Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that includes manic and depressive phases.  The depressive state can make people feel tired, depressed, and isolated, while manic states can make people paranoid, cause delusions, hallucinations, and emotional outbreaks.  People with this disorder can be diagnosed from a psychologist and given medications like antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax.  In American culture, illnesses that are categorized by subjective experiences are often misunderstood.  There are usually no real biological tests for mental illnesses, so the only way to diagnose these illnesses is through an individual’s experience with the illness.  Our society seems to respond more to objective, medicine based diagnoses and results, rather than subjective experiences of an illness.   Many people may think that mental illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder are just people being lazy and not caring.  For example, in this week’s lecture, it talks about how most Americans view Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) as a joke.  The MADtv video makes fun of RLS and the way we prescribe medicine to people with subjective illnesses.  Most people don’t really know what RLS is, but because of the name, jokes, and lack of any real objective evidence that this illness exists, most people or skeptical, and believe it is not a legitimate disorder.  This is the same with Bipolar disorder.  If our society in general doesn’t believe in mental illnesses, it can be very hard for individuals to acknowledge they have a disorder and need professional help.  Denying an illness like Bipolar disorder can make symptoms worse, and ruin careers and relationships. 

I think that our cultural misunderstanding of Bipolar disorder hurts its management and treatment.  If someone is having bipolar symptoms, they might deny these symptoms because friends and family will think they are crazy if they are diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.  There must be many people that refuse to get help because it will hurt relationships and their careers.  People with this disorder may need medication to deal with the bad symptoms, but many people will not see a doctor because they don’t want to be socially shunned. 

I think belief and healing are strongly connected.  I believe a positive attitude is necessary in healing.  I’ve had two uncles who have had cancer in the past decade.  One accepted that he had cancer, and decided to travel around the world, have fun, and often watched videos he watched as a child, like The Three Stooges, to make him laugh. He recovered from lung cancer in 2001 and is still around today.  My other uncle died in 2007 of colon cancer.  He had a very negative approach on the whole thing, and he became very depressed.  We let him stay at our house, and if we asked him if he wanted to go out for a walk or out to eat, he would always say things like, what’s the point, or there’s no point in exercising because I’m going to die soon anyways.  My uncle that had a positive view on his situation survived, while the one with a negative view died.  There is no evidence, and they had different types of cancer, but with evidence that placebos and a positive attitude actually work, I believe my uncle with lung cancer survived because of his positive attitude.  I liked the story of the antidepressant trial volunteer in the Placebo video.  She thought she was on active medication, but she was actually on a placebo.  It clearly shows that believing you can be healed, and having a positive attitude can actually heal people.  She is still feeling better because she has a positive attitude, and doesn’t need drugs.       

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Melissa Brown says:

    Hello Aaron! Your post about bipolar disorder was really interesting to me. You made a lot of valid points, but the one thing that I can definitely agree with is that most mental illnesses are diagnosed by subjective experiences. As far as my biomedical and culture perceptions of bipolar disorder, I believe that majority of clinicians feel that this illness is a result of an imbalance in the brain. I kind of feel that giving out medicine such as anti-depressants etc. does not help to treat the patient. As mentioned in lecture, most individuals believe that these meds are helping but more than likely it is their belief about the medicine and how it will work that determines if they are healed. The fact that individuals with bipolar disorder are usually diagnosed with this by a psychologist says a lot.

    My culture has helped to shape my perceptions about this illness. I honestly feel that this illness is a joke. Yes it is common for individuals to become depressed at times, happy or over joy, angry etc. But these are common mood swings for everyone, just because they may last for an extended amount of time does not mean this is a mental illness. My perceptions are largely influenced by family and friends. My family has always taught me that diagnosing someone with a mental illness is just a way to make them believe that the things they are experiencing are real. It is just another way for clinicians and therapist to earn money. In a sense they are justifying these illnesses in order for society to accept their behavior as social norms.

  2. Francesca says:

    I believe bipolar disorder to be a very serious and prevalent illness in the United States. In our society, such as my friends and family, I’ve heard people label others with having bipolar disorder in order to say that that person is moody or has many moods swings when in reality the person doesn’t have the disorder. A common phrase you hear is “Jeez, you’re so bipolar!”

    Bipolar disorder has many stereotypes in society, mainly the thought that people with bipolar disorder are “crazy” or that they cant control their emotions. Society plays a big role in this labeling, such as commercials on TV. Commercials label bipolar disorder to also be associated with depression and anxiety, when in reality; you could be bipolar without being depressed. Also, commercials show that being bipolar means your life is unmanageable, when many people manage to live a successful life with bipolar disorder.

    I perceive bipolar disorder to be a very serious illness that requires medication. I have heard of stories of people living with bipolar, they struggle to keep relationships healthy which in turn makes studying and working difficult. Also, many times bipolar disorder can lead to depression due to the outcomes of living with the untreated disorder.

  3. mackin24 says:

    I believe bipolar disorder is a very important disorder to understand. Biomedically, I believe there is a major imbalance of chemicals going on in the brain. Certain drugs are made to help these imbalances and control mood swings or episodes. Culturally I do not think that this disorder is recognized enough. Many people in our culture will just look at someone acting out and just say “they’re just crazy”. Because our culture does not like to take time to think, we often automatically just assume the person can control their actions. If our culture was further educated on the disorder I believe they would not be so quick to judge someone diagnosed. From my own understanding of bipolar disorder the patient can mentally not control their actions or episodes. They act on impulse to satisfy whatever their brain is telling them to do. Someone who is suffering from this disorder should not just be categorized as “crazy” by our culture, because the symptoms are a result of chemicals being released in their brain. These patients suffering from the disorder cannot control when these chemicals are released in their brain, just as a normal person can not. Therefore, I believe they should not be responsible for their behavior and outbursts.

    I believe friends; family, and social institutions may influence these negative perceptions about the disorder. Both family and social institutions expect a certain type of attitude to be maintained in certain settings. When people with bipolar disorder have episodes and can not control themselves their family and peers may be embarrassed. When family and social institutions are embarrassed the person suffering is often embarrassed, and may feel miniscule. There is a certain idea of how we should act and be day to day. Unfortunately, many people are not open minded and do not understand this disorder. It may also be hard for a person to make friends with bipolar disorder if their friends do not understand. Overall it seems to me that people may look at someone with bipolar disorder as being disabled, which is completely false. Once a person with bipolar disorder is on the right medications they can be a normal functioning part of society, and should never be looked down upon.

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