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Crisis Tips For Loved Ones

By Dr. Molly Barrow

What should you do if someone you love is acting very strangely and it is frightening you? How do you start to find help and what will happen next? Here are five warning signs that could upset you and how you might deal with them.

1. Somebody Stop Me: You find a family member acting erratically, violently or verbally abusive. They may spend money foolishly, make ridiculous business deals or act sexually inappropriate. This behavior may have always been present but now it is out of control. Sometimes a person’s physical makeup, stress, diet or trauma can cause brain chemicals to become out of balance. The person may be having a manic episode. Although many people cope with bipolar, depression or mania throughout their lives, a severe manic or depressive episode can be life threatening. Psychiatrists can help balance the brain chemicals with medication over time, often including trial and error with several different kinds of medication. However, if you believe the person is suffering from a serious manic or depressive episode, you need to call 911. The paramedics will arrive and help you to calm the person down or take them to the emergency room where they may receive treatment. Ongoing treatment is usually necessary or the episode may reoccur. The person who is severely depressed or manic may also be self-medicating by using illegal substances or alcohol that can worsen the effect of their episode. They need emergency help but often cannot decide for themselves when their behavior has crossed the line. Although extremely difficult to do, a loving family member may need to make an emergency call to protect the person until they find a competent psychiatrist to manage the medication.

2. Stay At Home Parents: Your teenager’s grades are falling and they are spending less and less time with the family. Most teenagers need more alone time than middle school children need. If teens do spend time at home, interacting regularly with their siblings or parents, that is a good sign. However, an abrupt rejection of their family coupled with falling grades may indicate drug use or a problem with depression. Peers influence teens more than their parents, teachers or religious leaders. Teens spend more time listening to their music and television than they do their parents. Be aware of song lyrics and television brainwashing that can be either healthy or disastrous. Spend more time with your teen and forgo the American work ethic that leaves too many children unattended and unsupervised. In Germany, most people take vacations from work that amount to four months! If possible, time-share your job with another parent or simply cut back your hours so that you are present, not absent. Some parents employ their teen to help them at work and gain valuable work experience. You may have to choose between an inflexible boss and your child, but they need you now just like when they were young.

3. Did I Already Take My Pills? A friend or family member seems disoriented and cannot remember names of people or common objects. Forgetfulness is common even in twelve-year-olds but a sudden onset of disorientation or obviously progressing confusion and loss of memory needs medical intervention. Mixing too many medications and slow metabolism can create havoc in one’s mental capacity. Schedule a check-up and make sure the doctor knows the names and quantity of all medications, supplements and over the counter products that they are using.

4. Wanna Ride In My Sports Car? Your spouse is showing all the signs of a mid-life crisis. They have bought a sports car, sharp new clothes and even started going to the gym excessively, yet they seem emotionally distant from you. As people begin to age, lose a parent or suffer a medical challenge, they may search for a way to feel better again and avoid or take a break from grieving. Perhaps they are thinking about death and are trying to roll back the years. This may make them vulnerable to the attention of another person who seems young and carefree. Do you have years of your life invested with this person, half of your finances and the happiness of your family all dependent on the stability of your marriage? You do have a right to be sure that no one else is encroaching on your territory behind your back. Certainly, every individual has a right to seek out a new spouse after a polite and considerate break-up. However, infidelity can be a disease death warrant. Most people regret the “over forty fling” that destroys their family and never brings them the fountain of youth that seemed so promising and irresistible at first. Protecting your family also means protecting the sanctity of your marriage. Your spouse is looking for attention and maybe just to lighten up the unbearable load that he or she may be carrying. Make sure you are the one whom your spouse finds available and fun. After all, next year, you might be the one who flirts with your trainer just to prove you still “got it!”

5. Can You Talk? An aging parent suddenly has altered speech or loss of the ability to speak clearly and coherently. Speech changes are a huge indicator that the body is in trouble and can indicate a physical or mental emergency. Seek medical attention immediately.

Read other articles and learn more about Dr. Molly Barrow.

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