‘I’m not happy and I’m not sad’ warbled Morrissey some years back.* Well, he’d be in the minority now – the norm among the Yoof of Today is being fed up or sped up. Or, more likely, oscillating wildly between the two. Because the go-to psychopathology for young people is, currently, ‘Bipolar’.
That’s if you believe in self-diagnosis. I don’t. But it seems that many psychiatrists do.
In my day, we called bipolar ‘manic depression’, and it did what it says on the tin. Patients didn’t self-diagnose – being as high as a kite or in a slough of despond didn’t lend itself to rational self-labelling.
Now, you just have to say ‘ho-hum’ one day, smile the next, and you find yourself necking lithium. Incredible. The diagnostic criteria for bipolar have softened to the point that they’re up there with CFS/fibromyalgia mushiness.
Not that sufferers milk the symptoms. They wear the diagnosis as lightly as their latest tattoo. ‘Oh, it’s just my bipolar,’ they giggle, or sulk, depending on which way the pseudo-pathology wind is blowing – unaware of the implications of the diagnosis or the pyschotropic steam train bearing down on them.
So let’s stop polarising normal emotions. Literally. I’m not happy about it. And I’m not sad. But I am non-pathologically angry.
*’This Night Has Opened my Eyes’, Hatful of Hollow.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield