Do 5 Million Americans Really Have Bipolar Disorder?

Kelly Brogan, MD, ABIHM
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“I have Bipolar disorder”

… say 5.7 million Americans.

These patients have been labeled, categorized, and offered an understanding of themselves as diseased, sick, and permanently broken.

Considered one of the more severe mental illnesses, perhaps because it presents almost as an amalgamation of psychosis and depression in a particularly volatile form. In my training, I was taught to medicate these patients, often with multiple medications, and often against their will.

Poetically, though, these patients — desperate to understand who they are in a system that condemns them to a life of struggle and suffering — will be vindicated by modern science.1

The Modern Science of Bipolar Disorder

Modern science honors complexity. It seeks to revel more and more in a picture of dynamic interconnectedness between bodily systems and between bodies and nature. This science is embodied by new fields with long names, like psychoneuroimmunology, and by a burgeoning literature exploring our microbial selves.

Modern science2 has this to say about Bipolar:

“The very fact that no single gene, pathway, or brain abnormality is likely to ever account for the condition is itself an extremely important first step in better articulating an integrated perspective on both its ontological status and pathogenesis.”

Did you catch that?

The implications of this statement decimate the current myth of an inherited chemical imbalance underlying Bipolar Disorder. No, you weren’t born with a brain chemical problem that you are destined to manage with prescriptions for your entire life. This is a complex syndrome, personal to you, that has to do with how your lifestyle exposures are interacting with your genes – yes your stress, food, sleep (or lack of it), chemical exposures. All of these variables impact how your genes are expressed and are within your control.

So if Bipolar isn’t an inherited chemical imbalance, then what is it?

Just like depression (and ADHDOCD, Panic Disorder, and even Schizophrenia), what we are calling Bipolar is a fever of the body. It is a symptom that serves as a final common pathway from many different sources.

The incidence of Bipolar disorder appears to be skyrocketing because people are struggling with more and more complex physiologic and pyschospiritual crises and because the guild of psychiatry is generating more patients through medication treatment. I remember that, even over the course of my residency, Bipolar and its “softer” variant Bipolar II, seemed to be ballooning in incidence, now encompassing up to 13% of the population.3 In fact, according to Madinamerica.com:

“Prior to 1955, bipolar illness was a rare disorder. There were only 12,750 people  hospitalized with that disorder in 1955. In addition,  there were only about 2,400 “first admissions” for bipolar illness yearly in the country’s mental hospitals.

Outcomes were relatively good too. Seventy-five percent or so of the first-admission patients would recover within 12 months.  Over the long-term, only about 15% of all first-admission patients would become chronically ill, and 70% to 85% of the patients would have good outcomes, which meant they worked and had active social lives.”

So we have more diagnosis, but we also have more people actually struggling with what is labeled as Bipolar. What’s driving these struggles?

This root cause perspective leads us to consider at least 3 major contributors that need to be examined for potentially reversible and resolvable triggers.

Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s purposeful messaging system around perceived distress or threat. It results from myriad sources from psychosocial stress to gut microbial imbalance to toxicant exposure (environmental to pharmaceutical), and in today’s environment, can be persistent and chronic. Research has elucidated several important factors around Bipolar states and inflammatory response, namely that both mania and depression are associated with increased inflammatory markers,4,5 which track linearly with symptoms.6 Immune dysfunction7 that results from prolonged inflammatory signaling can easily provoke the canary in the coalmine – the thyroid, documented to be altered in the setting of mania.8 In fact, those with a Bipolar diagnosis can be 2.5 times more likely to have elevated thyroid hormone levels.9 In this way, bodily disharmony from gut to immune to hormones can express, in some people as severe depression alternating with periods of extreme behavioral impulsivity.

Drugs

Rather than parsing them into benefits and side effects, in my opinion, the chemical effects of pharmaceuticals should all be referred to as simply, effects. These effects are not unlike the effects of drugs like cocaine and alcohol – some are desirable or temporarily adaptive, and some are problematic. Many patients begin their Bipolar journey through the gateway drug of an antidepressant. In fact, treatment of depression and anxiety with an antidepressant results in an almost 3 fold increase in diagnosis with Bipolar Disorder,10 interpreted by another study as 20-40% of all those diagnosed with depression, ultimately receiving a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder.11 Over time, antidepressants can also perpetuate chronic instability (dubbed “rapid cycling”) and poor functional outcomes,12 which can persist even after the antidepressant is withdrawn.13

Perhaps, as Anatomy of an Epidemic (and references!) argue, we have pharmaceuticals to thank for the nature of Bipolar disability today:

“In the pre-drug era, bipolar patients were usually asymptomatic between episodes; 85% returned to their usual occupations; and they showed no signs of long-term cognitive decline. Today, bipolar patients are much more symptomatic; only about one-third return to their usual occupations; and they become cognitively impaired over the long term.”

Perhaps doing something, in the form of medication, is actually worse than doing nothing.

The use of plants such as cannabis and psychedelics may also open up an experience of perceptual expansion that a given individual, their community, and our culture cannot withstand, condone, or support. Evidence is mounting that first-episode psychosis can be kicked off by these substance encounters.14

Psychospirituality

Psychiatry has a long history of relishing a Cartesian separation between mind and body. Desperate to “medicalize” this field of conjecture and subjectivity, the guild of psychiatry has attached to a biochemical model of pathology while relegating the secondary considerations of “psychology” to supportive therapy.

Is there another layer of root-cause to consider when it comes to mania and depression? If it isn’t an inflammatory process kicked off by environmental mismatch, and it’s not a fire lit by the match of a substance, then could it be a psychospiritual process?

Considering the cultural tendency to pathologize heightened states of energy, it seems that there may be a role for a chemical straightjacket in preserving American ideals around a secular, aspiritual existence.

I’ve written:

“…Psychiatry pathologizes states of mindfulness as dissociative, and is quick to label many who would otherwise be regarded as having awakenings as psychotic. Recent literature even speaks to the difficulty a psychiatrist might have in distinguishing spirituality from psychosis:

“Many aspects of spiritual experience are similar in form and content to symptoms of psychosis. Both spiritually advanced people and patients suffering from psychopathology experience alterations in their sense of ‘self.’ Psychotic experiences originate from derangement of the personality, whereas spiritual experiences involve systematic thinning out of the selfish ego, allowing individual consciousness to merge into universal consciousness. Documented instances and case studies suggest possible confusion between the spiritually advanced and schizophrenia patients. Clinical practice contains no clear guidelines on how to distinguish them.”

“In the world of Psychiatry, distress is a sign of sickness to be eliminated by consciousness-suppressing drugs. It is not a gateway to change. It is not an invitation to look at what might be misaligned or out of balance.”

Edward Whitney, MD documents15 his personal account of mania, and his interface with the very system that credentialed him. He states:

“Mania, in my experience of it, is a process of giving birth to hope in the soul. It is opposed from within by an equally intense nihilism and fear that the entire creation is nothing more than a cesspool of doom. Inner conflict can make a person labile. The cosmic grandiosity comes from trying to answer the question “Is the universe a friendly place or a hostile place?” This is ultimately a religious question, hence the preoccupation with spiritual and religious issues.”

He describes truly recovering only when he left the conventional system and sought support from communities who view spiritual emergencies as a right of passage. He laments, “Medical education does not prepare psychiatrists to deal with spirituality in human experience.”

In fact, patients are leading the way, forming grassroots support networks including one run by Sean Blackwell called Bipolar or Waking Up. He states:

“I´ve received a steady stream of stories from people around the world who feel that they are healing from their bipolar disorder, returning to their lives feeling reborn, as I did a decade ago. As you will see, the secret to healing is the acceptance of the sacred, spiritual aspects of these experiences, and the ability to surrender to this mysterious process.”

To approach this experience from the inside, and from the outside, with curiosity rather than fear, would require a shift in the American psyche. This shift would entail working in support of human processes rather than seeking to control them.16

Beyond Symptom Suppression: Integration and Healing

“Unfortunately, our current diagnostic schema for bipolar disorder, which is based on descriptive nomenclature rather than clearly delineated causal mechanisms, has not given rise to treatments that provide sustained, symptomatic, and functional recovery for many patients. Moreover, available pharmacologic interventions are plagued by pronounced adverse effects that often aggravate metabolic status and further compromise cognition in people already struggling in this domain.”17

This statement from the medical literature seeks to communicate this truth: Bipolar Disorder is not diagnosed based on science and the medication treatments cause serious side effects and ongoing struggle.

In this new model, symptoms are purposeful. They beg attention. They offer an invitation to evolve, revisit, and explore neglected and unexamined elements of the human experience from nutrition to stress to beliefs.

It is my perspective that even psychospiritual crisis is an invitation to honor one’s body ecology.

Beginning with the program outlined in A Mind of Your Own is a great first step when there is a readiness and willingness to engage in the process of healing, proactively.

Let’s look at some important steps toward identifying a root cause:

  • It’s not all in your head: In this horrifying case report, a young woman was taken through a psychiatry horror show and labeled with Bipolar Disorder without adequate physiologic screening or diagnostics around a hormonal imbalance. Basic labwork can reveal reversible imbalances. At a minimum, check a thyroid panel including TSH, free T3, free T4, reverse T3, thyroid stimulating antibodies, thyroid peroxidase antibodies, and thyroglobulin antibodies. Check sugar balance through a fasting glucose, insulin, and HgA1C. Check for inflammation through a hsCRP18 and homocysteine.19
  • Let food be thy medicine: Eliminating documented culprits in bipolar states – gluten and dairy, as well as sugar. It’s a no brainer. We know that diet is the most powerful way to impact the gut microbiota, and this case of mania resolved with charcoal (which binds gut toxins) alone shows that gut dysfunction can be the root of symptoms of psychotic mania.
  • Supplement support: In my opinion, one of the most important supplements, recently reviewed20, is an amino acid-derived compound N-acetylcysteine, a multitasking amino acid complex that acts as a glutathione precursor and an NMDA modulator to support signals of distress in the brain and body.
  • To sleep, perchance to dream: For some of us, sleep is a golden remedy. Honoring it, making space and time for it is a mandate. Supporting sleep naturally has endocrine, metabolic, and anti-inflammatory effects. Amber lenses21 are a simple solution, and others are explored here.
  • The mind-body-spirit tonic: David Shannahoff-Khalsa has published protocols for healing all manner of psychiatric syndromes and symptoms.22 His protocols utilize kundalini yoga, an ancient technology for glandular, nervous system and mental balancing. This practice is one of the most powerful treatments available for harnessing and directing intense energy as well as summoning reserves of energy when they feel inaccessible.

It’s time to take a long hard look at a story that we have been telling patients about their mental health. We have to look through a broader lens – one that encompasses the totality of the person and how they may have strayed from their optimal lifestyle. Symptoms are an invitation to pave the road towards one’s fullest expression in this lifetime.

* * * * *

References:

  1. A meta-analysis of blood cytokine network alterations in psychiatric patients: comparisons between schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. (Molecular Psychiatry)
  2. Integrated neurobiology of bipolar disorder. (Frontiers of Psychiatry)
  3. Toward a re-definition of subthreshold bipolarity: epidemiology and proposed criteria for bipolar-II, minor bipolar disorders and hypomania. (Journal of Affective Disorders)
  4. Immune alterations in acute bipolar depression. (Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica)
  5. Comparison of inflammatory cytokine levels among type I/type II and manic/hypomanic/euthymic/depressive states of bipolar disorder. (Journal of Affective Disorders)
  6. A Combined Marker of Inflammation in Individuals with Mania. (PLoS One)
  7. Are medical comorbid conditions of bipolar disorder due to immune dysfunction? (Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica)
  8. Bipolar disorder and antithyroid antibodies: review and case series. (International Journal of Bipolar Disorder)
  9. Association between bipolar affective disorder and thyroid dysfunction. (Asian Journal of Psychiatry)

  10. Age effects on antidepressant-induced manic conversion. (American Journal of Psychiatry)

  11. Risk for bipolar illness in patients initially hospitalized for unipolar depression. (American Journal of Psychiatry)

  12. The prospective course of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder: findings from the STEP-BD.  (American Journal of Psychiatry)

  13. Duration and stability of the rapid-cycling course: a long-term personal follow-up of 109 patients. (Journal of Affective Disorders)

  14. Polypharmacy/Bipolar Disorder. (Madinamerica.com)
  15. Personal Accounts : Mania as Spiritual Emergency. (Psychiatric Services)
  16. Spiritual beliefs in bipolar affective disorder: their relevance for illness management. (Journal of Affective Disorders)
  17. Integrated neurobiology of bipolar disorder(Frontiers of Psychiatry)
  18. Immune alterations in acute bipolar depression. (Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica)
  19. Hyperhomocysteinemia in Bipolar Depression: Clinical and Biochemical Correlates. (Neuropsychobiology)
  20. Taking the fuel out of the fire: evidence for the use of anti-inflammatory agents in the treatment of bipolar disorders.  (Journal of Affective Disorders)
  21. Dark therapy for bipolar disorder using amber lenses for blue light blockade. (Medical Hypotheses)
  22. An introduction to Kundalini yoga meditation techniques that are specific for the treatment of psychiatric disorders. (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine)

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25 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you.

    1) No they don’t.

    2) When prescribers of SSRI’s / SNRI’s can accurately recognise and adequately manage AKATHISIA, differentiating this very common psychotropic ADR from first episode psychosis, – then these “pseudo-bipolar disorders” can be saved from their imposed label-for-life, no longer “medically poisoned” for life, until wretched, premature death.

    3) Identify, and gradually detoxify from “psycho-pharmacology”, those thousands of – labelled-for-life “ADHD children” (and adults) whose stimulant “medications” cause features so easily labelled as “bipolar”. That includes the “non-stimulant” – nor-epinephrine increasing (i.e., stimulating drugs ) – as well as the “stimulant” stimulating ADHD “medication”.

    4) Avoid further generations of children labelled as suffering from autism being “therapeutically”driven into psychosis by psycholeptic “medication”used entirely for control of behaviour.

    What might be left?

    The real epidemiology of manic depressive psychosis can now be addressed.

    Now use whatever name those who are still labelled, and stigmatised by the brutality of “mainstream psychiatry” prefer,
    It will revert to the reality:- a rare condition.
    If managed by real doctors, with real empathy, and real science, with minimal medication, with guidelines driven by clinical and functional sociologic oriented measures – (as assessed by patients, families and loved ones) – the prognosis will be improved dramatically and the stigma reduced concomitantly.
    No label, real life?

  2. got my MDD diagnosis after terrible accidents where I couldn’t work and was fired; got my BiP diagnosis after antidepressant use; was on tons of drugs of every class and combination for almost 15 years; almost literally died from “side effects” at least twice that I can remember; started omega 3, NAC as mentioned in this article, glutathione, magnesium, walked 30-60 minutes every day in the light, learned coherent breathing to go to sleep, learned mindfulness to stop anxiety, found someone who wanted their animals taken care of, meditation, real food, lot of water, got a decent supportive community, although this is very difficult in NYC. Oh, and stopped going to support groups for “BiP patients” at a local hospital. However, many productive years of my life were taken from me and I suffered a lot. I still know many people from this group or others who really believe that they have a broken brain, and that the fact that they are not feeling better after all the drugs, is because they have a very severe case of BiP.

    • Yeah, you’d think at least we’d hold them to the standard that their drug treatment would actually improve the condition, wouldn’t you? Yet the patient is ALWAYS blamed when the “symptoms” get worse. If you got something for a swollen knee and two weeks later the knee was still swollen and now your ankle and hip were also sore and your toenails were turning blue, would you say, “Oh, my knee disease is so bad, I need more medication!” or would you say, “Hey, this drug is making it worse! I need to stop and try something else?” But apparently common sense is not applicable to psychiatric “treatment.” I guess it interferes with profits too much!

      —- Steve

  3. The worst of the worst has to be “Dual Diagnosis”.

    Many shy teenagers discover the liberating effects of alcohol and drugs.Why go to a party with ‘social anxiety disorder’ ? Its so much better when drinking or high on some drugs…

    Many become ‘alcoholics or ‘addicts’ and start screwing up then mom and dad go on the internet or to the bookstore and discover dual diagnosis and bipolar and it “explains everything”.

    We got to get them some help so its off to the psychiatrist or a dual diagnosis treatment center where they diagnose the past behavior when drinking and on drugs AND the acute and post acute withdrawal symptoms as “bipolar disorder.”

    Then of course you can’t have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder without some disabling drugs so of course the drugging begins. This will also help with anxiety… and as soon as they hear that most will be on that med line 10 minutes early.

    So treatments all done and the zombie client goes home on more drugs then they came in on all zombified and dumbed down.

    A. They drink or do drugs to overcome the pill lobotomy anhedonia looking for that party feeling.

    B. They quit taking the psychiatric drugs and start having withdrawals and turn back to alcohol or ‘real’ drugs.

    They get all messed up again and ‘confirm’ how ‘bipolar’ they are.

    One of the biggest complaints of newly sober people is “nothing is fun sober” and “I cant have fun sober” but the first thing these so called professionals do is hit them over the head with a pile of bipolar-give-you-more-anhedoinia pills !!! And then wonder why they have only a 10% success rate.

    Hi, welcome to treatment. We see you like to party and fly high… To keep help keep you sober we are going to feed you pills that make everything feel dull and boring… WTF WTF WTF ???!!!!!

  4. OK I presume that like Bob W. when you use “diagnostic” terms like bipolar you likely have quotes around a lot of things in your head that never make it to the printed version. Or do you consider there to be “real bipolar” vs. “misdiagnosed bipolar”?

    could it be a psychospiritual process?

    Could it be that the “extremes” of emotion and energy, and sometimes clarity, which are considered to be symptoms of “bipolar illness” actually represent something closer to the natural range of human experience, which in a rational and cooperative society would not only “tolerated” but seen as desirable? And that the focus on material accumulation and power over others which constitutes life under corporate rule would be undermined if “health” were not defined as the ability to think and act like a machine, and to numb our sense of what it means to be human?

    I know that’s way out there, just speculating…

  5. No, of course Americans don’t have bipolar disorder. There is no such disease.

    Periods of manic activity are not caused by biological processes or genes… they are the results of many complex interactions between experience and genes, as your article suggested, with adverse and stressful psychological-social experiences as the primary cause of behaviors and thoughts that get labeled bipolar.

    Something this article doesn’t speak much about is trauma. Getting diagnosed schizophrenic and bipolar is heavily, heavily, heavily linked to being abused, neglected, bullied, discriminated against, poor, and having any variety of “bad shit” happen to you a lot. The primary causes of distressing behaviors and thoughts that get (mis)labeled bipolar is primarily bad shit happening, i.e. stress. Secondarily, I’m sure diet and other physical things going wrong can also be factors.

  6. Thanks, Kelly, for helping to point out the appalling over diagnosis, and massive misdiagnosis, of “bipolar” in our country today. How sick the psychiatric and medical communities have defamed 13% of the population with this likely almost completely iatrogenic illness, while fraudulently claiming it to be a “lifelong, incurable, genetic” illness, with zero scientific proof.

    And absolutely the psychological and psychiatric industries are inappropriately stigmatizing, poisoning, and torturing many who, in reality, are dealing with a spiritual, not “mental health” issue. My medical records show proof my misdiagnosing “Christian” psychologist claimed a dream query about what it meant to be “moved by the Holy Spirit,” was a “voice” proving “psychosis.” Dreams aren’t “psychosis,” and such a dream really just means one’s been called by God to assist Him in doing something, according to an ethical pastor who later read all about that “Christian” therapist’s cover up of the sexual abuse of my child for her ELCA pastor and friends, via a bunch of anticholinergic toxidrome poisoning of me.

    By the way, today’s “gold standard” treatment recommendations for “bipolar” – including combining the antipsychotics, antidepressants, and benzos – are a recipe for how to create “psychosis,” via the central symptoms of neuroleptic or poly pharmacy induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome. Quite certain this is why we’re seeing such bad outcomes for the “bipolar” patients today. Hope the psychiatric community changes these appalling and medically unwise “gold standard” treatment recommendations soon.

  7. “Unfortunately, our current diagnostic schema for bipolar disorder, which is based on descriptive nomenclature rather than clearly delineated causal mechanisms, has not given rise to treatments that provide sustained, symptomatic, and functional recovery for many patients.”

    Or to put it in plain English, “We have no freakin’ idea what we’re doing – stay away from us!”

    — Steve

  8. “Documented instances and case studies suggest possible confusion between the spiritually advanced and schizophrenia patients. Clinical practice contains no clear guidelines on how to distinguish them.”

    Because there is no objective way to do so, nor will there ever be! The distinction is cultural and arbitrary, and comes from lumping people together based on what annoying behavior you want them to stop doing, rather than what might actually help them move through their current crisis.

    —- Steve

  9. Hi Dr. Brogan,

    Your refinement of approaches to terms and their referents is getting polished up, alright. And I hope it is paying in your private experiences, so you might keep determining the sticking points involved in getting difficult folks to accept responsibility for the things that happened to themselves, already. We definitely need to get on with our moments of recovery in steps and stages that include procedural acts of normalization in light of the reduced efficacy in our circumstances, once we suffer disfranchisement that complicates some psychosocial incapacitation. Obviously, you are proffering certain methods that you linger on more than others, and want your fellows in the allied mental health services to buck up their own standards of conduct from turning over the significant points of comparison and contrast, aiming at strategies that surpass causal theories of representation. Patients need to take their recovery opportunities as the chance to put their past, and any diagnostic labels they “got told”, into the hour glass dimension necessary for suiting the transitional perspectives that will align them in perfect measure with that completely arbitrary series of documentations. Pure pathognomic doxology deserves less than the time of day, really, of course. I want you to run the pharmaceutical houses, here, too, when you get the equipment and plans approved through Bob W.

  10. Of course 5 million people don’t actually have Bipolar. Most of us who have experienced trauma at some point are easily & readily mis-diagnosed with Bipolar much as I was. Also, our direct to consumer advertising wants us also to believe we are with all too happy psychiatrists ready to prescribe multiple drugs to treat it if not ECT on down the road after we’ve developed drug-induced ‘treatment resistant depression from being poly-drugged long-term. When was Bipolar considered a medical condition right next to diabetes and heart disease? Furthermore, where are the facts on how can medically prove this?

    ttp://www.hngn.com/articles/81058/20150330/bipolar-disorder-world-day-sets-out-inform-break-barriers-create.htm

    “Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness that represents a significant challenge to patients, health care workers, family members and our communities,” according to a press release from World Bipolar Day organizers. “While growing acceptance of bipolar disorder as a medical condition, like diabetes and heart disease, has taken hold in some parts of the world, unfortunately the stigma associated with the illness is a barrier to care and continues to impede early diagnosis and effective treatment.”

  11. I wonder how members of this community respond to the article in this week’s ( March 28, 2016) New Yorker Magazine by Siddhartha Mukherjee who describes how his brothers and uncles suffered with symptoms of what was diagnosed as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He goes on to discuss the work of two geneticists, Beth Stevens and Steve McCarroll, who have found a strong relationship between a gene labelled C4A and the behaviors described as “mental illness.”

    Mr. Mukherjee, who wrote “The Emperor of All Maladies” does I good job of showing that a group of genes is not the only cause of these behaviors, but that when these genes, C4A, are configured in a certain way, they create proteins that do more than the usual amount of pruning of the synapses in the parts of the brain that are associated with planning and cognition.

    He also talks about how difficult it is to separate the genetic differences in his brothers from who they are as people. He acknowledges that the current treatments for bipolar disorder are very unsuccessful, and that, even knowing that there is this genetic correlation, a better treatment is still very far off.

    What his article helps to show is that any “psychiatric” disorder, is really due to very complex causes. For years as a therapist, I have tried to show people that the causes of their distress comes from many factors. It may begin with a genetic vulnerability, such as being a more shy or more sensitive person, or it may even be the opposite, as being someone who is naturally more aggressive and less aware of other’s feelings. But these things all need the proper environment to shape different behaviors. That environment comes from the family and the community in which a person lives. Someone who may seem a bit different, but who was raised in a very accepting and supportive family may grow up to be very creative and happy, while a person with a very similar genetic profile, but in a more rigid, conforming family may suffer greatly and be burdened with several psychiatric labels.

    A family and community’s reaction to the genetic results of someone being gay, uncoordinated, dark skinned, shy or short may result in a life of suffering, or it may not turn out that way at all. All of our lives are shaped by the interaction of many forces. Our genetics is certainly one of them, but not the only one.

  12. As I discuss in “Self-Acceptance Psychology,” (www.SelfAcceptancePsychology.com), the “depression” and “mania” can be more parsimoniously and accurately understood to be over-reactions to the threat response (aka “fight-or-flight). Trauma, including attachment trauma, is very common in “schizophrenic” patients. Trauma increases hyper vigilance to and emotional reactivity to threat. Mania can be seen as this over-reaction, while depression is the opposite response, with the body and mind collapsing from an over-stimulation of stress.
    Fear is one of the most powerful emotions we experience and has wide-ranging effects on physiology, emotions, moods, attitudes, cognitions, and behaviors. Yet despite the volumes of research and factual evidence on the threat response and its tremendous primal influence on human emotions and physiology, the current disease model essentially ignores this fundamental fact when describing human behavior.
    Since all emotions are valuable responses, it makes one wonder: If fear is to be considered a “mental disorder,” then why is happiness not considered a “mental disorder”? It is time to reframe and de-stigmatize these mistaken, but commonly held, beliefs about emotions: Fear, and as a result schizophrenia, is not a “mental disorder.”

  13. I don’t think there’s anywhere near that many. When you get people together who truly meet the old school criteria for bipolar, the response is almost electric. More dramatic hand motions, maybe a little bounce while they converse. It’s freeing… To find someone who communicates on the emotional level (experience) that you do. It’s hard to explain. I think some people who don’t understand the full cost of a bipolar diagnosis tend to romanticize the label because of how many famous people or stories are associated with it. And psychiatrists are happy to diagnose them for their romantic notions as much as for actual symptoms. Psychiatry is a for profit organization.
    Even the generic terms used to describe bipolar disorder are intended to subjugate, create discrimination through misinformation, and most of all, cause insecurity and limitations. Selfish, narcissistic, grandiose, lacking empathy, impulsive irresponsible, a burden on society… So many talents and abilities are lost to the assumption of grandiosity. Every lawyer I know is grandiose. That doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent, skilled, and talented.
    I think the assumption of a genetic link isn’t medical at all but psychological. It’s about a lack of learned coping mechanisms that are seen in a lot of supposed psychological disorders. I just turned 39, and it is finally okay to like myself on occasion without feeling bad about it. I finally see positives in being like this… Like I am. These characteristics that seem so normal to me, but also mark me as other or abnormal to so many.
    On a side note, have you ever noticed that disappearing stigma is only ever remarked upon by those who haven’t experienced it anyway? People need to stop saying stigma. Call it what it is. Discrimination. Just because it’s socially acceptable or Sanism teaches that the mentally ill “deserve” it doesn’t mean we have to accept it. That term drives me crazy. Lol

  14. I have a question for anyone who feels they can answer it. What do you make of all these people who post on blogs or forums saying how all “bipolar” people are evil? Making comments like:

    “My wife was real evil cause she was bipolar. They’re all like that.”

    “I know two people that are bipolar, both as mean as snakes. Stay away from those bipolar people.”

    • FeelinDiscouraged, you made my day. I could not resist this–

      “What do you make of all these people who post on blogs or forums saying how all “bipolar” people are evil?”

      Honestly, I think there are a lot of ways to answer your question, there could be so many reasons that a person would need to believe something like this, such blatant stigma projected onto another. The media influences this in so many ways.

      Mainly, of course, what I feel is that they are simply not owning their own “evil,” which is to say, their shadow. There is something about themselves which they hate so much and feel such shame about that it is buried deep within and in know way are they willing to recognize and own, that they will find a way to project this onto another. And as we all know, people with DSM diagnoses are easy fodder, because they are already carrying stigma and negative self-beliefs thanks to the mental health system.

      So this is really bad stuff, I’m glad you brought it up. We all know it’s out there so it’s no surprise, but personally, I still find it unacceptable and actually, the ROOT of evil, to walk around and project these kinds of beliefs. That is what is killing our society.

      This is what also makes it impossible to live with a diagnosis and stay sane, ironically enough. That kind of treatment from society on the whole is so toxic, no human being could really withstand that. Certainly no one can heal in that kind of environment, and sadly, right now, that is the world at large, not just ‘the system.’ Although I think the system sets a terrible example, and actually influences this, with their own stigmatizing perspective.

      I believe this is what we’re trying so hard to figure out how to change, to WAKE UP humanity. Best way to awaken others is to awaken one’s self, first.

      Another answer is that they are ignorant as fuck.

        • Another thing to consider, Alex. This discrimination can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe the guy with the “bipolar” wife went around emotionally abusing her, calling her a “no-good crazy nut-job” and other lovely names. Maybe the two “bipolar friends” acted a little mean because of the Hell they had been through and were still going through!

          • Oh yes, that’s the pattern. Gaslighting, munchausen by proxy, etc. Extremely abusive and cruel, and all-too-common. This is how stigma is utilized to alienate people, and to encourage alienation. It’s hate speech, because they are announcing that people who are labeled with “bi-polar disorder” are ‘undesirable,’ so it’s ok to target them, it’s socially acceptable.

            And, indeed, being angry or snapping at someone, that is normal relationship stuff and it happens all over. Trauma makes us angry and can make us even feel mean at times, when we get triggered. Doesn’t mean anyone is either violent or evil, but tell that to an ignorant and paranoid society.

            Plus, I know how it goes–people poke and poke and poke, and when you get angry they capitalize on it. Obviously, it’s their rage to begin with, they are trying to transfer it outside of themselves by making OTHER people angry, so they don’t have to feel their own rage. The trick is to not identify with the projection, but that can be hard when one is flooded with these stigmatizing projections.

            When this happens, FeelinDiscouraged, it is always about the abuser, it’s really their issue. What they’re doing is trying to give that issue to another, that’s how certain people get stuck “carrying the ills of society.” Boundaries, separation, and perspective are really vital to learn, here, that’s the healing.

            And still, I agree, this is a huge problem. We can get away, but it stays with us, and it’s all over the place, this is the norm now, to gaslight people. It’s why there are a lot of terribly confused and disoriented people walking around now.

            I think it’s why expanding our consciousness is key, because otherwise, it is practically impossible to reconcile this. We need a new and broader perspective in which to put this into a context where the one receiving the abuse can actually grow from the experience, through healing, rather than to sink further into trauma from it.

            Thank you for bringing this up. I think you are asking a key question. This attitude is at the core of what has become a monumental problem in society, thanks to the terribly misguided field of mental health.

  15. Do 5.7 million people have bi-polar disorder? Absolutely not.

    Does any 1 person have bi-polar disorder? Better, if not entirely good, question.

    When I was in college manic depressive psychosis was described as a rare genetic condition. Now the bi-polar (updated manic depressive) label has overtaken the schizophrenia label in so far as numbers are concerned.

    How did this happen? Easy, as I always figured, as far as diseases go, this one is bogus. Much of what is described as bi-polar disorder is the result of illicit, or even licit, drug use, and equally rational explanations can be found, were one to look, for the rest of it.

    Harvard psychiatrist, and well-paid pharmaceutical company consultant, Joseph Biederman’s relabeling much ADHD as childhood bi-polar disorder certainly didn’t help matters much.

  16. I think now the Bipolar label includes what was once called Schizophrenia and on the less severe end problems that were once given milder diagnoses, or perhaps not even dealt with by Mental Health, Inc. at all.

    I think the growing number of “Bipolar” people/patients is also part of the growing medicalization of life itself, not just psychospiritual issues. Heart burn is acid reflux disease. Twitchy legs at night=restless leg syndrome. Not being able to keep up with insane work schedules qualifies one for a Provigil prescription. On and on it goes…

    …I do think Mental Health, Inc. is particularly terrible about labeling problems and people. Some of it is $$$, some of it is about power and control and class warfare, hiding behind “treatment.” SSI, in particular, has become The New Welfare, especially for people w/ psychiatric labels. The clinics that keep people on SSI have basically become pill pushing, psychiatric welfare case managers.

    I think things are worse in the US than elsewhere because all the $$$ wasted on Mental Health, Inc. aren’t actually wasted; its $$$ well-spent to keep ever increasing numbers of us in line and to stop any serious examination of what it is about our culture that makes so many people sick. I think one reason there’s the beginnings of a shift away from bio-bio-bio explanations of “Mental illness” is because Mental Health, Inc. has burned people with more education and resources. That sort of thing can have consequences.