One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication. – Carrie Fisher
Your article ‘Am I Empathic or Bipolar’ refers.
I’d have said all of this to you directly, but:
“Post a Comment: I love hearing from you! While differing opinions are more than welcome, please keep comments appropriate and friendly. Any comment that directly attacks myself or another will be removed. Thank you!”
You are definitely going to think my comments are inappropriate and unfriendly (I feel the same about yours).
You’re about to get crapped on, not because you have personally used bipolar disorder as an ill thought out descriptor for something it ain’t, but because you’re a symptom of that particular sickness. And out of every 375639 people who disrespect people with bipolar disorder by doing so, I rant at one. It’s your lucky day.
Sidenote: Bipolar people are said to have more empathy than those without the disorder (I am aware that ’empath’ and ’empathy’ are different).
“One of the most common questions I receive from readers who have recently discovered that they are an INFJ or empath is how do you know you are an empath and not just struggling from a mental disorder like bipolar disorder?”
Where do I even start… I’m going to begin with the dictionary definition of empath, because that’s the kind of nerd I am, and I’m using the Oxford Dictionary, because that’s the sort of UK English speaking nerd I am.
“(Chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to perceive the mental or emotional state of another individual.”
As for how you know you’re not “just struggling from a mental disorder like bipolar disorder,” I’ll get to that along the way. Meantime, what the fuck does “struggle from” mean anyway? You’re shackled to something and have to crawl and claw your way to escape? The word you’re looking for is suffer.
Sidenote: INFJ is a personality type, from the Myer Briggs Type Indicator test, formulated by Isabel Myer Briggs and CG Jung.
INFJ Seek meaning and connection in ideas, relationships, and material possessions. Want to understand what motivates people and are insightful about others. Conscientious and committed to their firm values. Develop a clear vision about how best to serve the common good. Organized and decisive in implementing their vision. source
I’ve done the test a few times myself, initially in 1999 – I thought things like that were cool in my twenties, I’m not going anywhere near my current opinions of it here. Anyone want to hazard a guess at which result shows up more than the rest? Because as you know, personality tests, however much credence you give them, should be done more than once. Personality is not something you can even hope to measure with some semblance of accuracy by focusing on one moment in time and state of mind. Yup, I get INFJ. So am I an empath with bipolar? It is possible, or will it cause a nasty case of inception? Would I call myself an empath? Not on your nelly, but I will readily admit to having empathy , and lots of it.
“Living in a society that not only does not understand empathic abilities but even goes as far as to dismiss them as impossible makes it easy to see how someone living with these traits could begin to question whether or not they classify as having a mental disorder.”
Boo fucken hoo. You don’t know what stigma is, o bleeding heart liberal of Caucasian tendencies (I know, I know, you’re struggling from those too). Have you been refused a job due to your empath status, for example? Is the media full of cops shooting empaths? What are the empath suicide stats like? I suspect that the lack of understanding you’re experiencing doesn’t go further than a few pairs of rolling eyes. Brb fetching a lace hankie to weep fetchingly into.
“But the truth is that the signs of being an empath actually differ from those used to diagnose bipolar disorder. Some ways may seem subtle, but the distinction can be extremely important for those struggling to understand who they are and deciding what steps to take in order to improve their lives. Here I will point out some of the differences between bipolar disorder and empathic abilities in order to help demystify the distinction.”
AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHHHH! The signs differ? They might be subtle? Sweet Loki in a lightbulb, you’re comparing science with wholewheat hippie shit. Literally.
“Before I begin, allow me to point out that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) explains the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder and classifies it into sub-types. For the purpose of this article, I will be referring to bipolar I disorder (classified by more severe manic episodes) and bipolar II disorder (classified by more severe depressive episodes). For more details about the sub-types of bipolar disorder, please refer directly to the DSM-5.”
Why yes, yes it does. The reason for that, is a lot of science. Lots and lots and lots of it. It’s fallible, but it isn’t trivial. Refer to the DSM 5? I eat that thing for breakfast everyday, dear.
“Time Period of Symptoms: One who suffers from bipolar disorder has marked changes from manic or hypomanic episodes to depressive episodes almost suddenly and without obvious reason. Empaths experience something similar in that their moods can change immediately and without any clear cause. The important distinction, however, lies in the duration of time these episodes last.”
Actually, genius, if you’d researched your topic any further than a brief overview of bipolar, you’d know just how very, very full of holes your statement is. Shifts might be sudden, or they might not. We don’t only have a selection of three moods by the way; believe it or not, we get the whole gamut, just like all the human beings on the planet, with extra because that is the physical way our genes and brains are wired. And there may or may not be clear causes. There are things that trigger episodes – shitty lifestyles, a death, a break up and all manner of things. It’s logic, innit?
“In order to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, one must have had at least one manic episode followed by a depressive episode. A manic episode is defined as a “distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive or irritable mood that lasts at least one week” (Mayo Clinic). Depressive episodes are defined as exhibiting depressive symptoms for two or more weeks.”
Oh there we go, you read the Mayo Clinic’s intro to bipolar. And it’s a good one, but naturally enough, not a detailed one. For that you’d have had to do some actual research. You know, the way writers do. Also, fact checking is a very good string to add to your bow; it’ll lessen the chances of you babbling on and making yourself look like a total fool. If in fact you are a total fool, my humble apologies, and may I suggest that life coaching might not be a good career for you.
“Empaths, on the other hand, are not very likely to experience one state of distinct emotions for such a large period of time. Rather, they find that their emotions will shift from extreme highs to extreme lows within minutes or hours. Because their emotions are affected by those around them, often times changing location or seeking solitude can shift their emotional state.”
Yeah baby that’s what it’s like, it’s a truly binary thing. Seriously though, please have a little read about how bipolar disorders cycle. As far as time periods go, the terms rapid cycling, ultra rapid cycling and ultradian cycling might alert you to the fact that using length of mood to prove your theory is truly asinine. The location trick can assist us too, by the way.
“If you tend to experience euphoric or manic emotions for longer than a couple of days at a time, followed by a shift in depression lasting more than a week, you may consider that your emotional shifts are a sign of bipolar disorder rather than empathic abilities.”
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The amount of time a mood lasts for is a useless way of deciding whether you’re a bipolar struggler or an empath. There’s a bit more to it, we really do struggle, for instance. There’s suffering too, at no extra cost.
“Variety of Emotions: Bipolar disorder is noted for the opposing specific emotions, mania (exhibiting as euphoria, irritability or prolonged hyper levels energy) and depression (prolonged sadness, hopelessness and lethargy). While these emotions may present themselves differently for each person, the emotions are clearly defined.”
I call bullshit with a bull sized bullhorn. Kindly go and do a teensy bit more reading so that you’ll get to the point where they talk about mixed episodes. Then pop round for a cup of oops I did it again.
“Empaths shift through a much wider range of emotions, not limited to any particular classification. For example, they can shift from any range of subtle emotions (contentment, joy, sadness, discomfort, boredom and so forth) as well as experience a range of extreme emotions (anger, fear, excitement, sorrow, envy, delight, etc.). There is no limit to the types or quantities of emotions the empath experiences in any given period of time as it is entirely dependent on their surroundings. While they can experience intense emotions, they are more likely to fluctuate between extremes and subtleties of changes.”
Bullhorn time again and how DARE you assume and write such bollocks. Bollocks from bullocks, naturally, which is quite a feat. I don’t know where you got that steaming pile of bs masquerading as information from, but I’d very much like to know the source. It’s insulting, offensive, fuckwitted and extremely ignorant. Wider range of emotions my ass.
“If you tend to function only in extremes of euphoria, irritability and depression, especially to the point that it affects your day to day life and those around you, you may wish to consider seeking professional advice and diagnosis.”
Hallelujah, you said something sensible. Sadly the sense only started at “to the point that…”; all the words before it were the tinklings of particularly insubstantial wind chimes. Please look up euthymia. In fact let me Google that for you, using a complex and arcane technique, I think you’ll appreciate it. By the way, have I mentioned that we have more than three moods?
“Ability to Recognize and Control Emotions: Bipolar disorder, especially undiagnosed, can overtake one’s life as they struggle with recognizing the shifts in their emotional states, in some cases even losing touch with reality and all sense of logic. Once one with bipolar disorder enters a manic or depressive state, it is almost impossible for them to alter or correct their state of mind to return to a level place. Once diagnosed, with professional help and possibly medication, the bipolar individual can achieve emotional stability, but if they slip into either extreme state, it may be difficult or impossible for them to come back to center without assistance.”
I’m getting bored with educating you. What you are doing is stigmatising us and that’s not something we’re short of, thanks anyway. That sort of stigma results in shame, reluctance to tell anyone about it, misery and for people like us, suicide is a very real potential consequence. The stats are four times that of the general population in the USA. So stop doing it, please.
“INFJ Empaths who are unaware of their abilities can have a similar experiences where they feel out of control and unable to find an emotional center. This can be frightening and lead them to self-misdiagnosed or even professionally misdiagnosed mental disorders.”
Everyone feels that way at some stage, not just the special and different empaths. I promise it’s true, just ask a mortal. Self diagnosis by Dr Google is Idiocy 101. Google a headache, diagnose brain cancer. As for professional diagnosis, despite the common misconception that we all get our diagnoses free with a Happy Meal, it takes 10 years on average for us to be diagnosed. Misdiagnosis is possible, but certainly not routine. If you’d read far enough into the Mayo Clinic’s info, you’d know that.
“One who discovers their empathic traits and seeks to understand them as well as learns methods to help themselves handle the unexpected emotional shifts is, unlike a bipolar individual, very capable of centering themselves and controlling their emotional state. Paying close attention to the emotions of those around you, pinpointing where your emotional shift came from and using tools like meditation, Emotional Freeing Techniques (tapping), and exercise can all make it easy to gain control over your emotional state and recenter yourself, no matter how extreme your emotions may shift.”
I will concede that there is a modicum of truth there, but you’re defining our emotional state purely by active and extreme episodes, ignoring all the fluctuations and variations plus euthymia (not an 80s band, in case you were wondering).
“If you are unsure whether you have the ability to control your emotional states without medical or professional assistance, consider researching more about how to live as an empath and applying these techniques regularly. Of course, seek professional assistance if you do not feel as though you are capable of balancing yourself, whether you believe yourself an empath or bipolar”.
I doubt that anybody who has ever got through the referral system as far as a psychiatrist, has done so in order to say, “I just can’t seem to achieve balance”. It’s far more likely to be issues that indicate it, but not everyone gazes into their crystal navels enough to come out with that. Oh wait, empaths are superhuman. Oopsie. Don’t worry about professional assistance if you’re capricious, get it (and get it fast) if you are struggling and suffering. In fact, you can spot the difference between a neurobiologically ill person and a capricious person at 100 paces by it. The difference between an alleged empath and someone with bipolar disorder is suffering. Real suffering. It isn’t called the cancer of psychiatric disorders for nothing.
“As with all things in life, the first step in helping you improve your life is obtaining knowledge. Learning more about being an empath as well as living with bipolar disorder can help you better understand the subtle differences and allow you to take the appropriate steps to feel in control of your life. Seeking assistance when you are unsure is a great way to help you move forward, but if a diagnosis does not feel right, seek alternate opinions and never stop searching until you find that which feels comfortable.”
The differences, they are not subtle. We’ve covered that already though. I agree 100% about obtaining knowledge. It’s good to know the difference between knowledge and opinion too. There’s space for a caveat in your last statement, because actually diagnoses are not necessarily comfortable. Mine generally feels like a bed of nails.
“To learn more about what it means to be an empath as well as discover additional techniques and resources to gain control over your emotional state and improve your life (including a complete guide to EFT), check out The Empathic INFJ: Understanding and Awareness for the Intuitive Clairsentient.”
Clair Sentient! Mild mannered librarian by day, crime fighting superhero by night! Forgive me, I just enjoy playing with words. It’s one of the few pleasures left to people with only three emotions.
“Clairsentience is a form of psychic intuition. The prefix “clair”, means “clear”, and the suffix “sentience”, means “feeling”. The word reflects the psychic’s ability to hone in on the on the energy of otherworldly realms. Clairsentients sense, rather than think through the information they receive.” source
Psychic. Otherworldly realms. (Also ”sentience” is actually defined as ”capacity for sensation or feeling”). We must remember that cold reading isn’t necessarily a conscious skill. Well, I’ll remember it; you carry on chatting to trees.
Empath = Bipolar Lite
“Please note, the information in this article is for informative purposes only and is not intended to replace or be a substitute for professional medical advice. Never alter or discontinue use of medication without first consulting your doctor. If you are unsure whether or not you suffer from a mental disorder, seek advice and treatment from a licensed doctor, therapist, counselor or psychiatrist.”
How on earth did you get the idea of using information to inform? I hope you yelled eureka first time round. Good paragraph though, it’s responsible and sensible. Keep up the good work.
Alrighty then, as I said in my preamble, this isn’t about you. It’s about sanism and ableism and stigma and education. Compassion too – and yes I’m aware that I’m displaying none of that, but enough is enough. People in power have always herded the mentally ill out of sight and into horror, and shit like that begins with ignorant and offhand discrimination. A lot of discrimination is socially acceptable and we get a lot of discrimination. I responded to your article in anger, but the ultimate consequence of dismissive articles like yours, is pain. Honestly, we get treated like shit on so many levels simply due to prejudice. Societally acceptable prejudice too. Please, please get off the so called neurotypical bandwagon and just… be nice. And I will too. Am I overreacting? In the sense that I’m addressing it all to you, yes, but countless neurobiologically ill people who were locked up, abused, over- and mis-medicated, given lobotomies, beaten up or killed say otherwise. It still happens in corners of the world today. And you know what Martin Niemöller said.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
And they did, and they put him in concentration camps. (Further proof that everything on the Internet culminates in Godwin’s Law.)
I wonder if people are going to start wondering whether they’re really bipolar, or just an empath.
If you got a pingback from this link, and want to reply, please feel free to say absolutely anything you like. I went for the jugular after all.
Edit: jasminehoneyadams said this, and it’s perfect.
… I would argue that Jennifer Soldner’s definition of an “Empath” and how it differs from Bipolar fails to take into account the possibility of Borderline Personality Disorder, which (as far as I know) begins at the point at which all of a person’s emotional states are responses to environmental stimuli
Also, the absolute irony of someone claiming to be an “empath” and yet failing to have any empathy or insight or understanding of the myriad people with wide and varied mental illnesses.