Special thanks to Darian Leader for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – Strictly Bipolar
Darian Leader is a psychoanalyst and author. His books include Stealing the Mona Lisa: What Art Stops Us From Seeing; Why Do People Get Ill?; The New Black: Mourning, Melancholia and Depression; and What Is Madness? – From The Guardian
Darian’s Homepage: http://www.darianleader.com
#1 – What was the impetus for Strictly Bipolar?
I was left with the question of how to situate manic-depression in relation to the other psychoses. It had been so central to early psychiatry yet today was submerged in the market of so-called bipolar disorders. I wanted to understand what its structure was, and how it had come to be overtaken by notions of bipolar. Researching this, I was struck by how its history had been largely rewritten from a later perspective.
#2 – Has the re-branding of ‘manic depression’ been a good or bad thing for society? What do you think the reasons for this were?
A bad thing in many ways, as the original questions about manic-depression have been lost. We have to try to think about the experiences of each person and how they have come to take place, rather than blindly apply a diagnosis of bipolarity. It has been mostly drug company marketing that gave the category of bipolar centre stage, with a chemical ‘cure’ sold simultaneously.
#3 – Has our understanding of bipolar changes over the time since it was first recognised?
Many people would argue that is has, yet in my book I question the notion of bipolar. I think that the majority of people branded bipolar are misdiagnosed, and that early psychiatry was alert to such problems many years ago. I think the old category of manic-depression is a useful one, but that it is not the same as so-called Bipolar 1, although there are cases where someone diagnosed Bipolar 1 will have manic-depression, others won’t!
#4 – What can we take from this re-branding in terms of the continual updates of the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual)?
The DSM editions have expanded the bipolar categories, with an even looser framework in the latest edition, with reductions in the number of days people appear to be ‘up’ to qualify for a diagnosis and an increase in the number of bipolar categories. This all seeps through to popular culture and to many consulting rooms and hospital clinics, without any thought as to the underlying problems at both a personal and a social level.
#5 – Are you working on any new books/projects you can tell us about?
I will write a book about eating difficulties in the next few years, but not soon!
[Image Credit: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Observer/Columnist/Columnists/2011/9/29/1317307610456/darian-leader-007.jpg ]