic well every single day, but when was the last time you listened to your inner child? Or went along with what he/she wanted? If you don’t have much of a relationship with your inner child I would highly recommend you to revive it. Allow yourself to be child-like and do things you weren’t able or allowed to do as a child, even if they’re crazy-looking things for an adult to do, as long as they’re not some unhealthy coping strategies and obviously don’t harm anyone or anything like that. If your inner child wants to climb a tree, soak in a bubble bath for three hours, or just curl up in bed with your old teddy bear and cry everything out, let him or her do that. I get this may be out of your comfort zone if you struggle a lot with how other people see you and think of you, but you don’t have to do this in front of anyone and you don’t have to rush it. It seems to me like so many people with AVPD have inner children who never got to truly be themselves, so what better time to allow them for that than now, when you’re an adult and can decide about yourself?
- If you don’t have a lot of people in your immediate surroundings that you feel more or less comfortable talking with, I would advise you to find a penfriend. People say online interactions aren’t the same as offline, and perhaps it’s true, but even so it’s always something, and for many of us even talking to people online is already stepping outside of our comfort zone. Penpalling is something I’ve been doing for years and I think it’s a really good way to keep one’s peopling skills from going totally rusty while living a hermit or semi-hermit lifestyle. Given that our peopling skills are in vast majority of cases lacking to begin with, it’s important to preserve what’s still left. And in the meantime you can learn a lot of interesting things about other people.”
- Choosing Therapy: Avoidant Personality Disorder Treatment
Tips from Wichita Genealogist, who has bipolar I with mixed episodes and ultra ultra rapid cycling:
I was first diagnosed with low-grade depression and it took a regular doctor to realize I was bipolar. I asked him for anti-depressants and he asked my symptoms. That’s when he realized I was bipolar. I figured it out on my own shortly after being diagnosed and it took the doctor over 5 years to correctly diagnosis me.
I agree that doctors often play medical Russian roulette
I had one psych prescribe me a medicine that my regular doctor sent me to the ER for. My resting heart rate was double what is should be. I fired the psychiatrist.
You are the best advocate as a friend who had bipolar went to his regular doctor. He complained of chest pains, but the doctor dismissed it as bipolar symptoms. Three days later, he died of a heart attack. Had the doctor listened to his heart or run an EKG, he would have realized it was a heart attack.
Tips from Moody Paper, who has bipolar I with mixed episodes:
I would let someone know who was newly diagnosed that there are numerous resources out there that you can rely on to lead a healthy, happy productive life. It won’t always be easy, but try to be consistent with medication, psychotherapy, and self care. Reach out to people who love you, and be as honest with them as you can about how you are feeling. Keep a mood chart, and bring it with you to appointments with your doctors.
Advice from Heather Huff:
I had a psychotic break in June last year that lasted for about 4-5 months because I couldn’t get into any stress center or psych ward! I finally got a good psychiatrist and talk therapist and started a regime of pills! I’ve been diagnosed with Bi-Polar I with mixed matrix episodes, Major Depressive Disorder- moderate to severe, Generalized anxiety Disorder, PTSD, panic disorder and sleep Disorder.
First I would want you to know that your not alone in this! Help is at the end of your finger tips, you just have to text/call/email to reach someone who can help.
Second, if you want to feel better, you have to put the work into your therapy, you have to be willing to look at yourself and embrace that your old self is gone. That person will never come back because you are different now. You may not like that but once you start making progress in your treatment and making progress with embracing who you are now.
Third, having a hobby to help you let out your emotions and feelings in a good way is essential. I’m a crafty person so I have painting, coloring, making cards, and scrapbooking. I’m also an avid reader so I try to read a book every month.
Advice from Candace, Revenge of Eve:
1. It’s not over.
2. Be gentle with yourself.
3. It isn’t your fault.
Tips from MentalHealthBlogger, Mental Health Is Health:
I have been diagnosed with bipolar illness and have been managing those symptoms since 1984/85. I would tell a newly diagnosed person that 1) the stigma you may encounter for having a mental illness is likely going to be half the battle; 2) Whenever possible find a good way to ensure you have the health insurance that you need. This may mean working at a job you otherwise would not prioritize or may mean getting on a family member’s plan or may mean getting care through a national healthcare program. 3) I believe there is a rock bottom to mental illness as there is with addiction. My sense of things is that a person may not get better until having hit what rock bottom is for them.
Advice from Elaine of My Journeys Beyond Bipolar Disorder
1. You are NOT your illness! There’s way more to you than that.
2. Don’t stop medications cold turkey, especially if you’ve been on them for a while. If you really despise a medication, you tell your doctor that and ask to be weaned off and/or slowly switched to another medication.
3. Don’t drink too much alcohol or take illegal drugs with bipolar medications. It can be dangerous and it makes judging medication efficacy difficult.
Advice from Lisa of Living in Health:
- You are not your mental health you are a human being first.
- Self- care and resting if you need to is okay.
- Reach out to others who suffer as well. For me talking helps.
Bipolar I involves at least one manic episode. There are usually depressive episodes, but they’re not required for diagnosis. Bipolar II involves at least one hypomanic episode and at least one depressive episode. While bipolar I is more severe at the manic end of the spectrum, bipolar II can be more disabling overall on the depression end of the spectrum. Mixed episodes involve symptoms of (hypo)mania and depression simultaneously, and they can be particularly hard to treat.
The DSM defines rapid cycling bipolar as four or more discrete mood episodes in the space of the year. About 10-30% of people with bipolar experience rapid cycling, and it’s particularly common in females and people with bipolar II. Some people also use other terms for more frequent cycling, although these terms don’t appear in the DSM. Ultra rapid cycling is generally defined as a mania/depression cycle within 48-72 hours, and ultra ultra rapid cycling (also known as ultradian cycling) involves a mania/depression cycle within 24 hours.
You might occasionally see bipolar referred to as BAD (bipolar affective disorder), as opposed to BPD, which refers to borderline personality disorder.
- Bipolar Wellness Centre [Canada]: focused on quality of life
- Centre for Clinical Interventions self-help resources on bipolar disorder
- DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance): has info on peer support groups, and great Wellness Tracker tools – recommended by Wichita Genealogist
- eMoods bipolar mood tracker app
- International Bipolar Foundation and their Healthy Living with Bipolar Disorder guide
- Julie Fast website and Health Cards – recommended by Moody Paper
- Merck Manual
- Mood Disorders Society of Canada
- Up! bipolar mood tracker app (on Google Play)
Bipolar Disorder Blogs
- Bipolar Anxious at Write into the Light
- Bipolar Burble blog by Natasha Tracy – recommended by Moody Paper
- Itsjaimarie – 12 Things I Want Others to Know About Bipolar Disorder
- Josh Murray at Mirrored Madness: The Monster in Me
- My Journeys Beyond Bipolar Disorder
Recommended Reading & Watching
- An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison
- Bipolar Me by Janet Coburn
- Birth of A New Brain by Dyane Harwood
- Braving Bipolar by Stephanie Schlosser
- Bring Me To Light by Eleanor Segall
- But Deliver Me from Crazy by Katie R. Dale
- Manic Man by Jason Wegner
- Safe, Wanted, and Loved by Patrick Dylan
- Surviving Manic Depression by E. Fuller Torrey (recommended by Elaine of My Journeys Beyond Bipolar)
- The Meaning of Mariah Carey (reviewed by Panoramic Counseling here)
- Polar Warriors Youtube channel
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Tips from Melanie of Sparks from a Combustible Mind:
- Be kind to yourself. One facet of the disorder is being highly ‘sensitive’ to criticism and when one is criticized, internalizing and blaming ourselves for whatever thing it is that the complainer found ‘wrong’. It’s not easy but learn to take a position of “I can’t control what other people think, do or say, but I CAN control how I react to that.”
- Become educated about what BPD IS and learn to spot the triggers or signals that you’re about to have a melt-down OR go all “Attila the Hun” on someone’s butt.
- Take things a day at a time. Let the mistakes of yesterday go and focus on becoming who you want to be.
Borderline personality disorder is highly stigmatized, and sadly, far too often, mental health professionals are among those with stigmatized attitudes. Something I’ve heard from a lot of people is that once they can look past the stigma, the diagnostic criteria really resonate with them and capture their experiences. However, if you read the list of symptoms and think hey, that really doesn’t sound like me, it’s quite possible that you’ve been misdiagnosed.
- Australian BPD Foundation
- DBT and Me podcast – recommended by Wandering Sprout
- Emotions Matter
- Kati Morton Youtube videos – recommended by Wandering Sprout
- NEABPD (National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder)
- NEABPD Australia
- The Last Symptom, a website run by Brian Barnett, who is in recovery from BPD – recommended by Lori Bernstein
Self-harm (sometimes referred to as nonsuicidal self-injury, or NSSI) is by no means exclusive to BPD, but it is common, so I’m including these resources here:
- Cornell University self-injury & recovery resources
- National Self-Harm Network (NHSN): resources include lists of distractions and harm reduction publications like The hurt yourself less workbook and Cutting the risk
- Self-Injury Outreach and Support [Canada]
- Shedding Light on Self-Injury [Australia]
- Complex Borderline Personality Disorder by Daniel J. Fox looks at how BPD presents in combination with various other disorders
- DBT Skills Training Handouts & Worksheets by Marsha Linehan
- Reinventing Your Life by Jeffrey E. Young and Janet S. Klosko – recommended by Wandering Sprout
- The Dialectical Behavior Skills Workbook by Matthew McKay, Jeffrey C. Wood, and Jeffrey Brantley
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), schema therapy and mentalization-based therapy are among the evidence-based treatment options for BPD. Some people with BPD benefit from medications to help manage their symptoms. This blog post looks at some of the meds that might be helpful.
These sites have DBT resources:
- DBT Coach app
- DBT handouts from psychologist Dr. Linda Olson
- DBT Fosters Recovery and Resiliency Handouts
- DBT Peer Connections: DBT skills in a massively open online course format
- DBT Skills Application: a DBT self-help site with links to skills worksheets
- DBT Skills Handbook from Fulton State Hospital: available from a number of sources, including My Journey Through Madness
- DBT Skills Workbook for Rec Therapy Sessions from RecTherapyToday
- DBT Trivia & Quiz app on the App Store and Google Play
- DBT911 app (also known as dbt112; Android only) – recommended by Wandering Sprout
- Dealing with Distress: distress tolerance workbook
- Dialecticalbehaviortherapy.com: videos, written info, and worksheets
- Dr. Mark Purcell: DBT youth group manual (link goes straight to a .docx download)
- ilovedbt.wordpress.com: DBT skills micro-lessons, handouts, and worksheets
- Mind Body Soul Therapy: free online mini DBT intro course
- Open-Minded Thinking DBT workbook
- Regulator Workbook: DBT skills manual from Mission Australia
- Simple DBT Skills Diary Card app on the App Store and Google Play
- The DBT Homework Assignment Workbook: from Between Sessions Resources
There are a lot of different ways and different whys depression can happen, and some of them may feel completely foreign to you. For example, Johann Hari’s book Lost Connections might as well have been talking about a completely different illness, because absolutely none of what he said resonated with me. So I’d say be prepared ahead of time that there’s a whole spectrum of depressive experiences, and a lot of them will have nothing to do with what you experience.
And that’s okay! There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with you for experiencing whatever flavour of depression you’ve got going on, and there’s also nothing wrong with you for responding better to one kind of treatment than another. It doesn’t somehow make you less than to respond better to meds than to therapy, for example. What matters is finding treatment that works for you.
Marlane Gohl offers tips for people living with depression, as well as those supporting us, on Ratz Ink.
Advice on persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)
This advice for people diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) comes from Eirlysgwenllian of My Inner Mishmash:
- The fact that your condition may often be referred to as high-functioning or milder depression, which is often just a way of explaining it shortly rather than a definition of what it actually is, doesn’t mean you have less of a problem than someone with for example major depression or bipolar does. Your struggle is simply different than theirs. You may not actively think about suicide most of the time or you may not struggle to get out of bed every single day, but you may still have for example constant passive suicidal thoughts, or feel no pleasure out of things, or your energy levels may be low, even to the point where it could be disabling like major depression or even a physical illness could be.
The fact that it’s sometimes labelled high-functioning doesn’t mean that you are expected to be higher-functioning in all areas than a person with a different type of depression would. You may be able to do all you’re expected to do in life – go to work, raise children, prepare meals etc. – but struggle with social interactions and expressing any positive emotions, or engage in closer relationships, or do anything in life just for the fun of it, because of all the clouds hanging over you. Or vice versa. And even if you are able to do all these things, it doesn’t mean that this high functioning doesn’t cost you a lot. And sometimes despite having this so-called high-functioning depression, there will be days, or longer periods, where you may not be high-functioning at all, and indeed struggle to even get out of bed or take care of your basic needs. That’s shitty, but it’s okay, it happens. At least in my personal experience, dysthymia is not something fixed, it can change over time and respond to all sorts of things going on in my life or in my brain, or it can just change randomly. So don’t put pressure on yourself that you should be able to do certain things, or feel a certain way, because you have the “milder” depression. Overall it may indeed be milder than some other forms of depression, but it sticks to your brains like glue for years, sometimes for life, so in a way it may take even more of a toll on you, and your symptoms may fluctuate and change a lot over time.
- Don’t believe that you’re doomed to being unhappy your whole life because you have dysthymia. Maybe you have never felt happiness or not much, maybe you’ve even thought that it’s just part of your personality or something, which seems to be common when one has dysthymia, but this doesn’t have to be the case for the rest of your life, if you get the right treatment or therapy, or even if you just try to understand yourself better and work with your brain and remove yourself from situations or circumstances that worsen your mental health if possible, depending on what’s necessary for your current needs. Trust me, unhappiness doesn’t have to be the default state with this illness. Perhaps you might not be able to feel very noticeably happy all the time either, but it’s possible to enjoy life and various aspects of it with dysthymia, to feel pleasure and even strong positive emotions, and for your baseline to go up a bit, even if your baseline will still be lower than an average person’s.
- If you haven’t found it yet, try to find something that will drive you in life and work like your emotional/mental fuel. It can be a hobby, an interest, a pleasurable activity, your faith, your children, your pet, your job, even a TV programme that you like and always look forward to, anything that gives your life a purpose and keeps you going and fills your life with some positive and pleasant feelings and experiences and that motivates you. It doesn’t have to be anything huge at all.
Your doctor may not have told you that have a specific type of depressive features, but one of these may sound familiar to you:
- Seasonal pattern: seasonal affective disorder is not currently a diagnosis in the DSM, but the seasonal pattern specifier is used when people’s symptoms only show up during certain times of the year
- Peripartum onset: this is commonly referred to as postpartum depression
- Melancholic features: this is a certain cluster of symptoms including lack of mood reactivity to pleasurable stimuli, insomnia (particularly with early morning awakening), a significant decrease in appetite/weight, slowing of movement and thoughts, and significant guilt, with symptoms typically worse in the morning
- Atypical features: the name atypical is a bit misleading, as it’s pretty common; what the atypical actually refers to is symptoms that are in many ways the opposite of what people with melancholic depression experience, like increased appetite and increased need for sleep, along with mood reactivity to pleasurable stimuli, leaden paralysis (limbs feeling weighed down by fatigue), and sensitivity to interpersonal rejection
In the DSM-5, dysthymic disorder was renamed persistent depressive disorder. It involves symptoms that are of lower severity than a major depressive episode, but it involves greater chronicity, and it can be quite disabling as a result. Sometimes, the term double depression is used to a describe a major depressive episode superimposed on top of persistent depressive disorder.
- Antidepressant Skills Workbook
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
- Beyond Blue [Australia]: anxiety, depression and suicide prevention resources
- A Guide to What Works for Depression: An Evidence-Based Review
- Black Dog Institute [Australia]
- Blurt: a UK-based social enterprise supporting people with depression
- BounceBack: a Canadian Mental Health Association program for Canadians dealing with low mood, stress, and anxiety
- CBT group program manual for Depression from the University of Michigan: this manual is meant to be used as part of a group program, but it’s clearly laid out and has exercises you can work on on your own
- Centre for Clinical Interventions self-help resources
- Choice-D Patient and Family Guide: this guide from a Canadian charity/research group partnership covers meds, psychotherapy, neurostimulation, and complementary and alternative health treatment options
- DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance): has info on peer support groups, and great Wellness Tracker tools
- Dealing with Depression: aimed at youth; website is based on the Dealing with Depression: Antidepressant Skills for Teens workbook
- Heads Up Guys – depression site aimed at men
- Merck Manual
- Mood Disorders Society of Canada: also runs the Depression Hurts site
- Overcoming Depression: 44 Therapeutic Activities to Bring Happiness and Fulfillment Back into Your Life from Between Sessions Resources
- The Depression Project
These sites are aimed at people with postpartum onset depression.
- Coping with depression during pregnancy and following the birth from BC Reproductive Mental Health Program
- Gaining control of your life with a baby from 2gether/NHS
- Managing Depression: A Self-help Skills Resource for Women Living With Depression During Pregnancy, After Delivery and Beyond
- Maternal Mental Health Alliance
- C.L. Dunbar
- Erika Jane at That Beautiful Brain
- Genevieve at Love, Your Brain – shares her experience getting ketamine
- Nyasha Phoenix
- Sajida at My Rollercoaster Journey
Recommended Reading & Watching
- Feeling Good Handbook by Dr. David Burns – recommended by My Rollercoaster Journey
- Have You Heard the Sound of Your Own Voice? by Krithika Chandrasekar
- Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me by Anna Mehler Paperny
- How to Be Miserable by Randy J. Paterson
- How to Tell Depression to Piss Off by James Withey
- Managing the Depression Puzzle by Ashley L. Peterson
- Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
- The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon
- This Is Just My Face – Try Not to Stare memoir by Gabourey Sidibe (reviewed by Panoramic Counseling here)
On Mental Health @ Home:
- Ketamine for Treatment-Resistant Depression
- Psych Meds 101: Antidepressants
- Somatic Treatments for Depression (electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, deep brain stimulation)
- This One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: ECT in Real Life
- Supplements for Depression that Actually Work
Antidepressants certainly don’t work for everyone (the large STAR*D study clearly demonstrated that), but across large groups of people, they do work better than placebo (as demonstrated in a meta-analysis by Cipriani and colleagues). You can’t know if they’ll work for you or be tolerable for you unless you try them. You may come across people saying antidepressants increase the risk of suicide, but that FDA warning only applies to pediatric populations, and un-/under-treated depression carries a significant risk of suicide. This post explores what’s behind that FDA warning.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)
Tips from wediditptsd:
- Do not do EMDR either until you can be present on-demand or ever
- Find DID expert therapist if possible. Ross Institute at UBH Denton (Texas, USA) has in-patient and PHP programs with expertly DID-trained staff
- The little (young) people inside you may have different needs and feelings than the bigger people. Learn internal communication (we still are learning).
It’s important to emphasize the death rate. People sometimes don’t understand how high it is. So, it’s super critical to get help for all eating disorders. – Paula of Light Motifs II
According to a 2011 meta-analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry, the standardized mortality ratio was 5.86 for anorexia nervosa and 1.93 for bulimia nervosa, meaning that during the time periods covered in the included studies, mortality rates for anorexia nervosa were 586% higher than the general population, and morality rates for bulimia nervosa were 193% higher than the general population.
Severity specifiers for anorexia nervosa in the DSM-5 are based on BMI. As advocates will tell you, this is ridiculous, and it can end up being an excuse to deny people access to much-needed treatment. These advocates are working to create change in this:
- Bye Bye BMI petition started by Burnie of Quash Stigma, Not Fat
- Hope Virgo’s Dump the Scales campaign
- Beat [UK]
- CBT for ARFID workbook
- Centre for Clinical Interventions self-help resources on disordered eating
- Eating Disorders Victoria [Australia]
- Hunger & Fullness Scale for binge eating disorder
- Merck Manual: Anorexia nervosa | Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) | Binge eating disorder | Bulimia nervosa
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders [US]
- National Eating Disorders Association [US]
- National Eating Disorders Information Centre [Canada]
- Navigating Work and Recovering from an Eating Disorder – article on Quash Stigma Not Fat
- Self-Help Manual for Bulimia Nervosa from The Cullen Centre
Eating Disorder Blogs
Binge eating disorder:
- From Famine to Feast by K. Michelle Pahl (bulimia nervosa)
- Stand Tall Little Girl by Hope Virgo (anorexia nervosa)
Books recommended by Em of From Famine to Feast:
- Books by Geneen Roth
- Books by Jenni Schaefer
- Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders by Aimee Liu
- Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Tips from Nicole of 365 Days in the Garden:
- You know you best – you are the only one that truly knows your experience. If the diagnosis doesn’t feel right or you don’t understand why you were given it, ASK QUESTIONS. Ask for the criteria to be explained to you and how the provider feels your experience reflects that. It’s OK to ask for a second opinion. Differential Diagnosis is a thing for a reason.
- If you feel worse with treatment and/or don’t notice a change in any direction, ask for the treatment to be reevaluated and for alternative treatment. The answer to “These pills aren’t working” or “This therapy isn’t working” may not be stronger pills or more frequent therapy. It definitely could be, but it could also be that you are on the wrong pills, or in the wrong therapy.
- No matter what your diagnosis is, find a provider that will, above all else, listen to you and see you as an actual human being in front of them instead of whatever diagnosis you were given. The last thing you need is someone who will pathologize everything you say, think, and do.
Getting a diagnosis is messy and complicated and we are taught that the doctor’s have the answers because they have the education and training. A lot of the time they do, but they are also human and make mistakes.
Tips from Webb Blogs:
I would want people to know that they are not alone. I have had severe OCD since I was a kid back in the 80’s. OCD wasn’t talked about then. I kept my OCD a secret for many many years. I felt so alone as a teenager going through this unknown illness. I don’t want anyone to feel alone when finding out about their mental health.
Your OCD may not look anything at all like what the stereotypes look like. OCD obsessions are typically ego-dystonic, meaning they’re experienced as unwanted, intrusive, and inconsistent with the self. Common focus areas for obsessions include contamination, harm (thoughts of harming others), “just right”, scrupulosity (moral/religious), relationships, order and symmetry, unwanted sexual thoughts, fears of losing control, or obsessing over the implications of bodily sensations.
- Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression: patient treatment manual for OCD
- International OCD Foundation
- Merck Manual
- nOCD app – recommended by M.B. Henry
- OCD & Anxiety Support Facebook group – recommended by M.B. Henry
- OCD Australia
- OCD Canada
- Overcoming Your OCD: A Therapy Assignment Workbook from Between Sessions Resources
- Peace of Mind Foundation
- The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour Disorders
- Mental Health @ Home: Exposure and Response Prevention
Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)
Wondering what the difference is between OCD and OCPD? There’s more in this blog post on OCD vs OCPD, but a big piece is egi-dystonic vs. ego-syntonic obsessions. OCPD obsessions tend to relate to ego-syntonic perfectionistic ideas that feel like they come from the self. OCD obsessions tend to be ego-dystonic, meaning they feel intrusive and they’re not consistent with one’s typical beliefs.
- Merck Manual
- Top Workplace Struggles of People with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD): blog post by She Seems Normal
Advice from Danei Edelen, Mental Health Warrior:
Immediately after my psychotic break, I did not want to believe that I had a mental illness. I kept asking my psychiatrist to reduce my dosage but then I couldn’t sleep. Getting a mental illness diagnosis feels like a death sentence. In a way it is. Your old self has died. My psychologist explained to me that having a psychotic break is like having a psychological house with a cracked foundation. Not only that, there’s a pit underneath your house.
Well, my house fell into that pit, and it fell far, shattering my whole world. As if you are experiencing a fit of Vertigo, eyes dilated, attempting to pick up the pieces of this abstract puzzle. Among the pieces, you find a few which look ominously familiar: the corner pieces of your puzzle.
- Grieving the loss of your own identity
- Acting as an experimental guinea pig for doctors, who seem to be playing Russian Roulette to find the right cocktail of medications for you
- Opinionated friends telling you, “Now that you are home, why don’t you clean out those closets you never had time for!”
- Family unsure of how to act around you, not knowing how to best support you”
Tips from Lori Bernstein, who has schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type (although original diagnosis was bipolar) and social anxiety:
You may not be able to get your old life back, but you can create a new one.
Decreasing stress was an important way to decrease my symptoms
It may seem like you are a guinea pig testing different meds, but it is worth it to get the right combo
One more, not everyone can do this but pets are great coping tools (companionship, responsibility, alarm clocks etc.)
Advice from Ruby, Bipolar: A Way of Life, diagnosis Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar Type, BPD:
The three things I would say to someone newly diagnosed with what I have would be: There are chemical issues and then there are character issues, You are worth it, Don’t be naive to people.
Psychosis is a set of symptoms, not a diagnosis in and of itself. Psychotic symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, and thought disorder (highly disorganized thinking). Hallucinations can occur in any of the five senses: auditory, visual, olfactory (smell), tactile (touch), and gustatory (taste). Some people only ever have one of those three kinds of symptoms, while others may have all three.
Primary psychotic disorders have psychosis as a key feature of the illness. This group of disorders includes schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, brief psychotic disorder (involving psychotic symptoms lasting up to a month, and shared psychotic disorder (aka folie a deux). Schizophreniform disorder is basically a placeholder diagnosis for an illness presentation that looks like schizophrenia but hasn’t met the six months’ worth of symptoms for a schizophrenia diagnosis.
Schizoaffective disorder can be either depressive or bipolar type. People with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder can experience psychosis in the context of mood disorders, whereas in schizoaffective disorder, mood episodes occur in the context of psychotic episodes. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what’s layered on top of what.
- Dealing with Psychosis Toolkit: this toolkit from Fraser Health Authority provides information about psychosis and skills that can help to manage it
- Hearing Voices Network
- Living Well with Schizophrenia Youtube channel – recommended by Jackie of Perpetually Alice:
- Living with Schizophrenia [UK]
- Merck Manual: Schizophrenia
- Psychosis Australia Trust
- Schizophrenia & Psychosis Action Alliance [US]
- Schizophrenia Society of Canada: support for people with psychosis and their families
- TikTok accounts: danielhale40 (schizophrenia), schizophrenichippie, and schizoaffectivedogmom (posting mostly coping skills) – recommended by Lori Bernstein
Psychotic Disorder Blogs
- Danei Edelen, Mental Health Warrior
- Livingwithachaoticmind at The Daily Blue Bird
- Lori Bernstein
- Mentally Ill in America
- Ruby, Bipolar: A Way of Life
Recommended Reading & Watching
- My Beautiful Psychosis by Emma Goude
- My Colour-Coded Life by Megan Jackson Hall
- Raising the Alarm by Arron Whittaker
- The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang
- The Voices In My Head: TED Talk by Eleanor Longden, who’s involved in the Hearing Voices Movement
- A Tale of Mental Illness – From the Inside: A TED Talk by law professor Elyn Saks, who is a remarkable example of someone who has schizophrenia but is extremely high functioning. She’s also written a memoir called The Center Cannot Hold.
- Open Dialogue: this is an alternative approach to managing psychosis that was developed in Finland that considers psychotic symptoms to be expressions of distress and trauma that haven’t found words or meaning yet
- Psych Meds 101: Antipsychotics: this post compares risk of weight gain with different antipsychotics
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
You’ve probably been exposed to the stereotype of PTSD occurring in combat veterans. While PTSD certainly can occur in that population, it can also affect a whole lot of other people too.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study was groundbreaking research that established the negative adult health impact of cumulative ACEs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more info on the findings of this research. Nadine Burke Harris has done a good TED Talk on the topic.
Complex PTSD, or c-PTSD, results from trauma that is repeated over time, and can involve issues with self-esteem and relationship difficulties. If you live in a country that uses the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) diagnostic system, you might be given a c-PTSD diagnosis. In countries that use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), c-PTSD isn’t considered to be a distinct diagnosis from PTSD.
You may have encountered the terms big-t and little-t trauma. I’ve written before trying to explain this in terms of cutlery. Knives can more obviously wound, but when you’re short on spoons (resources) and repeatedly exposed to fork jabs (little-t trauma), that can do some significant damage. Your trauma is enough. You have the right to feel the way you feel.
The window of tolerance is a useful way of conceptualizing how the nervous system deals with trauma.
“For PTSD, one thing that took me a while to understand was that just because you don’t have a specific trauma, it can trigger a response in your brain in the same ways. For instance, it’s common for veterans to have a trauma response to fireworks because of the noise. I am not a vet, but have the same trauma response to fireworks and sudden loud noises. Your brain responds in similar ways to trauma, and even if you think there’s absolutely “no reason” to have a trauma response to something, your brain still does respond to it.” – Alana, Something Worth Fighting For: Life Goes On
EMDR can be life-changing and life-saving. – mygeminiandi
Tips from wediditptsd for PTSD from childhood abuse:
- Read the book _It wasn’t your fault_ by Beverly Engel
- Being present can be a challenge but is essential to surviving flashbacks. Learn something(s) for mindfulness, like meditation, breathing, using senses
- Coping skills are essential so get a manual like DBT by Linehan for distress tolerance
- Beauty After Bruises [US]: complex PTSD
- Blue Knot Foundation [Australia]: complex trauma
- Clinical Research Unit for Depression and Anxiety patient treatment manual for PTSD
- CPTSD Foundation: has support groups – recommended by Maja of Lampelina
- Dr. Diane Poole Heller and Dr. Rick Hanson podcast on Healing Your Attachment Wounds – recommended by Wandering Sprout
- Nate Postlethwait (writes about childhood trauma) – recommended by Maja of Lampelina
- National Center for PTSD
- National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM)
- Out of the Storm: peer support for C-PTSD due to relational trauma
- Phoenix Australia
- PTSD Association of Canada
- PTSD Coach App
- PTSD UK
- The PTSD Workbook from Between Sessions Resources
- 1in6.org: support for male survivors of sexual abuse
- Alana at Something Worth Fighting For: Life Goes On
- Christine at My Trauma Secrets and Healing Journey
- Erika Jane at That Beautiful Brain
- Fiery and Flawed
- Kat at mygeminiandi
- Sara at Wishing Tree
- Art therapy – find out more in this TED Talk by Melissa Walker
- Cognitive behavioural therapy approaches: Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), trauma-focused CBT (TF-CBT)
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
- Internal Family Systems therapy
- Medications That Can Help with Nightmares in PTSD
- STAIR narrative therapy
- STAIR for trauma web group handouts & worksheets from Kaiser Permanente
Do you have any tips or resources you’d like to add, either for these conditions or any other that haven’t been included on this page? Drop them below in the comments.