POSTSCRIPT / October 6, 2011 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Noy missed the boat in the Luzon floods?

MISSING IT: On whether or not President Noynoy Aquino should visit (he did yesterday) the flooded areas in Bulacan, Pampanga and Tarlac, the sad short answer is: He missed it.

There is such a thing as right timing. You miss your cue, you miss it all.

Until now no one has explained satisfactorily why the President hesitated to go to the communities devastated by the typhoons and the floods. Kaya tuloy, there is the misimpression that he is not concerned enough.

Flying home from his Japan trip last Wednesday, he could have ordered his chartered jet to land at Clark Field in Pampanga and rushed to his suffering people. They would have understood his being a bit late if they saw him literally getting his feet wet.

It was only yesterday, one full week after typhoon Pedring swamped Luzon’s bread basket, that he went to survey the calamity area. What is his problem?

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BE WITH THEM: A similar question was asked in 1983 by his father Ninoy from his home-in-exile in Boston. The opposition leader was sampling friends’ opinions on whether he should fly back to Manila when then President Marcos was reported to be terminally sick.

As I related in an earlier Postscript, my reply to Ninoy’s question (hand-carried by common friend Bren Guiao) was that if he still had plans to be active in politics, he should come back and be with his suffering people in their hour of need.

In President Noynoy Aquino’s case, with billions in his propaganda war chest, it was easy for him to have made an impact upon his return from Japan without resorting to overacting. Presidential presence and reassuring words would have sufficed then.

But now, to make up for his delayed reaction, the President may have to prove himself in a bigger, and very costly, way.

Was he able to do that yesterday?

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MEDICAL NOTE: By coincidence, again going the rounds is a reprint of a 15-month-old “From a Distance” column of STAR colleague Chit Pedrosa about a candidate in 2010 who reportedly had psychiatric treatment in the United States.

One classmate recalled, according to Chit, that his temper and mood swings were well known in school. A household help was also quoted as saying that the youth, reportedly suffering from a variant of labile disorder, took seroquel and abilify, both medicines for mental illness.

But his rumored medical condition apparently did not influence enough voters. He won in his election bid.

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SYMPTOMS: Mention is made here of Chit’s column as background for a reassessment, if desired. Reacting to her article on the reported psychiatric treatments, a respected doctor in the US said among other things in an email to Postscript:

Seroquel and Abilify are atypical antipsychotics. When they first came out, they were primarily used for schizophrenia. But they have been found to be very useful in bipolar disorder.

“Being impulsive and having mood swings are common symptoms of bipolar disorder. The other common symptoms are distractibility, insomnia, grandiosity, flight of ideas, episodes of increased energy (sometimes staying awake for two or three days at a time), and talking too much.

“One does not have to have all these symptoms to be considered bipolar. But if he has a lot of them, the diagnosis should be seriously considered. Some bipolars, however, are not as sick as others.”

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DEPRESSION: He continued, “Fortunately there are available now many effective medications for it, but the treating physician might have to try a lot to find the best one. And various doses may have to be tried. Sometimes combinations of two or more have to be tried.

“Unfortunately this diagnosis is often missed because the patient does not mention all the symptoms to the doctor. Most of the time, he only complains of the depression which might be the dominant symptom. The treating physician should ask the right questions.

“The patient is often diagnosed as having unipolar depression (the usual type of depression) and is treated for it. Consequently, he does not get better, or if he does, it is only for a little while, and many times he even gets worse.”

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TRIGGER: He went on, “The average bipolar patient has many relatives who have mood disorders (either unipolar or bipolar), and/or addiction problems (drugs or alcohol). It seems that the tendency to develop any of these disorders travels in the same gene.

“The first time a bipolar becomes depressed comes at an early age, usually earlier than age 25, sometimes as early as 7. There usually is a traumatic triggering event such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, death of a loved one, divorce of parents, abandonment.

“There is significant emotional stress, and the patient starts to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, which causes other problems. Because of their impulsivity they indulge in risky activities which often result in more health problems or jail time.”

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HYPERSENSITIVE, UNREASONABLE: The doctor concluded, “Being bipolar is usually easily managed. But the physician has to be on top of the situation all the time.

“A bipolar patient usually does not complain of symptoms other than the depression. That is why he is often misdiagnosed.

“Bipolars are very sensitive. They feel physical pain more than non-bipolars. They also get emotionally hurt easily. Even their sense of smell is very sharp.

“The patient has to be cooperative. Unfortunately, when the patient really needs help, he is often unreasonable. It is difficult to deal with an unreasonable person, especially if he has a lot of power.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 6, 2011)

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