Bipolar Key Words


Today I want to talk about KEY WORDS.

You might be familiar with key words from raising children, as they are sometimes used

in that situation. For example, I know a mom who uses a warning system where she never has to get up from her seat to discipline her children (at least at first). All she does is use key words, like… She’ll say, “That’s one…” Or, “That’s two…” But when she gets to “That’s three…”

Well, then she does have to get out of her seat because then her children know that’s when

there will be discipline for what they failed to stop during the verbal warnings (key words).

I know a couple that uses key words, too. He is a real joker. And he tends to pick on his wife.

Which she doesn’t mind…Usually. Except around other people. So if he is teasing her too much and she is starting to get embarrassed, they have worked out that all she has to say is, “That’s enough,” and he’ll stop. “That’s enough” are the key words they have worked out between them.

Do you see what I’m getting at?


Key words can be very useful in other situations as well.

For example, there is a conductor in the local school, and he uses key words with his “orchestra”

(made up of students).

At the end of a piece of music, he might say, “That was excellent!” Excellent means that they don’t have to practice the piece that week.

He might say, “That was very good!” Very good means that although the piece was

performed well, it could still use some practice.

Or he might say, “That was fine.” Fine means there will definitely be practice on the horizon for that piece!

You see? KEY WORDS.

They can even be used with bipolar disorder.

One woman I know who has bipolar disorder, uses KEY WORDS with her psychiatrist and

his nurse. When she feels as if she is experiencing symptoms of bipolar mania, she calls her psychiatrist and uses the keyword “escalate.” That way, she doesn’t have to go into a long

explanation about what is going on with her – her psychiatrist (or his nurse, if the psychiatrist

is occupied) knows what she is talking about. Because in a previous session they have together

defined what the keyword “escalate” means to her.

When she feels as if she might be experiencing the symptoms of a bipolar depression, she uses

the keyword “de-escalate” in the same manner. Then her psychiatrist knows automatically what

she is talking about and what to do for her. They still talk about what is happening, so that

her psychiatrist knows how severe it is and whether she needs hospitalization or not, but the KEY WORD is at least a beginning and saves time.

What is so good about the KEY WORD concept is that it goes so much further than just “I need help.”

If you or your loved one first sits down with your psychiatrist and defines your key words, the

psychiatrist will automatically know what you’re talking about when you use them on the phone

with them, instead of simply saying, “I need help.”

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,


  1. Key words are Terrific…I use them w/ my counsler all the time.I feel one would have to know their Phyc. or their counsler really well for this. Also I would think one would have to already developed fairly good copeing Skills. If deppersion has kicked me in the gut,when I go in All I “can say, when she asks me how I am, is I dont Know.Then we promptly shovel thru the overwhelming emotions, and look at what “I” am letting eat my lunch @ shame, fear, anger, hoplessness, etc. good job my friend.

  2. Great idea. My teen uses that system with her counselor. Then she can talk about her issues without having to touch on things she can’t handle yet.

  3. I think keywords is a fantastic idea! Wished I’d thought of it. I’ve already come up with some keywords to use with my mate for certain situations. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Hi Dave, I think you do great work. I like the key words. It really helps at that particular time and in the long run.

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