July 28, 2012 in Features, Health

Nonstop talker may have mental illness

Kathy Mitchell

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Speechless in Omaha,” whose friend, “Sharon,” wouldn’t stop talking. I am a physician and also the mother of an adult son with a serious mental illness. Sharon’s speech is suggestive of “pressured speech,” which is a hallmark of bipolar mania or hypomania. It also could be caused by extreme anxiety, certain drugs and occasionally schizophrenia and other illnesses. The person talks rapidly, nonstop, loudly and with urgency, interrupts and is hard to interrupt, and can be tangential (off topic).

Mental illnesses commonly start in young people in their late teens or early 20s. However, people who are not severely afflicted can go undiagnosed for years, and Sharon is described as having been talkative and tangential for some time. The best thing “Speechless” can do is encourage Sharon to see a doctor. She might start by asking Sharon whether she has been under stress or feeling anxious lately.

People with mental illnesses often do not perceive that there is anything wrong with them. If “Speechless” knows her friend’s doctor, informing him or her of her observations would be very helpful. – Vermont Reader

Dear Vermont: Thank you for your expertise. Our readers were eager to weigh in on the various possibilities of dealing with Sharon. Read on for more:

From Florida: Sharon sounds like she may have ADHD. I have a friend like that: very bright, entertaining and a mouth going a mile a minute, unable to contain herself. I love her, and she drives me nuts. She now can focus more if I remind her.

Texas: There is a good possibility that Sharon is on diet pills or uppers.

Louisiana: You should have mentioned the possibility of bipolar disorder. Sharon sounds as though she could be in the early manic phase. Other signs would include weight loss, lack of sleep and out-of-control spending.

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