Denial: I’m not Bipolar, Doctor

DenialYou’re wrong, Doctor ! I’m not bipolar!

How can you say that to me?  You just met me – how can you possibly know??!!

I’m just depressed and I get agitated and anxious and hyper – sometimes but everyone gets moody ! It s normal to have moods. You re pathologizing me!

No other doctor has ever told me I have bipolar, I’m not crazy… I’m not psychotic…Are you telling me I’m schizophrenic?!

You don t know what you re talking about!

I’m sure if I go to another psychologist they won’t tell me that!

My psychiatrist / doctor / mother / father / husband / wife/ partner  doesn’t agree with your diagnosis!

Ever feel this way?

Ever tell your treating professional that you doubted their diagnosis of you as having bipolar?

Ever wonder if they’re right but you just can t bring yourself to admit it because you don t like the psychiatric label?

Ever return to that very same doctor days, weeks, months, years later stating that they were right and you should’ve listened to them?

Just recently I received an email from a patient I treated 15 years ago in San Francisco who told me she spent the last 15 years suffering horrible symptoms and went on to describe in some notable detail her life s challenges and the course she took. She thanked me for having been insistent and on target with her – wishing she had listened to me at the time, which could have potentially enabled her a different life course?

Yes , there is a stigma attached to the diagnosis of bipolar. I work in the US as well as abroad with patients in person or via video conferencing and quite familiar with the various stigmas attached to the diagnosis of bipolar – topic for another upcoming blog post.

I welcome comments on this topic of your initial reactions to your diagnosis of bipolar and what enabled you to ultimately accept the diagnosis. I also welcome you sharing your experiences of not having accepted the diagnosis initially and how it affected your life. I welcome your experiences of dealing with the stigma associated with the diagnosis and if you in fact reveal to others you have bipolar. I look forward to your comments very much. Thank you.

Suzanne A. Black, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist


  • Irene R

    When I was diagnosed, I was RELIEVED… and a little overwhelmed. But what you describe here was the reaction of my parents. I was 21 at the time and they were still in charge of my health insurance (having that insurance was a true blessing of sorts, but their involvement left something to be desired). For 7 months they battled this diagnosis, finding weaknesses, talking about their own, very natural “mood swings” and playing things off to an antiquated concept of “a nervous breakdown, which runs in the family.”

    Still working through the stigma. I’ve given myself a timeline to grow professionally to a point that no one can point at my reactions in the office and call them “bipolar.” It’s going to take a few more years, but I’m already looking forward to the day I make my diagnosis known so that people can understand that someone who is bipolar can be successful and fair. 🙂

    But that’s my path. I think there are a million ways to do it.

  • Chris Lem

    When I was diagnosed, I was very surprised, as I had avoided as much as possible all the people that I knew to be bipolar, as I had hard time in the past with a few of them. I had generalized. Now, 2 years later, I am getting quite comfortable about my diagnosis and I can see that being bipolar is just a modifier, not a personality type. My close family and most of my friends have been awesome and I have been open about it with a lot of people. Not everyone. I know it will close some doors, but it also helps me see myself in a completely new light. And if people are scared, it is their fears. I take it as a second life. By being very open about it in our large families, I hope it will help the next generations to get help as soon as they know someone might have the same problem. I am amazed to see how treatment seems to have improved in the last decades.

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