What’s In a Name? “Manic Depression” or “Bipolar Disorder?

anonymous woman with rainbow light on face

“Yes, I’m Bipolar but I’m as normal as you except the times when my mind thinks like two.”

– Stanley Victor Paskavich

I have not outwardly been attacked or “judged” for suffering from bipolar disorder, but it’s the under-the-surface opinions people have that make it even more difficult to manage. So, judge me, I say.

What do you think when you hear the words “bipolar disorder”? Of course, the connotation and stigma are there, at least on a general level. But where does your mind go? What do you think when that label gets tossed around?

Now, same question but with the label “manic depression.” What feelings does that label signify to you?

I suffer from both, seeing as how they are the same thing. But which one sounds less stigmatizing? If you said “manic depression”, then we are in agreeance. “Manic depression” encompasses all aspects of the disorder while sounding singular.

“Bipolar disorder” is the same illness, yet the vernacular is more divisive. “Bi-” implies two, ultimately signifying a split of some sort, or two different personalities, which isn’t the case.

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder, not a personality disorder, so I feel the term is used interchangeably at people’s convenience. This in turn creates more stigma that only gets in the way.

This is my proposition: Bring back “manic depression” so those of us with “bipolar disorder” have a fighting chance.

When both terms mean the same thing, but the one we use isolates more people than not, I think it’s time for a change.


9 thoughts on “What’s In a Name? “Manic Depression” or “Bipolar Disorder?

  1. I wonder if there are generational differences in the connotations people have with those two terms. Specifically, I wonder if older people might have more negative ideas about manic depression, and younger people who’ve been exposed mostly to the term bipolar feel more negatively about that term.

    1. Yeah, I think there are some generational aspects that dictates which is more “acceptable”. I’d rather be labelled “manic depressive” than “bipolar”. That’s just me, though.
      (Also, reading your book on the history of stigma – absolutely fascinating!)

  2. The quote at the beginning pulled me in! I see what you are saying. I’ve found I catch a lot of judgements either way. The split personality jokes and jokes about voices ain’t no joke. Also a lot of jokes about being “off my meds”, when I “act” human.
    Thank you for writing.

    1. Yeah the jokes get old, but it’s out of other peoples ignorance. Gotta keep that in mind to get through all the negativity and misinformation.

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