The Bipolar Discus: Now Everyone Has It.   5 comments

Has anybody noticed there are a lot more bipolar people in the world today than there were ten years ago?   I don’t have an exact number, but when the body shop returns your car without a windshield because the technician was diagnosed bipolar, and decided you car is a trigger, you know something is not right.

I actually think it’s a combination of things.  First, bipolar is becoming a catch all disease umbrella for suspected mental illnesses doctors can’t figure how else to categorize.  People tell you you’re a miserable person because all you do is spread negativity and mope around like you just ran over your cat.  You tell your psychiatrist or sometimes just your family doctor, and right away you’re bipolar.  After all, you’re not schizophrenic or a cutter, so what else could it be?  It must be bipolar!  Then again, you could just have a rotten attitude.  But the doctor brands you bilpolar and  for the rest of your life you are treated as such.

Secondly, a lot of people actually want the bipolar brand.  I call them wannabe bipolars, as if anyone would purposely afflict themselves with the illness, as if it’s contagious.  And if the doctor doesn’t make the diagnosis, they’ll guide them toward it with exaggerated symptoms, or find a doctor who will.  I’ve even met people in a bipolar therapy groups who are self-diagnosed bipolar.  They’ve never seen a doctor about it but are sure they have the affliction and identify themselves as such.

Once the wannabe bipolars go public with their disease, which many are more than happy to do, it also becomes carte blanche for public temper tantrums, walking out on the job, rude behavior and any other form of acting out which they can then blame on the bipolar, avoiding any and all responsibility for their actions.  In many cases they are actually interpreting how a bipolar person might act when in crisis.

I find this especially disturbing because most of the bipolar individuals I know do not have public outbursts or horrid displays of emotion.  It’s a part of their lives they’d prefer to keep private.  And if they are having a related emotional issue, they’re more likely to leave the room rather than put on a broadway production.  The last thing most bipolar people want to do is walk around carrying a freak flag.

So now all of the sudden the earth is crawling with bipolar people like bees swarming a hive.  Doctors are throwing the term around like a discus.  Consequently, some individuals could be  getting the wrong treatment for other very real mental illnesses.  Other people are getting treatment and there is nothing clinically wrong with them.  And some seek out the diagnosis like it’s a Fast Pass to drive in the commuter lane on the freeway and zip through the toll booth without having to stop and pay.

Never in my life have I seen a disease so frequently and haphazardly diagnosed.  It bothers me because it dilutes the seriousness and severity of the bipolar affliction for those who truly suffer from it.   My fear is that if we keep misdiagnosing the disease, one day being bipolar will be on par with having a headache.  Can you imagine if the diagnosis of cancer was bandied about like bipolar illness?  Stopping by the pharmacy to pick up your chewable chemo-tablets would be commonplace.   Or, “He’s walking funny.  It must be leg cancer.  Let’s radiate.”

I don’t have a solution.  I don’t even know if it’s perceived as a problem.  Obviously it’s not by the psychiatric community or they’d stop diagnosing bipolar like a Los Vegas black jack dealer.  And I’m sure the drug companies are loving it, so they are not going to speak up.  If they had their way, we’d all be taking Lithium as a precautionary measure.  Kind of like taking those oversized anti-malaria pills before you go to Asia and get dysentery.  I’m just hoping somebody with knowledge and authority decides to speak up on the issue.

Remember, some people are not overweight because they eat too much.   It could be genetics or a condition which has nothing to do with food.  Others are overweight because they say “yes” when asked by the lady in the window if they “want that super sized?”  Would you staple both their stomachs?  Of course not.  Then why is the medical community suddenly labeling more and more people as bipolar?   Is everyone coming down with the same disease? Or, do we need to come up with a more accurate diagnosis?

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5 responses to “The Bipolar Discus: Now Everyone Has It.

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  1. I’ve seen this trend flowing around a lot lately too and I worry for the same reasons as you……if it becomes so common place, then it degrades the severity for those that really do suffer with from it. I think this is a good question for my pdoc tomorrow……

  2. Great point. Look forward on hearing the feedback on it.

  3. I personally know 3 people right now, that compare themselves to me, and insist that they must be bipolar. If they knew what it was like, and how much I struggle every day, they would not be so quick to want it. But, they use it to get attention. While, like this post said, I do my best to hide my emotions and ACT normal.

    • You are so right. It’s because it’s a disease nobody can see. If I pretended I had a broken leg people would have no sympathy for me. They’d be annoyed with me if I parked in the handicapped spots and used handicapped bathrooms, etc.

  4. The reason so many have been misdiagnosed (according to the DSM) as bipolar is because doctors started prescribing ADHD drugs and antidepressants in the 1980’s and 1990’s. And since these drugs cause mania (but this was not put on the labels until 2005 or so), many doctors started seeing manic behavior in patients. So in the mid 1990’s a psychiatric thought leader from Harvard, Dr. Joseph Biederman, “widened” the definition of bipolar to include children. Dr. Beiderman is currently under investigation because he did not report acurately how much money he was receiving from drug companies. His goal was to increase sales of antipsychotics by giving them to children.

    But the bottom line is that the DSM-IV-TR states that if mania is caused by a drug, then a bipolar diagnosis is incorrect. And the doctors have ignored this detail of the DSM, and misdiagnosed millions of people. The problem is antipsychotics don’t cure drug induced mania, taking patients off the drug that is caused it does. But that not as profitable for the doctors.

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