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Why is bipolar called a disorder?

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Don't worry I'm not off on a happy clappy mad-pride rant. I have a nephew with Aspergers syndrome, and we had a conversation that got me wondering why bipolar is a disorder, but Aspergers is a syndrome? I figure there must be a logical explanation.

Edited by Katg10
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When it comes to dissociation, it has to do with functionality. One can be dissociative and functional. One can be dissociative and absolutely unable to function, too. My dissociation is a disorder because I'm not able to live life around it, nor through it. It takes over my life and can ruin it completely while I have very little say in the matter. Because of its ability to do that my dissociation is a disorder.


I imagine that bipolar is similar. When episodic it completely ramrods your life and changes its direction. It takes over. That makes it a disorder. Aspergers could also be a disorder, as it's on the ASD spectrum. That D stands for disorder.

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Okay, off-topic below, but on-topic:


As far as I'm aware, in the DSM-5, Asperger's as an independent diagnosis no longer exists (personally not a fan of that happening) and now is a part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. Doesn't totally answer your question, but possibly relevant information/interesting to think about?



I would love it if someone went "off on a happy clappy mad-pride rant". I'd like to hear from someone who chooses not to take medication, and see how it affects their life in general. Someone who doesn't do therapy and views all the symptoms as 'gifts'. I've read about them in criticisms of med compliance failures, but never first hand. 



Uh, well I meet some of this characterization (I don't take meds anymore, currently out of therapy for 2 years because of monetary limitations, see a GP regularly who is aware of my MI-- so it's at least somewhat monitored by a clinician-- but it's not the focus of my visits, and 100% do not view my disorders as "gifts").


Tbh, it's rough, but I had been doing the pharmacotherapy dance since I was 14, so the past three years med-free have been somewhat solid in terms of sorting out what the meds did to me (this isn't meant to say that meds are bad, I was just receiving inadequate care by most of the doctors I saw over the years and it had consequences). Right now I'm functioning most days in the sense that I rarely miss work, just finished my degree, and am able to generally care for myself on a day-to-day basis with some "off" days. That being said, I've been on and off contemplating seeking out pharmacotherapy again once I have proper healthcare, but I know I would prioritize talk therapy first because for me that's more important and helpful in managing my life.


Going off of meds for me wasn't about non-compliance in the sense that I like my symptoms (my symptoms never, ever make me feel "good", mania never makes me good and I never see it as desirable), it was a more complicated situation than that. I use the skills I learned in years of therapy and other self-help workbooks and tools to manage my day-to-day life, but my quality of life is still pretty not awesome. It's the best with what I have right now, but if I had the option to do otherwise, I'd 100% go for it.

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After diagnosis, there's almost always a period of sorting out what is and isn't a result of the illness. It sometimes takes people a few years, because of the lack of insight so common in BP illness. It's a perfectly natural process. You'll start being able to make the distinctions.


However, we generally don't consider episodic people to be "making excuses" for themselves. You need to be skeptical of anti-MI propaganda, just as you are skeptical of pro-MI literature

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Agreed about not having to feel like you're making excuses-- the stigma around mental illness not only influences how people with MI are treated, it also affects how we are taught to view ourselves, especially while episodic or when our symptoms are making it challenging for us to meet our own expectations of what we think we should be able to do. Reading about the history of how MI has been treated and stigmatized has honestly helped me a lot in understanding exactly how MI stigma effects perceptions of self, not just societal perceptions.

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