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.