Stop Misusing the Term “Bipolar”

Jamie Hartmann
Web Content Manager/Staff Writer

PC: Wikipedia

I was standing in line at the EUC Starbucks last week, and two people in front of me were having what seemed to be an intense conversation. I tried to ignore most of their dialogue, but was surprised when I heard one of the people say this: “…she really is the most hateful person I have ever met, she has to be bipolar or something.”

I was appalled at what I had just heard. The idea that a person would assume that another person has a specific disability or disorder based off of the way that they outwardly act is incredibly wrong to me. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that I have heard this comparison. I have heard people call experiencing a lot of emotions  ‘bipolar’, or even comparing the weather to being ‘bipolar’.

According to WebMD, 78 percent of Americans do not know what the basics of bipolar disorder are, and 4 of 10 people could not name a single symptom of this illness.

Bipolar disorder is, according to the National Institute of Mental Health,
“​…also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.”

Bipolar Disorder (or BP for short) has three main types, being Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymia. These are associated with mania/hypomania and major depressive episodes, or sometimes mixed episodes. Manic episodes (or hypomanic episodes for Bipolar II) are often characterized by racing thoughts, a decreased need to sleep or eat, grandiosity, euphoria, irritability, and pressured speech. Major depressive episodes include extreme loss of energy, increased sleeping and/or eating, suicidal ideation, and an inability to focus. This becomes extremely complicated when the episodes mix. One common way that this has been described is as being, ‘Tired but Wired’. BP is almost always treated with psychotherapy and medication. Bipolar Disorder is far more than just mood-swings, and assuming otherwise is flat-out incorrect.

What makes matters worse is that BP has an incredible stigma around it. People with BP are often seen as unpredictable, unsuccessful, incapable, angry or hateful. This is incredibly demeaning to a person who actually struggles with having BP. Just as calling a person with depression ‘lazy’ or a person with a learning disorder ‘slow’ is not morally right, calling a person with BP ‘emotional’ or ‘psychotic’ is not right either.

It is estimated by the National Institute of Mental Health that 2.8 percent of Americans age 18 and over have had BP, and an estimated 4.4 percent have had or will have BP in their lifetime. Of this, 51 percent  of people with a BP diagnostic go untreated each year. It is also estimated by the National Center for Biotechnology Information that 25-60 percent of people with a BP diagnosis will attempt suicide, and 4-19 percent of people with a BP diagnosis actually do commit suicide.

If the weather is acting up, describe it as unreasonable for the season, not bipolar. If a person is acting emotional, describe them as ‘capricious’, not bipolar. Even if a person has a BP diagnosis, they still have no right to label another person as acting ‘bipolar’. Everyone is going through different things and are on their own journey, and judging another person on their actions alone is not okay.

As a society we need to become more educated on mental health, and we need to view it as a vast category of legitimate illnesses. It is a scientific fact that the brain is an organ, just like the liver or pancreas are organs. And just as one can have diseases or disorders with their liver or pancreas, one can have diseases or disorders with their brain.

Please, for the improvement of yourself and society, stop misusing the term ‘bipolar’.

Categories: Opinions

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