Signs and Symptoms of Gonorrhoea

Sourced by: Choma Magazine ( – HIVSA Project

Gonorrhoea (pronounced goh-nuh-REE-uh) or ‘The Clap’ is a sexually transmitted illness (STI) and is caused by bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoea. Gonorrhoea is passed on from one person to another through oral, vaginal or anal sex. It can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her infant child at birth. If you’re infected with gonorrhoea, symptoms of the infection will show up in your mouth, throat, anus, cervix fallopian tubes and uterus.

Ejaculation does not need to happen for gonorrhoea to spread. If infected fluids touch from either your partner’s vagina or penis, and then that is followed by touching your anus, mouth or even your eyes, then that can cause you to be infected.

The STI doesn’t only spread between a man and a woman, it can also spread between females who have sex with females and males who have sex with males.

Many people with gonorrhoea may not always show any symptoms (meaning they are asymptomatic) and can live up to many years without knowing they are infected, spreading the unknowingly. Having unsafe sex increases your chances of being infected by gonorrhoea. There are symptoms that you can look out for. These symptoms are sometimes confused for a urinal tract infection, so make sure you understand the difference between the two. Also speak to a nurse or doctor about your symptoms so that you don’t incorrectly diagnose yourself.

Signs and symptoms

The signs or symptoms of gonorrhoea will depend on where, on your body, you are first infected by the STI.

Signs and symptoms in the genital area can include:
  • Pain or burning when urinating
  • More vaginal discharge than usual
  • Vaginal discharge that looks different than usual
  • Bleeding between periods or spotting
  • Pain in the pelvis or abdomen
Signs and symptoms in the rectum/anus include:
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Itching in the anal area
  • Pus-like discharge
  • Bright red blood on toilet paper
Signs and symptoms in the eyes:
  • Itching
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Pain
  • Abnormal, pus-like discharge
Signs and symptoms in the throat:
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Sore throat
What happens if I don’t treat gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea can cause serious health problems to a person infected even if they do not have or show any signs or symptoms. This STI can cause skin rashes or spread to the joints, which can cause swelling or pain while moving. You could also struggle to get pregnant later in your life.

Getting Tested and Treatment

You need to visit your local doctor or clinic to get tested for gonorrhoea. You will also need to get tested for other STIs such as chlamydia because that is also an STI which doesn’t always show any symptoms. Gonorrhoea can be treated by antibiotics but if left untreated, as explained earlier, this STI can leave serious health problems. Although the antibiotics can help cure you of gonorrhoea, they can’t fix any permanent injury/damage done to your body. This is why it’s important to get tested as soon as you suspect you or your partner may be infected with the STI.

In order for the treatment to work and be cured, you need to finish the treatment even if you notice the symptoms going away. You can get be re-infected with gonorrhoea, so always practise safe sex and tell your partner to also get tested for gonorrhoea.

Chomas, if you notice any of these symptoms or if your partner shows symptoms of gonorrhoea, like an unusual sore, a smelly discharge, burning when urinating, or spotting, then visit your local clinic as soon as possible. If you have a burning question to ask me about gonorrhoea, or want to share your story then you are more than welcome to.

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What Exactly are ARVs?

Sourced by: Choma Magazine ( – HIVSA Project

By Dr Sindi

Antiretroviral treatment (ART) – what is it and how does it work?

ARV = antiretroviral. An antiretroviral is a drug that works to deal with infections caused by a retrovirus. In our setting the main retrovirus we deal with is HIV

ART = antiretroviral treatment. A combination of 3 or more ARVs taken daily to suppress HIV’s ability to replicate

Antiretroviral treatment ART is taken to slow down the life cycle of HIV.

HIV multiplies by infecting CD4 cells, and using these cells to make millions of copies of itself. These copies are what we call the “viral load”. This process destroys the CD4 cell because the cell has been hijacked and is being used for something it is not meant for.

The CD4 cells are a very important part of your immune system. They are the “soldiers” of the immune system and their job is to identify whatever is making you sick, and get the body to fight the infection.

The lower the CD4 count drops, the higher the viral load goes, the weaker your immune system becomes. You then become vulnerable to what we call opportunistic infections and if you get too ill you could die. Taking ART reverses this process and ensures that your CD4 count can go up again and that the viral load comes down.

At the onset of the HIV pandemic, people had to take many tablets twice a day to stay healthy but we have advanced to the stage where some people are taking one-pill once-a-day. This is an important advance because people are not discouraged to take medication any longer. The one-pill once- a-day is a Fixed Dose Combination (FDC) of three different tablets that have been combined into one tablet.

The FDC we are all familiar with is part of our first line treatment. The originator FDC is Atripla but because of its cost, it was not accessible to everyone. Generics then came onto the market and this is how South Africa has managed to give FDC at its public sector clinics.

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Common Mental Illnesses and Their Treatment

Sourced by: Choma Magazine ( – HIVSA Project

It’s been said that one in three South Africans experience mental illness, yet there are many people who suffer in silence. Because there is a stigma around mental illness, some people are afraid to talk about it and so they never get the help they need. Do you know anyone who has a mental illness choma? Or do you think you might have one yourself?

Mental illness isn’t necessarily something that you can see and so not many people recognize how important it is to treat. However, just like physical illness, mental illness requires treatment. Having a mental illness is not wrong or shameful so no one should be afraid to talk about it. Getting the help you need will help you to live the life you deserve.

To help you understand mental illnesses choma, here are the most common mental illnesses in South Africa.

Major depressive disorder 

Major depressive disorder (MDD) – also known as major depression, clinical depression or unipolar depression – is a disorder where the person feels low all the time.

People who suffer from MDD usually struggle with concentration, anxiety, experience feelings of worthlessness (sometimes having suicidal thoughts), sleep too much or have trouble sleeping.

Treatment: Once a healthcare professional has diagnosed you with MDD, they would recommend treatment such as an antidepressant. They would also suggest psychotherapy, behavioral or cognitive therapy, or talk therapy, to help you deal with your emotional state.


Claustrophobia is the fear of small spaces. While it is normal to feel scared when you’re trapped or if you’re in a small space and there is danger, if you’re claustrophobic you would feel fear even if there is no real danger.

When you’re claustrophobic you go out of your way to avoid small spaces like lifts, public toilets, shop changing rooms and tunnels. People who are claustrophobic also often experience panic attacks when they are in situations where they feel trapped.

Symptoms of a panic attack include dizziness, shortness of breath and chest pains.

Treatment: Some people who are claustrophobic simply try to avoid places that might bring on panic attacks. If you’re claustrophobic or if you’re suffering with panic attacks, speak to your doctor who could help you with medication and/or recommend a mental health professional who could help you recover.

Bipolar Disorder 

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a disorder where your moods are severely affected. People with bipolar disorder often experience extreme highs (full of energy, overjoyed, feelings of being invincible), known as manic episodes and extreme lows (feeling sad, depressed, hopeless), known as depressive episodes.

Treatment: People with Bipolar disorder are usually treated with mood-stabilising drugs and/or antipsychotic drugs – which are drugs meant to control the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.


Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that causes symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.

Treatment: Antipsychotic medication is usually prescribed for someone with Schizophrenia. This medication is used to help control the symptoms of Schizophrenia.

Eating disorders 

Eating disorders relate to extreme disturbances in eating behaviour, and include anorexia (where someone stops eating entirely because of body dysmorphic behaviour; they have an unhealthy body image), bulimia (a person with bulimia also has an unhealthy body image and a desire to lose weight. Overeating through binge eating is usually followed by self-induced vomiting or not eating at all) and binge-eating disorder (where someone eats an unusually large amount of food and can’t stop eating).

Treatment: Depending on your type of disorder, treatment could include a combination of psychological counseling, nutrition education, medical monitoring and sometimes medication.

Mental Illness, in whatever form, should be taken seriously. If you or someone you know might be struggling with a mental illness, visit SADAG (The South African Depression Group).

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Health Risks of Smoking Cigarettes

Sourced by: Choma Magazine ( – HIVSA Project

Unlike food and water, the body doesn’t need tobacco in the system. So, why then do we start smoking chomas? Is it because we think it looks cool? Do we do it to fit in with the popular crowd or do we do it because one of our relatives smokes? Some people smoke their first cigarette never thinking that they may end up as regular smokers. But, are we aware of the dangers of smoking cigarettes? Continuous tobacco smoking may result in health problems and in serious cases, may be fatal. I’ve slightly touched on the dangers of cigarette smoking and how bad it can be for your health, but not in detail. Here are the health risks of cigarette smoking chomas.

Health effects of smoking tobacco

1. Change in appearance on the face

Smoking negatively affects the appearance of your face causing you to age quicker and get deeper wrinkles. Smoking damages your skin which could be due to the heat from the cigarette directly burning the skin. It also yellows your teeth which is caused by tar and nicotine. Nicotine is a colourless chemical which turns yellow when mixed with oxygen. When the tobacco is placed in your mouth or inhaled, the nicotine and tar will settle in the front of your mouth and these substances will then try and get into your teeth causing your teeth to turn yellow.

Your skin will also start sagging and have more wrinkles which may be caused by the chemicals found in tobacco. The chemicals damage collagen and elastin which are fibres that give your skin its elasticity and strength.

2. Lung damage

If you remember smoking your first cigarette, you may have felt a pain or burning in your lungs and throat right? Others may have felt sick or even threw up the first few times of smoking a cigarette. This is your body defending itself against poisons from entering.

The chemicals in tobacco interfere with your body’s method of cleaning out air and your lungs. When the smoke gets into your lungs, it can lead to your body overproducing mucus – that’s why some smokers cough a lot to clear their throat.

The walls of your lungs have many sacs that hold the air. The smoke then damages these sacs and will end up in less oxygen getting into your blood.
That’s why smokers have a shortness of breath. This will eventually end up as lung disease if the smoking continues. In most cases, lung cancer is caused by cigarette smoking. And if you have asthma, the tobacco smoke can trigger an attack or make the attack worse.

3. Heart and blood vessels

The chemicals found in tobacco may harm your heart and blood vessels in many ways, namely:

  1. Increase the blood pressure (which leads to a stroke) and heart rate (which makes your heart work harder than normal).
  2. Damage the blood vessel walls, making them stiff and less elastic. Smokers are at a higher risk for clogged arteries in the legs because there’s not enough blood flow going to the leg muscles. This may cause pain in the legs when walking, for example, and if it’s not treated the lack in blood flow can lead to the legs being amputated/removed.
  3. Increase your chances of getting cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease (which may lead to a heart attack) or a stroke (when the part of the brain doesn’t get enough blood due to a clot or a burst blood vessel).

Tobacco found in cigarettes is dangerous chomas, and sometimes deadly. It is addictive, so it makes it harder to quit. Do you have any other risks you think I might have left out? Share in the comments below.

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How to Prevent Strokes and Heart Disease

Sourced by: hi4LIFE ( – HIVSA Project

South Africa has 6.3 million people are living with heart disease. It is not necessary to be one of them. Learn to look after yourself and live a longer, healthier life.

Here are 7 problem areas that encourage heart disease and stroke and 7 solutions:

Problem Area – Age. The older you are, the more susceptible you are to heart disease

Solution – You can’t change your age, but you can respect your age and look after yourself.

Problem Area – Family Genetics. If you have family members who have heart diseases, you are more susceptible.

Solution – You can’t change your family genetics, but you can learn from it and be aware.

Problem Area – Body weight. If you are overweight, you need to reduce your weight.

Solution – Eat healthier food. Include more fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet.

Problem Area – Smoking. Smoking is bad for your health

Solution – If you are a smoker, you need to quit. It is also important to stay away from second hand smoke. Let the smokers in your house smoke outside.

Problem Area – Stress. Stress and worry are not good for you.

Solution – Avoid people and situations that cause you worry and stress. Teach yourself to walk away. Go somewhere where you can calm down.

Problem Area – No Exercise.

Solution – You need to exercise Go for small, brisk walks. Dance more. Move your body more.

Problem Area – Too much salt. Too much salt is your enemy.

Processed food is packed with salt. Cook your own food and use very little or no salt. Learn to add fresh herbs and spices to make your home-cooked meals more interesting.

If you fall into any of these problem areas, go to the clinic and have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. If the clinic prescribes medicine, take your medication regularly and make sure that you fill your prescription so that you do not run out.

Your body – and your health – belong to you. You are in charge, You are the one responsible. Take your heart medication. Eat healthily. Stay away from nicotine. Go for an energetic walk with a good friend. Talk out your worries. Have a good laugh. Have a deep, restful sleep

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Understanding Adult ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD, is being diagnosed in more and more children. However, Adult ADHD seems to go mostly unnoticed or highlighted. There is an estimated 4.4% of adults with ADHD, about four in every 100 adults, while the majority of these adults go undiagnosed.

When adult ADHD goes undiagnosed or untreated, it threatens to have some serious effects such as; impaired relationships, increased rate of unemployment or underachievement at work, social and driving destruction, low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence. Unfortunately, only 11% of adults with symptoms that meet the criteria of ADHD are currently being treated for it, while the rest go unnoticed.

Adult ADHD

Adult ADHD Symptoms

  •     Inattention:
    – Quickly distracted, quickly bored
    – Struggle to complete tasks
    – Switching from one activity to another
    – Poor ability to plan, organise and choose
    – Struggle listening and taking in information
    – Easily lost in details and loses sight of the broader outline
    – Forgetfulness
  •   Hyperactivity:
    – Always busy (inability to stop talking or carrying out activities)
    – A feeling of inner restlessness or agitation
    – Inability to relax peacefully
  •    Impulsivity :
    – Impatient
    – Acting without thinking (spending too much money, spending money quickly blurting things out, gambling, stealing, impulsive binges and decision making)
    – Impulsive starting or leaving relationships and jobs

How to get help?
To speak to a counselor for FREE telephonic counselling, information and referrals – call the ADHD Helpline on 0800 55 44 33 between 08:00 and 20:00. They are open seven days a week, 365 days a year. Self-help tips & online resources at

Warning Signs of Bipolar disorder

Understanding Bipolar1

Bipolar Disorder: What Is It?

Bipolar disorder, sometimes called manic depression, is a disorienting condition that causes extreme shifts in mood. Like riding a slow-motion roller coaster, patients may spend weeks feeling like they’re on top of the world before plunging into a relentless depression. The length of each high and low varies greatly from person to person. In any given year, bipolar disorder affects more than 2% of American adults.

Depressive Phase Symptoms

Without treatment, a person with bipolar disorder may experience intense episodes of depression. Symptoms include sadness, anxiety, loss of energy, hopelessness, and difficulty concentrating. Patients may lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable. They may gain or lose weight, sleep too much or too little, and contemplate suicide.

Manic Phase Symptoms

During a manic phase, patients tend to feel euphoric and may believe they can accomplish anything. This can result in inflated self-esteem, agitation, reduced need for sleep, being more talkative, being easily distracted, and a sense of racing thoughts. Reckless behaviors, including spending sprees, sexual indiscretions, fast driving, and substance abuse, are common. Having three or more of these symptoms nearly every day for a week may indicate a manic episode.

Bipolar I vs. Bipolar II

People with bipolar I disorder have manic episodes or mixed episodes and often have one or more depressive episodes. People with bipolar II have major depressive episodes with less severe mania; they experience hypomania, a condition that is less intense than mania or lasting less than a week. Patients may seem like the “life of the party” — full of charm and humor. They may feel and function fine, even if family and friends can see the mood swing. However, hypomania can lead to mania or depression.

Mixed Episode

People with mixed episode experience depression and mania at the same time. This leads to unpredictable behavior, such as sadness while doing a favorite activity or feeling very energetic. It’s more common in people who develop bipolar disorder at a young age, particularly during adolescence. But some estimates suggest up to 70% of bipolar patients experience mixed episodes.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Doctors aren’t exactly sure what causes bipolar disorder. A leading theory is that brain chemicals fluctuate abnormally. When levels of certain chemicals become too high, the patient develops mania. When levels drop too low, depression may result.

Bipolar Disorder: Who’s At Risk?

Bipolar disorder affects males and females equally. In most cases, the onset of symptoms is between 15 and 30 years old. People are at higher risk if a family member has been diagnosed, especially if it’s a first degree relative, but doctors don’t think the disorder kicks in based on genetics alone. A stressful event, drug abuse, or other unknown factor may trigger the cycle of ups and downs.

Bipolar Disorder and Daily Life

Bipolar disorder can disrupt your goals at work and at home. In one survey, 88% of patients said the illness took a toll on their careers. The unpredictable mood swings can drive a wedge between patients and their co-workers or loved ones. In particular, the manic phase may scare off friends and family. People with bipolar disorder also have a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders.

Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse

About 60% of people with bipolar disorder have trouble with drugs or alcohol. Patients may drink or abuse drugs to relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of their mood swings. This is especially common during the reckless manic phase.

Bipolar Disorder and Suicide

People with bipolar disorder are 10 to 20 times more likely to commit suicide than people without the illness. Warning signs include talking about suicide, putting affairs in order, and inviting death with risky behavior. Anyone who appears suicidal should be taken very seriously. Do not hesitate to call one of the Suicide Helpline (0800 567 567) and the Destiny Helpline: (0800 41 42 43). If you have a plan to commit suicide, go to the emergency room for immediate treatment.

Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder

A crucial step in diagnosing bipolar disorder is to rule out other possible causes of extreme mood swings. These may include brain infection or other neurological disorders, substance abuse, thyroid problem, HIV, ADHD, side effects of certain medications, or other psychiatric disorders. There is no lab test for bipolar disorder. A psychiatrist usually makes the diagnosis based on a careful history and evaluation of the patient’s mood and other symptoms.

Medications for Bipolar Disorder

Medications are key in helping people with bipolar disorder live stable, productive lives. Mood stabilizers can smooth out the cycle of ups and downs. Patients may also be prescribed antipsychotic drugs and anticonvulsant drugs. Between acute states of mania or depression, patients typically stay on maintenance medication to avoid a relapse.

Talk Therapy for Bipolar Disorder

Talk therapy can help patients stay on medication and cope with their disorder’s impact on work and family life. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors that accompany mood swings. Interpersonal therapy aims to ease the strain bipolar disorder may place on personal relationships. Social rhythm therapy helps patients develop and maintain daily routines.

Lifestyle Tips for Bipolar Disorder

Establishing firm routines can help manage bipolar disorder. Routines should include sufficient sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Because alcohol and recreational drugs can worsen the symptoms, these should be avoided. Patients should also learn to identify their personal early warning signs of mania and depression. This will allow them to get help before an episode spins out of control.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive therapy can help some people with bipolar disorder. ECT uses an electric current to cause a seizure in the brain. It is one of the fastest ways to ease severe symptoms. ECT is usually a last resort when a patient does not improve with medication or psychotherapy.

Educating Friends and Family

Friends and family may not understand bipolar disorder at first. They may become frustrated with the depressive episodes and frightened by the manic states. If patients make the effort to explain the illness and how it affects them, loved ones may become more compassionate. Having a solid support system can help people with bipolar disorder feel less isolated and more motivated to manage their condition.

When Someone Needs Help

Many people with bipolar disorder don’t realize they have a problem or avoid getting help. If you’re concerned about a friend or family member, here are a few tips for broaching the subject. Point out that millions of Americans have bipolar disorder, and that it is a treatable illness — not a personality flaw. There is a medical explanation for the extreme mood swings, and effective treatments are available.

If you would like to speak to a Counselor for free telephonic counselling call the Substance Abuse Helpline 0800 21 22 23/Destiny Helpline 0800 41 42 43, or SMS 31393. SADAG is open 7 days a week, every day of the year from 8am-8pm. SADAG provides FREE telephonic counselling, referrals to Support Groups, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Clinics, etc. We also have brochures, self-help tips & online resources at

Depression Tips: Exercise, Diet, Stress Reduction, And More In Pictures


Let Your Pet Nuzzle Blues Away

Sometimes your pet really can be your best friend, and that’s good therapy. When you play with him, you take your mind off your problems. And when you take care of him, you’re focused on something outside yourself, which can be therapeutic.


Eat Smart to Lift Mind and Body

No specific foods treat depression, but a healthy diet can be part of an overall treatment plan. Build your meals and snacks around plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.


Choose Foods to Boost Your Mood

Some studies say omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 may ease the mood changes of depression, especially for people who may not get enough of these nutrients. Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel have omega-3s. So do flaxseed, nuts, soybeans, and dark green vegetables. Seafood is a good source of B12, but vegetarians  can get it in fortified cereals, dairy products, and supplements.


Try Low-Fat Carbs for a Pick-Me-Up

Carbohydrates raise your level of the brain chemical serotonin, which enhances your sense of well-being. Go for low-fat options like popcorn, a baked potato, graham crackers, or pasta. Carbs from vegetables, fruit, and whole grains are even better choices — they also give you fiber.


Drink Less Caffeine

Do you really need that third cup of coffee? Anxiety often happens along with depression. And too much caffeine can make you nervous, jittery, or anxious. While scientists haven’t found a clear link between caffeine and depression, cutting back on it may help lower your risk for the condition and improve your sleep.


Treat Your Aches and Pains

When you hurt, it’s hard to stay in a good mood. Work with your health care team to treat your depression and your pain.


Work Out to Change How You Feel

Exercise works almost as well as antidepressants for some people. And you don’t have to run a marathon. Just take a walk with a friend. As time goes on, move more until you exercise on most days of the week. You’ll feel better physically, sleep better at night, and boost your mood.


Choose an Exercise You Enjoy

If you don’t like to run, you won’t last long training for a 10k race. But you will stay with an exercise plan you like. You can take walks, go golfing without a cart, ride a bike, work in your garden, play tennis, or go swimming. The important thing is to pick something you like. Then you’ll look forward to it and feel better when you do it.


Exercise With Others for Support

Connections with other people can help you overcome the sluggish, lonely feelings of depression. Join an exercise group or work out with a friend. You’ll stay in touch and have support to keep yourself on track.


Be Sure You Get Enough Sunlight

Do you feel more depressed during darker, cold months? You may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s most common in the winter, when there’s less sunlight. You can treat SAD with light therapy, antidepressants, and talk therapy.


Explore Your Creativity

Painting, photography, music, knitting, or writing in a journal are all ways you can explore your feelings and express what’s on your mind. The goal isn’t to create a masterpiece. Do something that gives you pleasure. It may help you better understand who you are and how you feel.


Make Time for Mindful Relaxation

Stress and anxiety can add to your depression symptoms and make it harder to recover. Learn to relax and you can help restore a sense of calm and control. You might consider a yoga or meditation class. Or you could simply listen to soothing music while you take a long, warm bath.


Get Involved in Your Community

When you spend time with people or causes you care about, you can regain a sense of purpose. And it doesn’t take much to get started. You can volunteer with a charity. Or join a discussion group at the library or at church. You’ll feel good about yourself when you meet new people and do new things.


Keep Friends and Family in Your Life

The people who love you want to support you. If you shut them out, they can’t. If you let them in, you’ll feel a lot better. Call a friend and go for a walk. Have a cup of coffee with your partner. You may find it helps to talk about your depression. It feels good to have someone listen.

Get the Sleep You Need

Depression makes it hard to get good rest. Some people sleep too much. Others can’t fall asleep easily. As you recover, relearn good nighttime habits. Start by going to bed and getting up the same times each day. Use relaxation techniques to help you drift off. Quality shut-eye makes your mind and body feel better.


Avoid Alcohol and Drugs

They can slow your recovery from depression or stop it in its tracks. They can also make the condition worse and keep antidepressants from working well. If you have a problem with substance abuse, ask for help now. You’ll have a far better chance of getting past depression.


Stick to Your Treatment

Exercise, a healthy diet, and other good habits may help you feel positive about your life. But they won’t replace medical treatment or talk therapy. Depression is a serious illness, and it carries a risk of suicide. If you are thinking about harming yourself, get help right away. And never stop or change your treatment without discussing it with your doctor.

If you would like to speak to a Counsellor for free telephonic counselling call the Substance Abuse Helpline 0800 21 22 23/Destiny Helpline 0800 41 42 43, or SMS 31393.  SADAG is open 7 days a week, every day of the year from 8am-8pm. SADAG provides FREE telephonic counselling, referrals to Support Groups, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Clinics, etc. We also have brochures, self-help tips & online resources at

6 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Bipolar Disorder

By Jenise Harmon, MSW, LISW-S

According to NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) more than 10 million people have bipolar disorder.

How much do you know about it?

If you’re like most people, you probably assume that you have a basic idea of what the disease is about. You’ve seen or read about celebrities who have acknowledged their illness.

Some of  you may know that Demi Lovato learned in 2010 that she is bipolar. Ms. Lovato also has struggled with an eating disorder, depression, and addiction; disorders that often go hand in hand with bipolar disorder.  Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original Star Wars, struggled with drugs and alcohol for years before she learned that she is bipolar. Jean-Claude Van Damme has revealed that he has bipolar disease and noted that it is under control because of medication. Catherine Zeta-Jones revealed in 2011 that she has bipolar II.

For all the publicity surrounding the disorder, there are many facts that are simply not known. Here are the top six that I’ve noticed as a therapist.

1. FICTION: When people with bipolar disease are manic, they are always happy and energetic.FACT: Mania can often come out looking like anger and rage, or being irritated and edgy. I’ve had clients describe their mania as “painful,” “feeling out of control,” or “reeling with emotion.” Mania can ruin relationships. It’s like a runaway train that threatens a person’s work, family, and livelihood.

2. FICTION: Bipolar disorder consists of two states: manic and depressed, and people go between these two states without a break. FACT: With both bipolar I and bipolar II, there is a middle space where a person is not manic/hypomanic and not depressed. Some people will switch rapidly from manic to depressed and back to manic, while others can go from one extreme to a more middle, healthier state.

3. FICTION: Bipolar disease causes everyone’s moods to switch dramatically throughout the day.FACT: The reality is that some people stay depressed or manic/hypomanic for months, if not a year or more. This is one reason that bipolar disease is often missed for years and people are misdiagnosed as having major depressive disorder.

4. FICTION: The only important parts of treatment are medication and psychotherapy. FACT: Medication and psychotherapy are both very important parts of treating those with bipolar disorder. However, there is a misconception that these are the only parts of treatment, which devalues the importance of things such as diet and exercise. The truth is that many symptoms of bipolar disorder can be helped or minimized by eating healthy and getting exercise.

5. FICTION: It’s impossible to live a happy, normal life with bipolar disease. FACT: People who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder can have wonderful relationships and a happy, fulfilling life. What is crucial is identifying that a person has the disease and finding a treatment or treatments that work. Treatment could involve mood stabilizers, examining lifestyle components such as building or rebuilding relationships, diet, exercise, and stress reduction.

6. FICTION: Bipolar disorder consists of two moods – depressed and manic. FACT: Bipolar disorder comes in two categories: Bipolar I and Bipolar II. Bipolar I is what most people think of when they hear the word bipolar. Bipolar I has mania as one of its criteria. This mania is severe enough to cause serious problems in the life of the person who has it. When someone is manic, they may do things that end up being harmful, such as risky sexual behavior, repeatedly spending much too much money on items that are not needed or cost more than the person can afford. Bipolar II consists of hypomania and depression. Hypomania is the state where a person’s mood fluctuates greatly, but it is not severe enough that their lives are drastically disrupted. There is a great deal that we don’t know about bipolar disorder, but there are some very effective treatments, and research continues to find newer medications and treatments to help. There is hope out there.

Photo from Shutterstock

If you would like to speak to a Counsellor for free telephonic counselling call the Substance Abuse Helpline 0800 21 22 23/Destiny Helpline 0800 41 42 43, or SMS 31393. SADAG is open 7 days a week, every day of the year from 8am-8pm. SADAG provides FREE telephonic counselling, referrals to Support Groups, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Clinics, etc. We also have brochures, self-help tips & online resources at

Zika Virus Disease Fact Sheet


  • Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red
    eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
  • There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly (a condition in which a baby’s head
    is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age) and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies
    of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. Knowledge of the link between Zika and these outcomes is
    evolving, but until more is known, WHO recommends special precautions for pregnant women or those trying to become
  • According to PAHO/WHO, up to January 30th 2016, 26 countries and territories have reported Zika cases. List of areas
    with ongoing Zika transmission is constantly updated and available online (

How can one prevent ZIKA VIRUS DISEASE?

  • There is no vaccine for preventing Zika.
  • The most important protective measures are to reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes.
  • This relies mainly on two strategies: control of mosquito and prevention of mosquito bites.
  • Control of mosquito existence consists of eliminating mosquito-breeding sites that are formed in standing water. This
    includes emptying, cleaning or covering containers that can hold

water, such as flower pots, tires, and buckets.

  • Prevent mosquito bites by: using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, preferably
    light-colored, using permethrin-treated clothing; using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows;
    and sleep under insecticide-treated nets.


  • Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should consult their local health authorities if travelling to an
    area with an ongoing Zika outbreak.
  • All pregnant women should reconsider travel to areas where Zika transmission is ongoing.
  • Currently, officials from Brazil, Columbia, El Salvador, Ecuador, and Jamaica have recommended that women delay getting
    pregnant until the alert is lifted.
  • Health care providers should ask all pregnant women about recent travel. Women who traveled to an area with ongoing
    Zika virus transmission during pregnancy should be evaluated and tested for

Zika infection.


  • There is currently no specific antiviral cure available for the disease itself, treatment is generally supportive.
  • People sick with Zika should get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines.
  • If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice.
  • In pregnant women, fever should be treated with paracetamol.
  • Regular, 3-4 weeks tests should be done to the growing fetus if a woman tests positive to the Zika Virus infection
    test. Referral to a medical specialist is recommended.