Month: April 2012

Pedaling Into the Wind – Abilify and Weakness

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What are our Drs always telling us?  Exercise is essential for a healthier mind.  OK.  My husband and I both got a new bicycle this past weekend.  Cycling.  That’s got to be good for you.

So, we set out yesterday for our first real ride.  All we wanted to do was pedal to the lake (not far at all – I usually walk it), go half way around (not terrible far – I can walk it) and come home.  Much to my embarrassment, I had to stop a few times along the way.  And, I have an electric bicycle.

I was doing fine when we started out…honestly!  It was fun!  Then, the wind picked up.  In all fairness the wind was sustained at 30km/hr, gusting to 40.  Challenging, surely.  But the amount of muscle drain I felt not just in my legs but all over my body was really concerning. It was more than just being out of shape.  For most of the ride I kept thinking at a pitch just below panic, “What is going on?”

After I got home, although I had just been out riding, I was experiencing a chill.  Well, that’s not surprising.  I have that freakish Abilify side effect where I can’t regulate my body temp very well.  It’s pretty pronounced now that I am on 7.5mg instead of my usual 2.5 (yes, I am also freaksihly sensitive to this med as well.)  Oh.  But, wait a minute…isn’t one of the less common side effects of Abilify muscle weakness?  Off to Google I went.

Sure enough, lack of strength, weakness and muscle weakness have been reported and are listed one way or another in the US Abilify drug insert information and on  Now, bear in mind the latter site is meant for consumers to self-report adverse effects so the results are far from those gleaned in controlled studies. In some respects, however, this data is more helpful and gives me greater peace of mind.   This chart alone (from ehealthme) is worth 1,000 words:

Time on Abilify when people have Lack of strength, muscle weakness, weakness * :

< 1 month 1 – 6 months 6 – 12 months 1 – 2 years 2 – 5 years 5 – 10 years 10+ years
Lack of strength, muscle weakness, weakness 45.45% 30.68% 10.23% 6.82% 5.68% 1.14% 0.00%
*  If anyone from objects to the use of the chart, please contact me.  I’ll remove it immediately.

So…how to approach this with my Drs.  First off, my Drs do not believe Abilify causes weight gain.  They use some antiquated PDR-like bibe-looking thing  from 2008 as their go-to reference.  It does not list weight gain.  My hips, however, list otherwise.  Second off…well, I’m in a bad place here.  My Abilify dose was jacked up to 7.5 from 2.5 because I tried to wean off and experienced a mild psychosis.  I have a lot of stress, and I mean a lot of stressful events, coming up in the next six weeks.  Not only don’t I have Drs who believe the latest package insert warnings, but now is not a good time at all to switch antipsychotic medication.

But, enough of my whining.  Are there any of you out there who have experienced severe weakness while taking Abilify?  I’d love to know.  So when it is time to address this with my Drs I can say with honesty, “…and I know of others who’ve had the same issue.”

J.&J. Fined $1.2 Billion in Risperdal Drug Case

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A judge in Arkansas ordered Johnson & Johnson and a subsidiary to pay more than $1.2 billion in fines on Wednesday, a day after a jury found that the companies had minimized or concealed the dangers associated with an antipsychotic drug. Risperdal.

Read More here.


The Paradoxes of Bipolar and Creativity

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As a follow-up to my last post…this morning I found a wonderful article on Wired that discusses the paradoxes of Bipolar and creativity.  This article not only cites resources that claim ‘melancholy can sharpen cognition,’ it also speaks to mania being a prime motivator.  This, I believe, is a fair and equitable description of how bipolar can, utilizing both ends of the spectrum of the illness, foster creativity.

Andreasen [Melancholy and Creativity research pioneer],  for instance,  found that prominent British novelists and poets were eight times as likely as the general population to suffer from major depression. In another paper she

found that nearly 40 percent of the successful creative people she investigated had the disorder, a rate that’s approximately twenty times higher than it is in the general population. (More recently, the psychiatrist Hagop Akiskal found that nearly two-thirds of a sample of influential European artists were bipolar. )

Another interesting quote:

But why? In the past, Andreasen has offered that the energy and confidence that mania produces can help someone start and finish an ambitious work of art — damned handy, since every ambitious work at times (usually many times) seems impossible. Now she adds that the ideas one comes up with during such phases tend to be quite original, as the manic person, in a set of long-distance synaptic leaps that Lehrer explains earlier, draws associations that lie beyond the reach of more ordinary modes of thought.

The ideas they come up with, in short, can be a bit crazy. If they spit them out then and published them, they’d likely be of little worth. But, as Lehrer explains,

then the mania ebbs. The extravagant high descends into a profound low. While this volatility is horribly painful, it can also enable creativity, since the exuberant ideas of the manic period are refined during the depression.

In other words, the emotional extremes of the illness reflect the extremes of the creative process: there is the ecstatic generation phase, full of divergent thoughts, and the attentive editing phase, in which all those ideas are made to converge. This doesn’t take away, of course, from the agony of the mental illness, and it doesn’t mean that people can create only when they’re horribly sad or manic. But it does begin to explain the significant correlations that have been repeatedly observed between depressive syndromes and artistic achievement.

The article concludes with a link to my favorite documentary about bipolar disorder by none other than my absolute favorite Brit, Stephen Fry.  Please make time to view the outstanding, The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive.  It is well worth the time.

Does a bipolar state of mind encourage creative genius

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“There’s a popular cliché that maybe craziness and creativity are allied, [that] if you’re schizophrenic, you’re more likely to be a genius inventor. That’s actually not the case. Schizophrenia, there’s no correlation with creativity. Instead, it’s really about depression and particularly bipolar depression. The leading hypothesis grows out of research showing states of being unhappy, being gloomy — when you’re sad you’re actually better able to focus.

“So people who are sad actually produce better artwork in the lab, better collages. Some studies indicate successful people are something like 25 times more likely to suffer from bipolar depression; it captures the natural swings of the creative process. Sometimes you want to be manic and have tons of new ideas, but then you also seem to benefit from a slightly sad, more melancholy phase.”,0,5354393.story