Bipolar, Bipolar Mixed Episode, Critical Psychiatry, Hypomania, Mania, Mental Health, Mental Health Treatment, Social Media

Bipolar is “not an illness“, all psychiatry is bad….

This blog entry marks the beginning of my effort to fiercely stand up for and defend those of us who are ridiculed and/or invalidated when we see our mental health problems as an illness. We’re categorically told we’re wrong. There’s no evidence. No validity. Psychiatry is all evil etc etc.

It’s ‘just a label‘. And perhaps, maybe, “we’re invested in it”.

Let me start by stating I am NOT medical model positioned. You know, that whole faulty brain, chemical imbalance, meds are cure, it can be fixed bollocks, diagnosis is perfect, trauma etc doesn’t mean a thing blah blah.. in fact that model, as far as I’m concerned went out decades ago, much to the well publicised argument that it is just that being promoted largely by critical psychologists and psychiatrists who for some reason have an agenda to lure people into believing this is so. That motive is another blog or 10 in itself… My stance is written here in my recovery paper.

I used to think that such critical views were pretty much limited to the everyday public and the likes of Thomas Szasz in the last century. The kinds demonstrated through the things our well meaning family or friends may say or others who have never learned about mental health problems. “It’s all in your head” etc etc. The issues that became the driving force behind public stigma bashing campaigns such as Time to Change and so on. Or, finally, the perspectives held by others experiencing their distress as something other than illness and which is perfectly just as valid as those otherwise.

The point is it’s individual to us people experiencing it and that is absolutely right, as it should be.

Our lives. Our experiences. We’re the only truth of the matter.

Boy was I wrong. I joined twitter. I thought that everyone could make a difference to improving care, improving lives by listening to each other, working together, despite our unique differences. That is natural to me and is the focus of the nursing degree curricula.

It became apparent that this isn’t happening anywhere near what I’d expected. I like to see the overall picture. To discuss meanings respectfully. That my experience, whilst may be vastly different to another’s, would be accepted as valid, not *wrong*. Not to be *proved* otherwise. I don’t tell people how they feel is wrong and I most certainly don’t expect others to do so to me. Aren’t we always referred to these days as ‘experts by experience’? We even have that as an acronym! EBE!

The people I’m primarily aggrieved about are the so called professionals. I get it completely that some of my fellow EBE’s are anti-psychiatry because they’ve clearly had awful experiences with psychiatry (contrary to somes belief I have had some too as per other blog entries – a couple here and here) but it doesn’t excuse being rude to others. But the ‘professionals’, just NO. NO. It is damaging when they do it.

An example is below from a behavioural psychologist called Phil Hickey. He is one of many writing for the mad in America critical psychiatry group website and has written about bipolar disorder not being real. When I read his piece, which can be found here, I contacted him and we agreed I would write my views to his individual articles addressing his views on the concept of mental illness. So this is a bit in response to a snippet of his bipolar article.

Dear Phil

Please can you provide comment as discussed? I’ll be covering more but this part in particular hurt deeply and I didn’t want to hang around.

Your extract:

Bipolar criteria for diagnosis:

3. more talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking

You say:

“We’ve all encountered individuals who talk too much – who hog the conversation. This phenomenon is best conceptualized as rudeness, i.e. a disregard for the normal conventions that direct social intercourse. This particular form of rudeness is usually the result of poor training during childhood. Small children sometimes talk excessively and try to dominate social relationships in this way. If steps are not taken to train them towards a more give-and-take approach to conversation, they often carry this trait into adult life.”

I have been diagnosed with bipolar type 1 (will refer to as ‘we and us’). Your idea above asserting that talkativeness and pressure to do so is due to rudeness and usually childhood training absolutely makes no sense. Why?

Firstly, bipolar is all about ‘episodes’. Episodes are just that. Periods. Discrete periods. Not a ‘trait’. Traits are enduring. Personalities remain fairly static. With bipolar, an episode is an uncharacteristic period of ‘marked’ deviation from ‘usual’ state. ‘Usual’ personality.

I’ll use myself as an example but from my years of direct clinical experience with people with this unfortunate diagnosis I can resolutely state that we are for the best part of our lives not at all rude or what you think we are.

I have been brought up in an upper class family mixed with bloody decent working class family members who are loving, nurturing, humble, highly successful, popular human beings. None of us are rude, none of us look down on ppl unlike too many self professed middle class thinking their upper and better than anyone else I.e snobs. Urgh.

I am naturally gentle, kind, forgiving, humble, don’t display pomposity despite my privileged roots that I could ‘show off’ about. I’m just an ant amongst billions of unimportant ants in this world…

People matter to me. Other people. Not me.

I put everyone else before me to my detriment. I’m the quiet one who listens to everyone else. Helps others. The ‘go to’ person. Reliable because I care and support and give advice as appropriate.

But here’s the thing…

I have what is currently known as bipolar. I don’t much care for classifications being proven, accurate 100%, professional opinions from all these disciplines that want to argue. It’s not helpful. It’s harmful. However the fact is the outward distress/issues/lack of functioning/problems/behaviours/physical signs/mental states are very much unified experiences unique to us ppl with this diagnosis. FACT.

I am me. A person. A person who experiences the ‘list’ at times. It’s not the fibre of my being. But I go through that. Periodically. And it’s painful. That’s NOT me. I have no vested interest in using the term ‘bipolar’ to explain ‘me’. It’s not a label. It’s what happens. To me and to others when unwell.

When I am not ‘me’ I am all the disgusting descriptions you portray of me. I talk non stop. I don’t understand that this is beyond the scope of social boundaries. I have no control. I’m scared. My mind contains 1000’s thoughts in any moment. Things pour out.

I am not me.

Then I get better.

I’m ashamed. Embarrassed. Much of what’s occurred I can’t recall.

This is just one ‘symptom’ amongst others at the time. Not stand alone. None of them ‘ME’.

And I have to live with that.

I have been abused in that state. I have been in danger.

Then I go back to work. Or if I can’t manage that, being a mum with support workers. People who truly care, who have my best interests at heart there. Normal. I’m back to the usual polite, me.

And luckily I’m alive.

But I’m scared.

Scared for the next time.

Scared for my family.

And scared that people such as yourselves make us feel so bad, so fake, so invalidated and so ashamed that maybe next time we won’t present to services.

So that’s me done for now. Back soon, B x

UPDATE: Here is the reply from Phil Hickey that I’ve yet to reply to:

Aretaeus,

Thank you for coming in.

I’m not sure if you’re inviting me to comment on the post that you’ve written (Bipolar is “not an illness”, all psychiatry is bad…), or on the material after “Dear Phil”, so, if you have no objection, I’ll start at the top and comment on both, taking the material in the order presented.

In fact, I’d like to go back further – to a tweet that you put up on June 8, in response to Truthman 30:

“Really? I thought it was a good analogy OK put simply then, he clearly has no clue. I am an expert, not him & he will never possess even a smidge of that knowledge. EBE. Were psychiatric drugs around before 1950? Am I a fraud? Are children capable of being fraudulent beings?”

From the context it is clear that the word “he” refers to me, and if I understand you correctly, you are saying that I have “no clue” on the matters in question, and that you, in contrast, are an “expert by experience”.

I would, of course, never understate the value or importance of personal experience, but it can lay little claim to being the final arbiter of truth or reality. Our experience tells us without a shadow of doubt that the Sun rises each morning in the East, crosses the sky, and sets in the West. But we know from science and logic that this is not so, and that the illusion is a function of the Earth’s rotation. In addition, our personal experiences are routinely mediated through our biases and prejudices, and seldom alert us to realities t hat we might consider unflattering. Our experiences are the raw data which, when scrutinized through the twin lenses of logic and scientific methodology, can lead us to the truth. Science and logic contain built-in bias protection, and are more reliable pointers to reality than our raw personal experiences.

The personal experience issue is often raised in these debates by psychiatry’s adherents. But it is used selectively. People who choose to conceptualize their behavioral/emotional problems as illnesses tend to be receptive of psychiatric pronouncements that promote these notions, even though the psychiatrists in question seldom have personal experience of the problems in question. But professionals who challenge the psychiatric orthodoxy are rejec ted as inexperienced, and therefore unknowledgeable, or, as in your reference to me, have “no clue”. It’s a bit like a politician referring to any media article with which he disagrees as “fake news”.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

On to your August 10 post.

“This blog entry marks the beginning of my effort to fier cely stand up for and defend those of us who are ridiculed and/or invalidated when we see our mental health problems as an illness.”

I don’t think you will find anything in my writings that ridicules or invalidates anybody.

Then

“Let me start by stating I am NOT medical model positioned.”

In fact, you have already started by intimating very clearly that you do subscribe to the medical model. In the context of “bipolar disorder”, the notion that the loose collection of vaguely defined thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in question constitute an illness is the medical model. The spurious chemical imbalance theory was promoted avidly by mainstream and leadership psychiatrists (see my post Psychiatry DID Promote the Chemical Imbalance Theory. Your contention that the chemical imbalance theory was promoted by “critical psychologists and psychiatrists” to “lure people into believing this is so” strikes me as bizarre. As to the relevance or otherwise of “trauma, etc.”, there is absolutely no doubt that the psychiatric leadership did promote cause neutrality in every diagnostic manual since DSM-III (1980). Even the bereavement exclusion was eliminated in DSM-5 (2013) (Please see my post Elimination of the Bereavement Exclusion: History and Implications.)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“The people I’m primarily aggrieved about are the so-called professionals. I get it completely that some of my fellow EBE’s are anti-psychiatry because they’ve clearly had awful experiences with psychiatry (contrary to somes belief I have had some too as per other blog entries – a couple here… and here…) but it doesn’t excuse being rude to others. But the ‘professionals’, just NO. NO. It is damaging when they do it.

An example is bel ow from a behavioural psychologist called Phil Hickey. He is one of many writing for the mad in America critical psychiatry group website and has written about bipolar disorder not being real.”

I have never stated, or even implied, that “bipolar disorder is not real”. What I have stated, clearly and repeatedly, is that the loose collection of vaguely defined thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that psychiatrists call bipolar disorder does not constitute an illness. But the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are real.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Your idea above asserting that talkativeness and pressure to do so is due to rudeness…”

I have never said anything of the sort, and you have missed the point. What I have stated is that the excessive talkativeness which the APA spuriously present as a symptom of an illness is best conceptualized as rudeness. Rudeness is not an explanation. Rather, it is a description. If I say that an individual who is talking excessively and hogging the conversation is rude, I have not explained t he behavior in question. I have not stated, or even implied, that the behavior in question is due to, or caused by rudeness. I have simply offered a description: that the behavior in question represents a disregard for, or deviation from, the normal conventions of social intercourse. The distinction between a description and an explanation is critical, and psychiatry routinely blurs this distinction.

Consider the hypothetical conversation:

Parent: Why does my son talk excessively, get so distracted, and blow his money on things he doesn’t need?

Psychiatrist: Because he has an illness called bipolar disorder.

Parent: How do you know he has this illness?

Psychiatrist: Because he talks excessively, gets so distracted, and blows his money on things he doesn’t need.

The only evidence for the putative illness is the very behavior that it purports to explain. In effect, the psychiatrist is saying nothing more than: your son talks excessively, is easily distracted, and blows his money, because he talks excessively, is easily distracted, and blows his money. The nonsensical circularity of this is concealed by the phrasing, but because the biological pathology of this putative illness has never been identified, much less linked to all the individuals to whom psychiatry has assign ed this label, the “diagnosis” is just that: a descriptive label, and a destructive, disempowering label at that. The phrase “because he has an illness called bipolar disorder” has no explanatory value or significance. Nevertheless, it is routinely presented by psychiatrists as if it were an explanation, and is in fact an integral part of the psychiatric hoax.

I have discussed this issue throughout my website. If you are interested, please search for “hypothetical conversation”.

The simple fact of the matter is that a person who hogs the conversation in a soc ial context is being rude. The behavior in question falls within the definition of rudeness. It’s difficult to understand why you are so resistant to this clear and accurate descriptor. Your position, if I understand it correctly, seems to be that the behavior in question should not be considered rude because it is “episodic”; that the label rude should not be applied because it does not happen all the time. But I never said that it happens all the time. The point is irrelevant. Hogging conversations is rude. Whether it happens once a day or once a year is irrelevant. When it happens, the person is being rude; when it doesn’t happen, he/she is not being rude.

You might be interested in a recent entry in the Tell Your Story section of this site.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“I have what is currently known as bipolar. I don’t much care for classifications being proven, accurate 100%, professional opinions from all these discipl ines that want to argue. It’s not helpful. It’s harmful. However the fact is the outward distress/issues/lack of functioning/problems/behaviours/physical signs/mental states are very much unified experiences unique to us ppl with this diagnosis. FACT.”

Actually, what is “currently known as bipolar” as defined in the APA’s “diagnostic” manual (DSM) requires the presence of three or more behaviors from a list of seven. Simple mathematics tells us that we can draw 99 different combinations of 3 or more from a list of seven. I can readily concede that there will be a measure of overlap in these presentations, but it is equally obvious that there is enormous variation. An individual who is behaving in a grandiose fashion, coupled with excessive talk and sleeples sness, bears little resemblance to a person who is distractible, engaging in sexual indiscretions, and displaying purposeless non-goal directed activity. Yet, according to DSM-5 (2013), each of these individuals qualifies for a “diagnosis” of bipolar disorder, provided certain vaguely defined thresholds of impact, severity, and deviation from usual behavior are met. So psychiatry’s so-called bipolar disorder is not the “very much unified experience” that you claim.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“I am me. A person. A person who experiences the ‘list’ at times. It’s not the fibre of my being. But I go through that. Periodically. And it’s painful. That’s NOT me. I have no vested interest in using the term ‘bipolar’ to explain ‘me’. It’s not a label. It’s what happens. To me and to others when unwell.”

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that when you are “unwell”, i.e. ill, you engage in the activities on the list. And – again if I understand you correctly – that it is this putative illness that causes you to behave in these ways. The problem with this, however, is that despite decades of lavishly-funded and highly motivated research, nobody has identified the illness in question. Nobody has managed to identify the actu al pathology that causes these aberrant behaviors. So your assertions in this regard are unsubstantiated, and perhaps it’s time to look for alternative explanations.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“When I am not ‘me’ I am all the disgusting descriptions you portray of me.”

I have never characterized yo u or your actions as disgusting, and I never would.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

My only agenda in all of this is to expose psychiatry’s destructive, self-serving and disempowering hoax. I spent my career (I’m now retired) in the deep trenches of the psychiatric stronghold – community mental health centers, prisons, jails, addiction units, nursing homes, etc. I have seen first-hand the damage and destruction wrought by psychiatrists’ spurious and disempowering diagnoses, and their rampant drugging. There is no facet of the psy chiatric hoax with which I am not closely familiar. On more occasions than I could count, I have helped hapless victims of psychiatry come to terms with incurable and dreadfully disfiguring tardive dyskinesia and unbearable akathisia from decades of ingesting neuroleptic drugs. I have helped, or tried to help, people come to terms with the fact that they couldn’t remember the births of their children because of high voltage electric shocks to the brain. I have helped people deal with the chronic joylessness that comes from extended use of so-called antidepressant medication. And I have helped people address habits of rudeness, irresponsibility, and self-centeredness.

On my site I have written extensively on almost every aspect of psychiatry. Feel free to browse around . Search for the words “bipolar”, “ADHD”, “major depressive disorder”, etc. If you’re interested in genuine discussion, leave a comment and I’ll get back as soon as I can. I’m old and sick, so sometimes it takes me a while.

If you just want to come on here to register your disagreement and berate me, that’s fine too. Unlike most pro-psychiatry sites, I don’t censor dissenting comments.

3 thoughts on “Bipolar is “not an illness“, all psychiatry is bad….”

  1. Thank you for sharing. I have stayed out of Twitter debates around the illness topic for last few months, it was actually triggering me downwards as I felt my depression was invalid. For me diagnosis was helpful, as are medication along with compassion focused therapy. But that was me – I echo what you say, what works for me may not work for others. And I can only talk about my experience. The conflicts and personal attacks by professionals on Twitter are a disgrace. I now focus on spreading awareness of CFT and stick to what I know – me. That extract on rudeness – unbelievably insensitive and actually, downright rude. Thanks for sharing, take care. Chris

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Aretaeus,

    What I actually wrote on Twitter was: “…if you would like to discuss or debate anything I have written, please leave a comment on the relevant post on my website, Behaviorism and Mental Health, and I will respond as soon as possible, usually within 2-3 weeks.”

    The reason that I ask for comments to be sent in this way is that I have written more than 500 posts, and when comments are posted elsewhere, it’s not always clear which post is being referenced. Additionally, it makes it easier for me to find and refer back to the post under discussion.

    So if you would please copy your article into the appropriate comment string on my site, I will indeed be happy to respond.

    Phil Hickey

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Phil,

      Yes I realise you said this to me after I posted but subsequently didn’t see it a problem. I did link to the post in question as I’m sure you’ll notice. However, I will cut and paste to your site.

      Best wishes

      Jem

      Like

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