Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bipolar versus Borderline: Disease Mongering Pill Pushers Stack the Deck

In my Psychology Today blogpost of 12/11/11, Bipolar or Borderline, I described how disease mongering, pill-pushing psychiatrists have done their utmost best to blur the distinction between the mood (affective) instability seen in borderline personality disorder (BPD) with the mood episodes characteristic of true bipolar disorder. 

This distinction is important because BPD is clearly a disorder of interpersonal relationships and behavior mixed in with a history of trauma and family dysfunction, while true bipolar disorder is a serious biogenic brain disease. BPD, while some of its symptoms do respond quite well to the right medications, should be treated primarily with psychotherapy, while bipolar disorder should be treated primarily with medication.

In the prior post I discussed the use of invalid symptom checklists in studies to exaggerate the incidence of bipolar disorder. They are also used by some incompetent psychiatrists to make diagnoses that justify snowing every patient who walks in the door with potentially toxic antipsychotic medication. In the June 2016 issue of the Journal of Personality Disorders, researcher Mark Zimmerman goes into some detail about exactly how corrupt researchers use slight of hand to distort their data (Improving the Recognition of Borderline Personality Disorder in a Bipolar World, pp. 320-335).

They are very good at it. And it matters. Zimmerman states: "Although BPD is as frequent as (if not more frequent than) bipolar disorder, as impairing as (if not more impairing than), and as lethal as (if not more lethal than) bipolar disorder, it has received less than one tenth [emphasis mine] the level of funding from the NIH [the National Institutes of Health] and has been the focus of many fewer publications in the most prestigious psychiatric journals."

And, Zimmerman points out, the difference is not due to just the fact that there were more drug studies for bipolar disorder. In fact, the amount of funding for the drug treatment of bipolar disorder was just a little more than 10% of the total.

As I have mentioned several times in this blog, self-report symptom checklists are meant to be screening devises. This means that if you are positive for bipolar disorder on the screen, it does not mean you have bipolar disorder. It means you should be evaluated further! Screening tests are designed to have a lot of false positives - people who come out as positive on the test but who do not actually have the disorder. In fact, the majority of people who screen positively do not have bipolar disorder.

Zimmerman specifically brings up the Mood Disorders Questionnaire (MDQ) that I discussed in the previous post. Get this: in one study by Frye and others in the journal Psychiatric Services in 2005, the authors found that one half of the patients who were positive for bipolar disorder on the MDQ were not diagnosed with bipolar disorder by the treating clinician.  

Their conclusion? They said the clinicians "failed to detect" or "misdiagnosed" bipolar disorder in these patients! Actually, the exact opposite is far more likely: it sounds like the clinicians' judgments tended to be correct.

Frye and others then went on to state that these patients were "inappropriately treated because they were given antidepressants instead of mood stabilizers." Again, exactly the wrong conclusion to draw from the authors' own data. Yet they went on to say that this completely false conclusion was "worrisome." Some of us would call this real chutzpah.

Bipolar, my ass researchers love to talk about the bipolar "spectrum," based on the crazy logic that if a given symptom appears slightly similarly in two people, they must both have a version of the same syndromic psychiatric disorder. Zimmerman asks why no one talks of a borderline spectrum, when clinically, many patients are diagnosed as having borderline traits. This means that out of the nine criteria, of which you are required to meet any 5,6,7, 8, or all nine to qualify for the diagnosis, the patients may only have three or four. 

In fact, as reported in the July issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry (Vol. 173, pp. 688-694), Zanarini and others followed 290 patients with BPD closely over 2 years. They found that "...the symptoms of borderline personality disorder are quite fluid..." This means that they come and go over time. This was particularly true for acute symptoms like self-mutilation. Therefore, people with the disorder may frequently go from 5 symptoms to 4, and suddenly they don't "have" it anymore - unless and until the 5th symptom recurs!

In actual reality, he said redundantly, those people who exhibit three or four of the nine symptoms look a lot more like those folks who have five or more than they do like those folks who have none of them. Now that sounds like a "spectrum" to me.

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