Armchair Psychology is Dangerous

I once had a friend that thought she knew what a manic period was like. She had read, and highlighted, a book about bipolar disorder. She fell into the same trap that most psychology students fall into. I know that trap because I fell into it as psychology student.

My degree in psychology is a bachelor of arts. It never made sense to me that I could get a bachelor of arts in a science subject but that’s the wonder of liberal arts schools. One thing a bachelors degree in psychology does give you is a sense of the enormity of depth that goes into getting a PhD.

Psychological diagnosis is not something that is arrived upon lately. The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders fifth edition (DSM-V) defines what a mental disorder is and what it takes to reach a clinical diagnosis for any Agreed-upon mental disorder that the American psychiatric Association defines.

A diagnosis of something somebody doesn’t understand can be scary. When people are scared of things fear makes it feel more dangerous in their mind drives them to alert others about the dangers they see. A person with only a passing knowledge of a mental disorder claiming a diagnosis in maintaining that label can be highly misleading. In the end if someone believes a label the fear it causes can be detrimental.

I read part of the same book on bipolar that my friend had read. I thought I knew what a manic episode was like too. Last year I worked with somebody going through a manic episode. It took about five weeks, he was up all night some nights, had huge aspirational ideas, spoke very fast, was very excited, and didn’t want to take his meds or listen to love ones that were trying to help him. After watching a friend go through it I realized how little I really knew about mania.