Tuesday, July 05, 2005


At last someone has come out and said it, manic depression is fun. In his book The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America, John D. Gartner creates a whole new category in the pop psychology genre, a condition called Hypomania which describes people who have all the fun of manic depression without the crash and crushing sadness for which whisky and the blues were surely invented.

Nobody uses the term Manic Depression any more, it’s now Bipolar Mood Disorder, which suggests that the person in front of you turns from perky joyous to suicidally wacko in a the blink of an eye. It’s supposed to be a less judgmental term than Manic Depression, and it seems to have become quite trendy as an excuse for spending a fortune on shoes. Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are two other fashionable terms which give the impression that sufferers leap all over the place like crickets on crack, which in some cases is true, but I wonder how many of those zillions of Ritalin prescriptions are really for the kid, I know of at least one parent who helps himself when he wants a buzz.

The term manic depression describes it perfectly and whether you get 90% mania 10% depression or an even 50-50, if you believe the doctors, you are sick and you need a pill. To call it a disorder is positively libellous; it’s nothing more than long or short periods of intense energy and massive output followed by long or short periods of being intensely grieved for your miserable sorry ass. In other words, the very stuff of life is now an illness that calls for expensive drugs.

In the Victorian days this condition was given the catch-all name of hysteria and the cure, for women at least, was a hefty session with a vibrator, which calls into doubt the notion that medicine has progressed very far in the last hundred years. Personally I think there are few psychological conditions that can’t be cured by a thorough session with a Magic Wand. I think Discovery Health should add them to their Vitality programme, it’ll work out a whole lot cheaper than endless Zoloft and Prozac prescriptions.

If you look on the Net aka the Oracle, manic depression is a terrible life threatening illness. Look at the symptoms of manic depression from the Black Dog Institute and tell me why this “condition” needs a cure :

“High energy levels, positive mood (OK), irritability (that taxi pulled right in front of me and stopped!), creativity (yes please), mystical experiences, including feeling one with nature in terms of appreciating the world around us (terrible thing, hey?). There is also inappropriate behavior, which encompasses things like increased risk taking (reality has a way of taking care of his one), increased consumption of alcohol and drugs (the liver has the last word), and saying and doing somewhat outrageous things (more of that please). Apparently spending money is another symptom (never heard of shopping?) and an increased libido (say it ain’t so) leading to relationships that are later regretted. To compound the problem, manic depressives dress colourfully and with disinhibition. I can tell you that my wardrobe consists of 75% black and I haven’t yet flung off my clothes in public.

About.com comes up with more, manic depressives have a tendency to “clang associations”, the association of words based on their sound, a condition for which a liberal application of lithium is prescribed. Have they never heard of poetry? Sure, if someone’s spouting off gibberish that makes no sense to others, they should probably get help, but I’m always going to choose the best sounding and most appropriate word and if it clangs, well who decides these things, literature professors?

Someone who is suicidally depressed, or delusional and unable to function can only benefit from a short period of medical intervention, but I’m not convinced that manic depression is a condition that needs the tender ministrations of the medical perfession (sick). Happiness and sadness are the human condition and there’s no pill that’s going to ease the burden of life, nothing’s going to help if you’re in a job you hate, or a marriage you despise. You can’t take a pill for poor self esteem or because you’re feeling guilty, or angry or humiliated.

All I can say if you suffer from this dreadful condition is to make the acquaintance of Messrs Justerini & Brooks and John Lee Hooker, and there’s no dispensing fee

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