Over the last few days, I’ve been researching the etymology – the development and use of a word or phrase through history and across languages – of the axiom manic depression. (Yes, I know I’m a complete word nerd.)
What is particularly interesting about the term manic depression is that in the last decade the medical profession, psychiatry specifically, has made a concerted effort to shift the vernacular to the now official DSM diagnostic term of bipolar disorder. There are a number of reasons cited for this shift:
- Bipolar disorder is more of a clinical term; less emotionally loaded.
- Manic depression gives emphasis to the predominant emotional symptoms, but implies exclusion of the physical or cognitive symptoms. The term also excludes the cyclothymic or hypomanic (bipolar II disorder) versions of the disorder.
- Manic depression has been greatly stigmatized. Consider popular phrases such manic Monday, Animanics, homicidal maniac, etc. And depression is now generally used as an everyday replacement for the word sad or tired.
The diagnostic and clinical applications are most often referenced by medical professionals. But those with the disorder talk more about how manic depression is bandied about as if it is no more serious than the common cold.
What is wonderfully ironic is that it took centuries for the expression manic depression to become politically incorrect. It’s taken less than a decade for the replacement title bipolar disorder to reach the same status. I did a search on Twitter looking for other members of the online bipolar disorder communities. Tweet after tweet came up with the phrase “bipolar weather” referencing a sudden change in the temperature or precipitation.
Raisinear posted in our Forums about this very thing venting about how a person referenced their bipolar landlord because he is unbalanced and unpredictable. Raisinear pointed out that bipolar disorder can also be used interchangeably with brilliant, creative, energetic or artist.
She asks, “Should I just walk away from this, knowing that nothing I say will get through to them or should I try to educate them about why equating "unpredictable and unbalanced" with bipolar is hurtful and, for lack of a better word, just plain wrong?”
What advice do you have for Raisinear? ~Kimberly