It was a full term natural delivery. The newborn was small at 2.7 kgs. There was no complication of pregnancy and mother and infant were well. Motor milestones followed a normal curve, but language was delayed till the age of five years. Strangely, musical expression preceded language and by 2 years 6 months, Ragini lisped in melodic sequences, as melody with lyrics came with ease. She belonged to yet another traditional south Indian family where music occupies the whole day, from the TV devotional music broadcast at the break of dawn, the bathroom singing by the father relaxing through an evening lukewarm shower after the day’s work, till into the night, when the mother sings the infant to sleep – that ‘soporific lullaby’ which never fails! However, nurture alone cannot explain the child’s musical ability, which advantage she carried without losing ground, into adolescence and adult life with formal vocal classical music instruction. The family being resident in the West, she received higher grade training in Western classical music as well and got into the stride of it with no extra effort.
Exploring the Condition
Ragini had poor communication skills, sub-average intelligence on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), language processing difficulty, perceptual thinking deficit and social fears and phobias when examined in childhood. She became irritable and frustrated, as coping with routine stresses, given her condition, became increasingly difficult over the years, and she showed significant disruptive behaviour at about 10 years of age by way of aggression. Following a psychiatric assessment, she was started on Tab. Risperidone, an atypical antipsychotic to control the irritability of the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and to reduce her depression. She continued Risperidone till the age of 19 years, went through mainstream schooling, as she was a high functioning ASD, and successfully completed a Certificate Course in Vocational training.
In 2013, Risperidone had to be withdrawn, due to tardive dyskinesia, and Clonazepam SOS was prescribed. Two years passed peacefully, off medication. With the support of her well educated, discerning parents empathetic to her needs, Ragini established her own space in her music studio, where she could listen to music, catalogue the music videos in her collection in the studio library, and even give musical training to groups. All this was encouraged by her parents, mindful of her problems as it also represented an attempt to organize herself into some self employed music-related career, in an area closest to her heart. However, largely alone in the studio also left her isolated and socially withdrawn. Perhaps due to this a feeling of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness descended upon her, and she had suicidal ideation. She was emotionally sensitive, eager to please, but did not have the ability to take criticism. Symptoms that started insidiously, reached a peak within 6 months, in mid-2015. She became severely depressed.
Escitalopram (antidepressant) and Quitiepine (an atypical antipsychotic) prescribed by the psychiatrist could not bring about any control. After a further 5 months of rapid mood swings, crying, shouting, explosive episodes of dyscontrol and threats of leaving home, the mother brought Ragini to India, hoping that a change of environment would help in some way to ease mounting family tensions. She had information about the multidisciplinary approach and integrated therapy offered by TriMed-Neurokrish and fixed an appointment for Ragini.
Our Healing Approach
It was not easy for the team at TriMed-Neurokrish to thaw the ice and make Ragini accept that the specialist team was there to help her. Once this was achieved even partially, with gentle persuasion, the flow of the assessments became smoother, with cooperation from the patient. The diagnosis and plan of management fell in place with the detailed clinical history of events that led up to the mental state at the time of assessments and clinical examination.
Her Rorschach Inkblot test produced 22 responses, meeting the perceptual thinking and coping deficit index. She had severe depression and a feeling of worthlessness. EEG showed significant epileptiform activity without localization or lateralisation. She had a past history of episodes of stare with momentary loss of consciousness. Blood test and MRI/MRA brain were unremarkable.
The Diagnosis was Autistic Spectrum Disorder (High Functioning) with Rapid Cycling Affective Disorder and Episodic Dyscontrol Syndrome. Arriving at a suitable drug regimen was more difficult and prolonged, with loss of precious time, as 2 anticonvulsants used as thymoleptic agents had to be rejected as Oxcabamazepine produced a moderate allergic response, and even worse, Lamotragine produced a Steven Johnson’s type adverse drug reaction. After allowing time for recovery from these drug reactions, the patient was stabilised on a drug regimen which she tolerated well, along with an extended program of therapies running parallel.
The regular medication was
- Lithium (sustained release) 400mg – 1/2-0-1
- Olanzapine 10mg – 1/2-0-1
- Escitalopram 1-0-0
- Lorazepam 2mg – 0-0-1
- Vitamin supplements
The mood stabilising, antidepressant and anxiolytic effect of this drug combination was reinforced with 24 sessions of CBT, individual psychotherapy and family education, 11 of physiotherapy (grade 2), 34 of Acupuncture, 20 of Reflexology, 34 sessions of Shirodhara and whole body massage and 24 sessions of Yogasana, intensive and daily over the initial phase and then spaced out to 3-4 days a week.
“There is considerable evidence suggesting that a subset of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), youth with extreme disturbance of mood suffer from a symptom cluster that is phenomenologically consistent with the syndrome of Bipolar Disorder (BPD)”
Longitudinal studies are essential for observing the onset and progression of co-morbid condition of Bipolar disorder in ASD.
“It is of importance to recognise both the psychiatric diagnoses of ASD and overlapping BPD in order to plan the drug regimen, therapies and set realistic treatment goals.”
Following the extended therapy program and after being stabilized on the drug regimen, there is a definite return of Ragini’s lost self esteem, which had been shattered during the downhill phase. Her mood swings are minimal, and there is no episodic dyscontrol. The mother admits that she came with the hope of some relief of Ragini’s symptoms of aggression and dyscontrol. She got much more from the team at TriMed-Neurokrish, she confessed, and feels that the situation is under control and has the hopes to settle her daughter’s future plans of home and career within reasonable goals.