Feb 2, 2015

"Bipolar Is Like The Latest Fad"

    From Media Matters:
Fox News Radio host Tom Sullivan told a caller who said she suffered from bipolar disorder that her illness is "something made up by the mental health business" and just "the latest fad." When the caller told Sullivan that she "would not be alive today" if she hadn't received mental health treatment, Sullivan wondered if "maybe somebody's talked you into feeling and thinking this way." 
Sullivan, who is also a frequent Fox Business contributor and guest anchor, began his January 28 program by complaining that people with mental illness have figured how to "game the system" by receiving disability benefits. "They're mostly government employees and they know how to do it," he added. Sullivan also defended Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) controversial and false statement that "Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts." ... 
"I've got to tell you, if you haven't been told, I will tell you. I think bipolar is like the latest fad. Everybody and their brother is getting diagnosed with bipolar. And last time I checked, we all have good days and we all have bad. And I don't consider that an illness. And I don't consider it a disability." 
He added that bipolar disorder is "something made up by the mental health business just to be able to give people prescriptions and keep them coming in, and keeping you -- paying them money." ... 
     We can hope that Mr. Sullivan isn't much of an opinion maker but there's no doubt that his views are already shared by many people. The problem I face on a regular basis is that his views are shared by many who are themselves suffering from serious mental illness. Even though their lives are severely disrupted by mental illness, they do not believe that they could be mentally ill because they don't believe that mental illness is real or because they believe that real mental illness could only be something vastly more severe than what they suffer. In the most extreme cases, individuals who are at a high suicide risk or who are actively hallucinating or delusional will consider it ridiculous when I and others attempt to persuade them to get under psychiatric care. For that matter, Mr. Sullivan sounds a little delusional himself.


Anonymous said...

I suppose we should thank Mr. Sullivan and Rand Paul for so quickly and convincingly identifying themselves as ignorant on the subject of disability. Sometimes it takes awhile before you can figure that out about a person.

Anonymous said...

I talked about this with a younger psychiatrist a few years ago.

The problem is that bipolar disorder *has* been overdiagnosed, so that you have people with a limited education and poor coping skills being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Their problem is that they have a limited education and poor coping skills, not that they have bipolar disorder.

However, this gives people with actual bipolar disorder a bad reputation.

I think people like Sullivan need to be exposed to people who are having a true manic episode.

It's memorable.

Anonymous said...

Conservatives spend half their time complaining that mentally ill people need to be locked up in mental institutions (when the subject is a mass shooting by a mentally ill person) and the other half complaining that there is no such thing as mental illness (when the subject is disability). Which is it?

Anonymous said...

I agree that I think a lot of mental conditions are over diagnosed today. I'm not doubting there are people with severe mental conditions that need help, I've seen them in person. However, I do believe mental illness is used a crutch for many, who as noted above by another poster, have below average coping skills.
I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder about 10 years ago. The medication definitely helped me control my emotions but I stopped taking it because it made me feel like a zombie. I don't take medication anymore. I changed my whole lifestyle and structured it to give me a fairly predictable daily routine. I tried to learn what can trigger mood swings and try to avoid them. I did this on my own and while not perfect or always successful, I've managed to make it and so far. Never even considered disability as an option for myself.
People are all different but one thing I strongly believe is that enough people do not take charge of their own lives and make changes. This goes beyond mental illness and could be about anything, overeating, drinking, drugs etc.
We have become too quick to obsolve people of taking responsibility for their own lives, whether the condition is their own choice or beyond their control.

Anonymous said...

10:51 -- good for you that you were able to overcome mental illness, I was too. But what you need to understand is that not everyone has that skill set or the environmental conditions to do so. Its called "resilience" and not everyone has it. What should we do with people who suffer from mental illness and can't bounce back? Cut off their benefits and throw them out on the street?

Anonymous said...

I never said everyone was able to do what I did. However, I not everyone with it needs to be encouraged to file for disability either. That is what our culture has become. The onus is off the individual and on society. That's dangerous Bd I think we're witnessing the results with our children. As with most things in life, this is a microcosm of the bigger issues MO one wants to address.
If I did it and you did it, there's hope.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that if anyone makes a comment that indicates a change in the system, liberals equate that with throwing people off if benefits and on the street?
I understand some right leaning people make ridiculous comments on the other side, but why follow that up with your own stupidly ridiculous comment opposing it? Productive? This is why the left and right both destroy everything for anyone in the middle. There's no voice for compromise.

Anonymous said...

1:54, google "mental illness" "release from institutions" Reagan 1980(s) or something like that and you will see why.

1:49, I agree that there can be a rush to dib based on mental illness in certain situations, but there are a lot of mentally ill people out there who truly need help. But, like you said, there is hope.

Anonymous said...

Again, do we need to play the blame game? I don't care if it was Reagan or Clinton or anyone in between. We have a problem...what can we do to address correcting it? It appears to me that awarding people money to stay home from work is not the answer. Are there effective medical treatments? Why not require medical treatments as a condition for monetary benefits?

Anonymous said...


Compromising with Sullivan's statement and views would unfortunately not work. Saying that bipolar disorder is not real is kind of like saying the world is flat. In both cases we know the statement is wrong. We know because there is a vast body of science proving it.

Compromising with a demonstrably false view only leads to more error. It would be like saying, you think the world is flat, and these pictures show it is roughly round, but we'll compromise with you and call it a square. Still wrong.

Anonymous said...

Right into the trap. I never said his comments were right, wrong or indifferent. I never even addressed his comments at all actually. I was addressing the broader topic of ignoring issues because some nut (right or left leaning) makes a comment and then someone else feels the need to refute the ridiculous comment with one of their own.
It's a poor reflection on an individual that allows someone else to do their thinking for them. Mr Sullivan gets paid to give hid opinion. There are many like him on both sides of the debate. I'm sure there are lots of people, left and right, that take these talking heads as the gospel. What it should do is spark the person to research the topic discussed and try and make an informed decision for themselves, not just repeat what they've heard.
Next we'll be saying the people who just repeat the rhetoric are disabled because they can't think for themselves, lol.

Gayle Myrna said...

I have been close to several people with bipolar disease, one I was married to. It is a devastating condition and it led to the suicide of my late husband and the suicide of a friend. My husband would've benefited greatly if he had been on Social Security Disability...but he felt the bureau would reject his claim because he looked very healthy. He also had severe chronic pain from a number back injuries. The friend who took her life was on SSD, but was extremely frightened that an upcoming review would oust her from the program, denying her her only income. Another bipolar friend has done well. He was able to get on SSI, takes his meds, goes to therapy. He no longer works, but has creative outlets and is a talented artist and musician. But he too had several suicide attempts, before getting approved for SSI about 10 years ago. So when I hear ignorant politicians talking stupidly about this condition, I become livid with anger. It is a REAL and life altering disease...and for some, very difficult to treat. Perhaps this politician should educate himself before opening his mouth. His lack of compassion is astounding.

Anonymous said...

Compassion for someone with the condition is a great thing. If disability payments are supposed to be lifetime support, then maybe they're successful. If they're intended to get people help and to allow them to be productive, then I think they're a failure. I would much rather see the program focus on medical treatments and work incentives rather than cash benefits. Give people the resources they need to try and be successful.
The program as instituted is destined to fail longterm. If we don't want people left without any help at all we have to find a way to make it viable.

Anonymous said...

This hits pretty close to home for me.

My mother was bipolar (we called it manic depression in those days) and it is a real and debilitating condition. There were not many treatments back then so my mother had the old type electro shock therapy (now called ECT). During periods of remission, my mother was very capable of holding down a job. However, job stress was a trigger and she lost quite a few jobs as a result. I think her longest period of employment was 4-5 years and this was with a very understanding boss.

She did not have the luxury of staying home as her earnings were needed, to help support our family. She never filed for disability benefits because we did not know anything about these benefits. Additionally, there was a stigma in those days about being on government benefits.

@10:51 AM - I'm glad you were able to control your depression but many cannot do what you did. What you did is laudable but I don't think it is typical. I know that lots of people think depression is just a matter of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps but I can tell you from personal experience that seriously depressed people have trouble getting out of bed. This Sullivan guy making light of this condition is outrageous.

Gayle Myrna: Thank you for your comment.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see if there is a backlash to what appears to be the conservative attack on people with disabilities. Examples like Rand Paul's statements, and Sullivan's "Bipolar isn't real" argument are painting conservatives as against people with disabilities. The misinformation about disability programs coming from the right wing (Coburn, Issa and others), with the obvious intent to cut assistance to people with disabilities, are further examples.

There are few Americans who don't have at least some friends or family members with disabilities. By branding themselves as anti-disability with examples like those listed above, won't the conservatives risk offending many moderates who might have otherwise have considered voting for them?

Anonymous said...

I agree that making statements that appear to be "anti-disability" or against any disadvantaged group is rarely a wise move. However, I think making statements on the other side of the argument that make the situation seem hopeless for that group is also not wise. It may get you votes, and if that's your goal, then fine. But if your goal is to really help people improve the quality of their life, both sides fail miserably.

JudithakaJutta said...

As a facilitator of support groups and a volunteer as well as a BP consumer I feel qualified to comment that whoever this Sullivan is- He is ignorant!
I was on disability for a year and was able to re-integrate into the working world and have been employed for 12 years since. I credit my daughter's willingness to educate herself to better help me. Good care and support groups such as DBSA and NAMI are the lifeline for so many with Mood Disorders and their loved ones.
Mr. Sullivan may be among the undiagnosed.
Judith Sturm

TheRiverFinn said...

While I do not believe that bipolar disorder is a myth, I do believe that it is widely misdiagnosed...or at the very least, patients that are given the diagnosis, be it "certain" or "provisional," are not given a proper explanation as to what the disorder entails.

A mother and her three daughters, all proudly announcing out loud that they were bipolar, were trying to buy some medical alert jewelry from a pharmacy. They did not understand when the pharmacy employee explained that there is not a medical alert for something like bipolar...that it's for things like blood disorders, rare blood types, drug allergies, seizures, and so on.

Other people assume having an up mood then a down mood is bipolar. I think instances like that take away from the seriousness of the illness.

Anonymous said...

I think if people were willing to acknowledge that mood swings are natural for humans, much of the shame of bipolar disease could be eliminated, along with much if the disease itself.

Anonymous said...

There is an assumption in these posts that a diagnosis of bi-polar (or any other diagnosis) somehow results in receiving disability benefits. It may be misdiagnosed or over diagnosed (I would not quarrel with those who say ADHD is overdiagnosed in children). It does not follow that any significant percentage of those diagnosed with the condition receive benefits. As anyone familiar with Social Security knows, diagnosis of a particular disease and entitlement to benefits are two very different things.

Anonymous said...

Bipolar has been overdiagnosed. It seems kind of like fibromyalgia for the mental health professionals. If they can't find a cause, let's state bipolar. But usually this person has something else that is not diagnosed, such as major depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, etc.

However, those with true bipolar have a serious condition. There are usually extreme mood swings usually daily.

It seems like bipolar is sometimes probably just major depression. A person has episodes of extreme lows and gets out of them. But this happens not every day or week. So the psychologist will state bipolar when it is really MDD.

This politician should really read the DSM-5 before he spouts off on what is "a fad." He looks foolish.

Anonymous said...

"This politician should really read the DSM-5 before he spouts off on what is 'a fad.'"
The issue is not what the DSM-5 says, but whether the clinicians making the diagnoses know and understand what the DSM-5 says.

I still see mental health professionals using the GAF scale, which makes me wonder how well they keep up with their own professional standards.
I also know from personal experience with a group practice that clinicians are under pressure to make early diagnoses in order to receive payment from insurance companies and justify continuing further treatment. As a consequence, they sometimes resort to premature labels as a necessary evil to move treatment forward.

Knowing what I know, I'm very skeptical of most diagnoses of bipolar disorder. I guess my point is that the disorder itself isn't a fad, but the tendency to reach for it as a diagnosis very well may be.

Anonymous said...

@ 1:13...I agree with your general premise, a diagnosis of bipolar does not necessarily lead to SS benefits. However, it is one step in the process and having the diagnosis (whether real or not) makes complaints at a hearing much more credible. THis means that the person who somehow made it to a provider for a "diagnosis" is more likely to get benefits than someone who was unable to get a diagnosis, but has the same complaints.

THerefore, the overdiagnosis of bipolar is problematic.

Anonymous said...

Judith Sturm, President, DBSA-GC,
Thank you for your work! My wife has suffered from bipolar disorder since she was approximately sixteen. NAMI was a great help to her.

The pharmacist mentioned above is incorrect. The pharmacy may not stock medic alert bracelets that say bipolar, but you can order one with, literally, anything you want on them. I know because, in a fit of boredom, I called and they agreed to engrave "Feed Me Cheese" on one. It makes more sense to stock them for diabetics, but I could see a situation where it could be helpful (i.e. with law enforcement that it may be an issue other than drug use, with nursing staff, etc.).

That said, I agree it seems to be over diagnosed. The DSM criteria don't seem to be rechecked, and if you come in with a diagnosis, it seems unlikely that it will be scrutinized by a future doctor.

KillAllTheRednecks said...

"Everybody and their brother is getting diagnosed with bipolar. And last time I checked, we all have good days and we all have bad. And I don't consider that an illness. And I don't consider it a disability." "

I wonder if this heartless chunk of dung has ever heard of Adam Lanza?

Anonymous said...