Have You Been Accused of Being “Bipolar”

“You are so bipolar,” or “I can’t stand how bipolar you are,” or “you’re bipolar.” If you are reading this blog, you may be curious, have thought about this phrase, or have experienced a romantic partner, family member, or someone else using this phrase to describe you. In this blog, I explain ways to empower yourself in the aftermath of someone’s misuse of language to hurt you. Let’s start with a bit of language psychology/mental health and then move to some reality therapy! Language can both empower and diminish; the use of this phrase most of the time has a diminishing, abusive, and labeling connotation that is most often used by someone disqualified to diagnose you with the term bipolar.

The casual use of psychiatric terms often falls into the latter category. One such term that’s frequently misused is “bipolar.” It’s tossed around in conversations, often to describe someone’s erratic behavior or sudden mood swings. Sometimes, the word is used to purposely cause emotional and psychological hurt or to make you feel as though you are “crazy.” Typically, the person using it against you thinks they are calling you with the worst possible mental health disorder. This experience can cause you to doubt your sanity, question yourself, feel insecure, believe you are behaving in an unacceptable way or that you are, in fact, doing something that only a “mentally unstable person would do.”

This is the part of this blog where I ask you to exercise emotional precaution when someone calls you bipolar, whether is joking, serious, or attacking you. The person who is labeling you who is not a mental health professional deserves to be questioned, at least in your mind. What are their credentials for using this label? Can they list the diagnostic criteria of the DSM? How many other cases of bipolar disorder have they been diagnosed previously? What are their intentions at this moment? Ask yourself…does it seem as though the person calling you bipolar became, within a few seconds or minutes, an expert in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders? The reality is that using “bipolar” as a casual insult or descriptor not only perpetuates stigma but also belittles the lived experiences of individuals with bipolar disorder. Let’s delve into why it’s wrong to use “bipolar” as a label and why it’s essential to understand the complexity of mental health.

  • Firstly, bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). These mood shifts can be severe, disruptive, and debilitating, affecting every aspect of a person’s life, from relationships to work and daily functioning. By the way, the shifts in mania/hypomania and depression that occur in bipolar disorder do not happen from one moment to the other. A person with bipolar disorder can consistently feel sad and depressed for weeks and sometimes months. Equally, a mania/hypomania episode can last weeks and months. Calling someone “bipolar” flippantly fails to acknowledge the gravity of this condition and the challenges faced by those who live with it.
  • Secondly, using “bipolar” as a label perpetuates harmful stereotypes about mental illness. It reinforces the misconception that individuals with bipolar disorder are simply unpredictable or volatile when, in reality, their experiences are far more nuanced. People with bipolar disorder are not defined solely by their diagnosis; they are complex individuals with unique personalities, talents, and aspirations. Reduced to a single word, they lose the richness of their humanity.
  • Moreover, misusing “bipolar” trivializes the struggles of those who battle with mental health conditions. It suggests that mood swings or emotional fluctuations are mere quirks rather than symptoms of a legitimate medical condition. This trivialization can discourage individuals from seeking help or speaking openly about their mental health, fearing they will be dismissed or misunderstood.
  • Furthermore, the misuse of “bipolar” contributes to a culture of insensitivity surrounding mental health. By using psychiatric terms casually, we desensitize ourselves to the realities of mental illness and reinforce harmful attitudes. This perpetuates stigma and discrimination, making it harder for individuals with mental health conditions to receive understanding and support from their communities.

If you have experienced this label being misused by someone trying to hurt you, it can hurt, feel confusing, and betraying. It may be helpful to come to the realization that the person who used the bipolar label against you is not a medical professional. If they are a trained medical professional and using it to hurt you rather than help you, then it is unethical to do so. We must take a moment to educate ourselves and others about the realities of bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. This means challenging stereotypes, fostering empathy, and creating spaces where individuals feel safe to share their experiences without fear of judgment.

Additionally, we must be mindful of the language we use and the impact it can have. Instead of resorting to lazy stereotypes or insults, we should strive to communicate with respect and empathy. This means avoiding the casual use of psychiatric terms and instead choosing language that accurately reflects the complexity of mental health.

bipolar treatment therapy
bipolar treatment therapy

Ultimately, by rejecting the misuse of “bipolar” and other psychiatric terms, we can work towards creating a more inclusive and compassionate society—one where individuals with mental health conditions are seen, heard, and supported. It’s time to move beyond stigma and stereotypes and embrace a more nuanced understanding of mental health—one that acknowledges the humanity and dignity of every individual.

Dr. Yaro Garcia

Hello, I am Dr. Garcia, please call me Yaro. My degrees are in clinical psychology and I am a licensed mental health counselor. My approach is caring, warm, safe, non-judgmental, and straight forward. It is a difficult decision to seek therapy, I take time to build a trusting therapeutic relationship with you…