Bipolar Disorder: What's in a Label?
Bipolar disorder affects approximately 6 million adults in the United States alone (National Institute of Mental Health). There is a lot of stigma around the label bipolar disorder, but what is it exactly? Is it a psychological issue or a physiological issue or both? The latest research tells us it is a genetic and chemical disorder. Prior to it being called bipolar disorder it was called manic-depressive disorder and before that it was called cyclothymic personality disorder. But what's in a label?
Many professionals liken bipolar disorder to diabetes. If someone with diabetes is low on blood sugar they may certainly be experienced as having psychological issues. In the same vein, some make the argument that a person may be perfectly psychologically healthy, but if they have bipolar disorder they are prone to experiencing manic and depressive episodes when the chemicals get imbalanced.
Does having bipolar disorder make you crazy? Sometimes I feel like the uneducated stigma out there supported by the insurance companies endorses this view. I've seen people who fall into depressive episodes and then at times seem to get very excited for a while. However, throughout these times they were able to manage life without medications and without major problems. It's the people who end up in the hospital who we hear more about that hence the stigma for bipolar disorder.
It's good to bring our lenses back a bit when we think about the labels that are written the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). These names often change (e.g., cyclothymic disorder now being bipolar disorder) and while having a label can be comforting to some, it can feel confining to others. It's good for professionals who can have a common language to talk about a cluster of issues.
However, it is dangerous when the professional loses sight of the person and only sees the disorder. This is true with all labels.
If you or someone you love has bipolar disorder, it may be good to check out a few different therapies that have been shown to be effective in helping manage. Bipolar specialist, Dr. Jay Carter recommends four different therapies. These are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Family-focused therapy, Interpersonal Social Rhythm Therapy, and Group Therapy.
Everybody is different so while one therapy might be better for one, another might be more effective for another.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interactions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
crazy - - Aug 17th 2011
i am bipolar and have been diagnosed with it for 11 yrs now. it all started as a very very bad depression, couldnt get out of bed deppression. attempted suicides, try to self medicate with alcohol which made things worse. Then i started getting manic, and having those episodes, not remembering stuff i do, being overly happy, giving stuff away that if i was normal thinking i wouldnt have. Becoming mean and hurting people.it was just a vicious cycle to me, over and over. I was being treated with medications, and i felt like a lab rat, try this one, try that one, nothing seemed to be working. In and out of the hospital, for attemted suicides, or getting hurt for trying to beat someone up.It was just crazy. Then drinking on top of it made me so much more worse. I ended up in prison, actually twice. Wondering how i got there. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel, i was actually put on some medications THAT WORKED.. 4 diffrent medications, but thats ok, if i can feel normal and act it thats fine with me. Its been 3 yrs now and i havent had any episodes what so ever. But with all that i went through i did have to move out of my town, people were scared of me, calling me crazy and phsyco. They seen what those episodes did to me, but they dont understand it, no matter how you try explaining it to them. My dissorder will always be defined as crazy. Ive even had men thats took me out on dates, and find out the meds i take and for what, well guess what, i usually dont see them any more. But its ok, im feeling great and living my life the best way i know how.