Jill Littrell at Mad in America writes about the epidemic of bipolar diagnosis and questions the legitimacy of expanding the diagnosis back in 1994. It’s worth a read, especially if you’re new to these ideas.
Of course, the consequences of being wrong in diagnosing a person as Bipolar are steep. The drugs for Bipolar have serious side effects. Lithium has been estimated to destroy kidneys in about 12% over a 20 year period (Presne et al., 2003). Atypical antipsychotics will shrink the cortex taken over a two year period (Ho et al., 2011). Anticonvulsants can cause damage to the liver and pancreas and induce depression (PDR). Then there is the issue of potential withdrawal symptoms when you discontinue the medications. These dangers are not trivial. The practice of diagnosing Bipolar is now epidemic. The label will probably shorten the lives of many people who would otherwise be resilient in the face of adversity. (read more)
I unfortunately know many people who have succumbed to such iatrogenesis. I regularly lost clients this way when I practiced social work. It’s devastating and heartbreaking. Some of these people are dead, grossly prematurely. And not by suicide. Nope it was, kidney failure, cardiac arrest caused by the complications of massive weight gain and diabetes from anti-psychotics…etc…People who should be alive today had they not taken toxic medications for so long.
I would also ask what is Bipolar 1? (In the article I link to above Jill Littrell looks at the history of Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2, which she argues are not even etiologically related.) Bipolar 1 is the “classic” manic depression. Some think that is the only real bipolar. But, really, I ask, should anything with the Bipolar 1 label be treated with long-term psychotropics in any case? There is a lot of evidence that suggests it makes no sense at all.
Robert Whitaker found studies that indicated that before psychopharmaceutical treatments even the more extreme behavior that gets labeled as bipolar seemed to run its course in most people suggesting maintenance long-term treatment with neurotoxic drugs is over-kill pretty much always.
A. Bipolar Illness Before the Psychopharmacology Era
Prior to 1955, bipolar illness was a rare disorder. There were only 12,750 people hospitalized with that disorder in 1955. In addition, there were only about 2,400 “first admissions” for bipolar illness yearly in the country’s mental hospitals.
Outcomes were relatively good too. Seventy-five percent or so of the first-admission patients would recover within 12 months. Over the long-term, only about 15% of all first-admission patients would become chronically ill, and 70% to 85% of the patients would have good outcomes, which meant they worked and had active social lives.
B. Gateways to a Bipolar Diagnosis
Today, bipolar illness is said to affect one in every 40 adults in the United States. A rare disorder has become a very common diagnosis. There are several reasons for this. First, many drugs–both illicit and legal–can stir manic episodes, and thus usage of those drugs leads many to a bipolar diagnosis. Second, the diagnostic boundaries of bipolar illness have been greatly broadened.
In a review of 87,290 patients diagnosed with depression or anxiety between 1997 and 2001, those treated with antidepressants converted to bipolar illness at the rate of 7.7% per year, which was three times the rate for those not exposed to the drugs. click here for links to numerous studies
God knows I don’t seem to have anything resembling a mood-disorder anymore (I was diagnosed after a recreational drug reaction) and I took potent neurotoxins for 2 decades that rendered me physically disabled the last 5 years…for what?
The doctor I now work with has in fact undiagnosed me of bipolar and any other psychiatric illness. See here for where I cut and paste his letter that states I have no psychiatric disorder, but only iatrogenesis (medically induced illness) from psychiatric medications.
I too, undiagnosed myself a long time ago. See Undiagnosing Myself.
We need to make some changes because we’re seeing a “new holocaust” happen as Grainne Humphry spoke about in this interview when she speaks of the destruction of her partner and the father of her son. It sounds hyperbolic, but it’s not, I’m afraid. I know far too many people who have been gravely harmed. Thousands now. It’s just largely invisible to those outside this world because people are in denial.