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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5220
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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My brother thinks I might be bipolar. My grandmother and my

Customer Question

My brother thinks I might be bipolar. My grandmother and my aunt on my father's side were treated for manic depression in the 70"s. My Dad exhibited signs of being manic. I've become an alcoholic since my Mama died in a house fire in 2007 and I cannot seem to find my way out of the bottle, I know I need help. I don't know what to do or how to stop, it's become a way of life for me. I need the drink to make it through the day, to survive the ugly thoughts of how my Mama died and how I was not there to save her.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 5 years ago.

Hi! I believe I can be of help with this issue.

First, I can imagine how difficult and overwhelming this situation must be for you. You are a religious person and so it is very symbolic that you turned to the bottle after the tragic death of your mother: it is as if you turned your back on G-d in a certain way and sought some comfort in the alcohol. But alcohol is never a true comfort. It is just a way to numb yourself from feeling the pain and sorrow. I'm going to give you a technique to help relieve the anxiety for you when you feel you need to drink to give you a moment to breathe and call somebody instead of reaching for the bottle. It's not a cure, just a help for that anxiety.

You may indeed have Bipolar Disorder (BD) but there is no way to accurately diagnose it at this time. Why?

I work with people suffering from BD. And sometimes they have alcohol dependency issues. Therefore, I want you to accept as my sincere opinion that AA is a vital and necessary part of the treatment. BUT, it's only a PART!

I will not treat BD or any disorder in individual therapy if there is alcohol abuse WITHOUT the person also going to meetings at least once a week at the same time. Why? Because if the alcohol abuse is not treated, there is no value to the rest of the treatment. And AA has been around since the mid 1930s for a reason: they do a fantastic job of giving support and tools for getting sober and STAYING sober. So, if found AA not helpful or rigid, that is because you are approaching it that way. If the meeting you went to did not do the job, switch meetings. There are plenty of meetings and plenty of mentors and sponsors. So, you must find the right meeting for your needs. The first meeting people go to are often not the right one. I've had a client who went and found the meeting was too much people with tattoos and partying. That wasn't her drinking habit and she was older than them. So, she had to switch meetings. One person went through 3 meetings till he came upon the right one.

I hope that was helpful on AA because I need you to see its benefit. Here's the meeting finder. Please go back. Because you need the support to stop turning to the bottle to numb your feelings.

So you need to get to a psychologist to evaluate the BD symptoms once you're dealing with the alcohol. And please take my answer and use it in therapy with the psychologist as a springboard for working.

I would like you to interview psychologists who have a more humanistic focus. If you don't have a good referral source here is the web address for Psychology Today's therapist directory. You can sort by zip codes and when you see someone who seems like they might be helpful (because they seem smart and not so easily manipulatable!) look at the listing and see if they list humanistic therapy in their orientations and shares your religious values.

The idea here isn't that any one type of therapy is magic. It's that I want you to find a therapist who will form a strong therapeutic alliance with you and will help you look at what I talked about above and can help you deal with the loss of your mom and it's spiritual implications for you.

Now, I want to give you a tool to use for when the depression is overwhelming or there is anxiety. Here are instructions on a therapeutic protocol called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). It's really quite easy to do almost anywhere. My patients suffering from depression or anxiety, when I teach them PMR at first are amazed how simple it is and that it is a psychological protocol. It was first used in the 1920s! Since then, of course, it has been refined and many studies have been done showing its effectiveness. You will practice PMR at first when you don't wake up with an attack so that you will be familiar with it. I want you to practice the PMR at least 5-6 times before an attack or feeling acute anxiety. Why? Because when you're in the throes of anxiety, you will only remember to do something you are very familiar with it. So practicing 5-6 times is really a minimum.

I want to stress the importance of breathing as well. Part of the physiology of what is happening to you in anxiety is that your breathing is getting shallower. This reduces the oxygen in your blood to your brain. That increases the anxiety reaction, which strengthens the attack and you are in a vicious cycle! Not good. So breathing is the primary tool. I have found in my practice that learning breathing techniques can be helpful. But some of my patients are not interested in learning more than one thing at the beginning, so I have found that just reminding you to BREATHE deeply at the same time you are doing PMR is almost as good. If you are willing to take a yoga class and learn breathing techniques, that's the best. But, breathing deeply with your PMR will help.

So, we're ready for learning PMR. I want you to print my instructions below my signature and have a copy in each of the rooms of your home where you may be when you have an attack. And again, you need to practice this easy technique at least 5-6 times as soon as you can. It needs to become as natural to you as breathing. Ah, remember breathing?


  1. After finding a quiet place and several free minutes to practice progressive muscle relaxation, sit or lie down and make yourself comfortable.
  2. Begin by tensing all the muscles in your face. Make a tight grimace, close your eyes as tightly as possible, clench your teeth, even move your ears up if you can. Hold this for the count of eight as you inhale.
  3. Now exhale and relax completely. Let your face go completely lax, as though you were sleeping. Feel the tension seep from your facial muscles, and enjoy the feeling.
  4. Next, completely tense your neck and shoulders, again inhaling and counting to eight. Then exhale and relax.
  5. Continue down your body, repeating the procedure with the following muscle groups:
    • chest
    • abdomen
    • entire right arm
    • right forearm and hand (making a fist)
    • right hand
    • entire left arm
    • left forearm and hand (again, making a fist)
    • left hand
    • buttocks
    • entire right leg
    • lower right leg and foot
    • right foot
    • entire left leg
    • lower left leg and foot
    • left foot
  6. for the shortened version, which includes just four main muscle groups:
    • face
    • neck, shoulders and arms
    • abdomen and chest
    • buttocks, legs and feet

Quickly focusing on each group one after the other, with practice you can relax your body like ‘liquid relaxation’ poured on your head and it flowed down and completely covered you. You can use progressive muscle relaxation to quickly de-stress any time.

What You Need:

  • A comfortable place.
  • Some privacy.
  • A few minutes.


Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Im a morman and there are no morman therapists in the area!
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Im a morman and there are no morman therapists in the area! you cannot imagine what a stigma is attached to a mormon being an alcoholic, much less being a female alcoholic!
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Im a morman and there are no morman therapists in the area! you cannot imagine what a stigma is attached to a mormon being an alcoholic, much less being a female alcoholic! My church has already turned its back on me! I asked them for help and they did not reply. they want nothing
to do with me. I cannot live their lifestyle so I am an outcast.

Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 5 years ago.
Wow. That is so hard. I have one Mormon client in my private practice right now but I don't know that much about the requirements.

So open up your viewfinder from Mormon therapists exclusively. My client, for example, wanted therapy that would be spiritually based but since the Mormon community is small in this area and most people know each other, she wanted someone who is religious but NOT Mormon. It is the values that I'm concerned with for you. And the religious values that are important here are not necessarily specific to your creed. They have to do with G-d and why good people die and how to move forward and many other questions that all religious people have to confront in their lives.

So, please, the first step is to recognize that life can be so powerful and overwhelming sometimes. Your mom's death was a tragedy. Life can even be tragic. And you have to traverse all of the overwhelming qualities of life. That means not numbing yourself. Because that's just avoiding life. And avoidance does nothing because on the other side of avoidance you still have to deal with all those feelings. So, AA is the format I believe in because it works. It's consistent and it's supportive and it understands about what it takes to avoid the bottle.

When you get through this whole tangle of emotions, you will at one point make peace with your church. I wish you the very best!

Please remember to click the green accept button. Feel free to continue the discussion; my goal is to get you the best answers possible. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX