What People Get Wrong About Bipolar

Yahoo! Health published an article entitled “What People Get Wrong About Bipolar Disorder”. Unfortunately, the article gets quite a few things wrong. The damage is done – Yahoo! Health has a much, much bigger audience than my little blog – but I’ll try to explain the inaccuracies anyway.

It’s strange to see Amelia Davis, MD, the medical director at Rosewood Ranch in Wickenburg, Arizona, get things wrong. But then, during my hospital stint I met a psychiatric nurse, a man around 60 who looked like he’s been working there for a while, who explained to me that “sometimes he gets depressed too, but then he just pulls himself up by the bootstraps and all is well again”. You’d think he’d know what depression is. You’d be wrong. Also, I have a strong suspicion that it’s mostly not Dr Davis that gets things wrong, but the journalist.

Now, without further ado, let’s look at the article.

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Question: Is my girlfriend bipolar?

Hello and sorry about a break in posting. My bipolar was acting up (I’m sure you can relate). I’m back though, with a question from a reader:

Hi, I would like some advice. My girlfriend Jane [name changed] is showing symptoms of bipolar. I think she’s hypomanic (but I am not a doctor). I’m scared, confused and I don’t know what to do. Could you give me some information? Most of all, what can I do as her boyfriend, and how to help rather than harm?

Lost in Miami

Dear Lost,

I’m not a doctor either but here are my thoughts.

First of all, symptoms resembling hypomania do not have to mean bipolar disorder. They can also be a sign of thyroid problems (I found this hard to believe for a long time until I met a few people who, indeed, exhibited all symptoms of bipolar, only to find out they had malfunctioning thyroid). They can also feature in other illnesses, such as borderline, schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia. Only a professional can give you a clear diagnosis.

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