Monday, January 28, 2008

An Illness that is Unique

This candid Nerve dispatch about dating someone with bipolar disorder ("an illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure") paints a portrait somewhat more nuanced (though no less destructive) than those that have recently emerged of higher-profile supposed manic-depressives like Britney Spears and Lisa Nowak. While it's hard to evaluate author Justin Clark's particular (personal) experiences, I thought his disapproving diagnosis of bipolar disorder as "the official catch-all for crazy people" was on target:

A 1997 National Mental Health Association survey found that more than two-thirds of Americans had limited or no knowledge of the disease; almost a decade later, eight out of ten Americans think they know what bipolar disorder is. Everyone from disgraced New York Times reporter Jayson Blair to Debra LaFave, the high-school teacher convicted of seducing her fourteen-year-old student, has employed the bipolar defense. And if they don't trumpet it as the explanation for their misdeeds, media experts are happy to do so on their behalf. Without ever having met her, Fox News contributor Dr. Keith Ablow all but diagnosed Britney Spears on air this month. "I would put on the list of possibilities a mood disorder like bipolar," he said, further cementing it as the official catch-all for crazy people.

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