The Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part One: Three Bipolar Myths

Over the first twelve years after my diagnosis with bipolar I was consistently told three things: 

  • Bipolar disorder is a chemical imbalance,
  • Bipolar is like diabetes and medication is like insulin, and
  • Bipolar is chronic and incurable.

I believed what I was told because I didn’t know any better. Doctors are the experts so they must know, right?

I followed the treatment plan I was given, using psychotropic medications to treat my bipolar. During that time, I continued, like tens of thousands of others, to struggle with mood swings and terrible side-effects. And, like 83% of the people diagnosed with bipolar, I was becoming “severely impaired” by my condition. 

Then my doctor and I found a specialized micronutrient that enabled me to get off medication and I began to improve. As I incorporated additional tools my healing progressed and ultimately eliminated all of my symptoms

That was when I began to question what I had been told. I discovered that the beliefs I held about bipolar were actually myths.

Myth #1: Bipolar Disorder is a Chemical Imbalance

I was diagnosed in 1998 and later learned the chemical imbalance theory had already been completely debunked prior to my diagnosis. As I’ve studied the research, I’m shocked that this myth continues to be perpetuated.

To understand the origin of the chemical imbalance theory you need to understand the history of psychiatry. Back in the early 1900s the medical field was making extraordinary discoveries of what were deemed “magic bullet” cures. Previously devastating illnesses were being eradicated thanks to the discovery of treatments like penicillin. 

Psychiatry wanted to find its own magic bullet treatments, but the difficulty was that they couldn’t identify what caused psychiatric symptoms in the first place. This wasn’t like the discovery of penicillin where there was a known pathogen that could be treated.  

The trouble with psychiatry was that they created diagnoses based on symptoms and then developed medications that were discovered almost by accident. The medications only addressed the symptoms. 

To try and justify this approach psychiatrists developed the chemical imbalance theory. The problem was, there was never any evidence to support the hypothesis. By the 1990s, the notion had been completely disproven. Sadly, it was also discovered that the medications being used to treat the symptoms actually caused chemical imbalances in the brain.

“Prior to treatment, patients. . .do not suffer from any known “chemical imbalance.” However, once a person is put on a psychiatric medication, which, in one manner or another, throws a wrench into the usual mechanics of a neuronal pathway, his or her brain begins to function. . .abnormally.” (Whitaker, 2010, 84)

Myth #2: Bipolar is Like Diabetes and Medication is Like Insulin

The comparison of bipolar to diabetes is used over and over by doctors and patients alike to justify the need for medication in treating bipolar, and I believed it for many years. However, I now know there has never been any evidence to support this comparison. 

In reality, the comparison is ludicrous. Even though doctors don’t know what causes diabetes to originate, they understand that the symptoms are caused by the body’s inability to produce insulin and regulate blood sugar. 

This has resulted in a standardized treatment that works for most people. Standard protocol is to monitor blood sugar and regulate it using insulin and food. This approach is designed to normalize the body’s chemistry.

Bipolar, on the other hand, is a “disorder” diagnosed based solely on symptoms with no known cause. The psychotropic medications used to “treat” bipolar are not treating the cause, but instead disrupting the normal function of the brain—abnormalizing it.

“Researchers determined that the drugs work by perturbing the normal functioning of the neuronal pathways in the brain. . .Rather than fix chemical imbalances in the brain, the drugs create them.” (Whitaker, 2010, 207)

Myth #3: Bipolar is Chronic and Incurable

For the first twelve years after my diagnosis, all of my experiences with bipolar seemed to support the claim that bipolar was chronic and incurable. I consistently took my medications for years but became progressively worse.

I discovered there were tools available that helped eliminate my symptoms and allow my brain to heal. I soon understood that the reason bipolar was chronic and incurable was because of the treatments themselves. Psychotropic drugs were the culprit.

Prior to the use of medications, the symptoms that were used to diagnose bipolar were rare and rarely led to permanent disability. 

Since the use of medications became common practice, the number of people diagnosed with bipolar has skyrocketed and the outcomes have been devastating. The treatment of bipolar is actually preventing the cure.

“. . .bipolar outcomes have dramatically worsened during the psychopharmacology era, with experts in the field documenting this at every turn . . .it was becoming apparent that psychiatric medications were worsening the source of a mental illness.” (Whitaker, 2010, 185-6)

If these three common explanations of bipolar are actually myths, what is bipolar disorder?

Continue to Mindset Shift to Heal Bipolar Part Two: What is Bipolar, Anyway?

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