OK, OK. I know I should be writing for NaNoWriMo, but since I’m ahead of schedule I decided to read the news, and stumbled upon yet another careless remark made by a ‘professional’ that is pretty demeaning to Bipolar sufferers.
Soon to be released in the US is the award-winning movie, We Need to Talk About Kevin, in which the fictional child in the film reveals his psychopathic colors early before going on a killing rampage at his high school. As expected, major news outlets are beginning to pick up the story. ABC ran an article today authored by Susan Donaldson James titled “We Need to Talk About James: Is Your Child a Psychopath?” Gripping title, don’t you think?
Enter Dr. Igor Galynker, associate chairman for the department of psychology at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, the expert Susan Donaldson James consulted to supply her with even more gripping quotes regarding the miswired brains of psychopaths. First, he regales us with his definition of what a psychopath is:
“Callousness and unemotional behavior are the hallmark of the illness,” said Galynker. “They have a feeling of grandiosity and makes them behave as if the rules do not apply. There is a certain glibness and they feel entitled. They cannot be punished — like Teflon…These people really see you as a piece of furniture and the empathy that allows us to feel others’ feelings is missing.”
Psychopathy is a complex term that is used mostly by researchers to describe antisocial behavior that is impulsive, aggressive, deceitful and with a desire to break all the rules.
Then, about half way through the article, Ms James drops this bomb:
Bipolar disorder can also mimic psychopathy.
Dr Galynker’s direct quote:
“When they are on the manic side, they can be callous,” he said. “They have a Teflon factor and can be grandiose and break the rules and think they get away with it. But this would be treatable. A psychopath is permanent.”
I’m irked for two reasons. First, because unless you read the ‘can’ in Galynker’s quote very carefully, it is very easy to misconstrue that every Bipolar person behaves like a psychopath when manic. The ability to fully grasp one little three-letter word while skimming this article is all that stands between the truth and lumping all BPs in with psychopaths. Second, what the good Dr fails to mention, or Ms James omitted (we’ll never know which) is that there are more heinous symptoms of psychopathy that Bipolar people do not exhibit. It is simply not fair to even attempt to draw a comparison between these two mental illnesses.
Irresponsible, Dr. Galynker, you should have chosen your words more carefully.
Shame on you, Ms James. You need to fully quote your resources.
I’d like to cry foul.
I’m not arguing that psychopathy cannot be comorbid with Bipolar Disorder. It certainly can (there’s that three-letter word again). But psychopathy with Bipolar Disorder, from what I could find anyway, isn’t all that common.
Let’s keep in mind the above definitions of a psychopath and further dissect this idea that Bipolar mania resembles psychopathy. When Bipolar people are manic, they are not anti-social as are psychopaths, they are overly social. When I’m manic I can been callous – that I will admit freely. But stepping over that line where I have blatantly bullied another person, been cruel to an animal or lost my empathy? Sorry, Dr Galynker. Not this bipolar babe. When I am manic I’m so high, I am barely able to slow down long enough to eat, let alone devise an elaborate, highly premeditated act that will give me a leg up using lies and deceit for my personal gain. As for the so-called Teflon-factor…well, let’s put it this way. Psychopaths are all about intentionally ignoring the rules because they truly believe they are superior beings and above the law. That is a constant in their personality. Now, maybe I am off base with this one because I can realistically only draw from my own experience, but people who are manic just don’t understand the concept of manipulation to the point of Teflon-ing like psychopaths do. If people who are manic believe they are above the law, it is usually not for a nefarious purpose. It is because they are delusional…have lost touch with reality…which is a completely different thing than psychopathy. I invite everyone to do the research in the DSM. Psychopaths are very much aware of the heinous acts they are perpetrating for personal gain. Truly manic people can barely remember the episode once it’s over.
And, that is the lynchpin to my argument. There is no underlying, long standing, consistent thread of cruelty in what a Bipolar person does over episodes of mania. But, a psychopath is dedicated to the life-long, sole purpose of stepping on others and living a twisted existence solely for their own gain.
I know I am tired from sitting at my keyboard all day. But when I read this article it really torqued me. Bottom line: It’s hard enough to fight the stigma of Bipolar Disorder without being called a psychopath as well. So please, all of you professionals who can’t think before they speak and/or journalists who don’t accurately cite their resources – don’t casually lump me in with the psychopaths.