Chemical Imbalance, Genetics and Biology of Bipolar Disorder

Sean Blackwell

…is sharing this excellent 7m 31s film. It is what I have said for a few years now, just that Sean says it better and more clearly.

(Originally added to this site 8th July 2013)

These are not such new ideas. What is happening is that people like me and Sean are rediscovering stuff that has been known for years.

A man called Meyer was writing and telling as many people as he could about the ineffectiveness of labeling people with specific mental illness quite a while back (in 1896!). It is a difficult message to get across.

I studied, taught and wrote about bipolar. I even took the psychiatric drugs for it for 12 years. Gradually I discovered that bipolar is no more than a label given to people when an underlying cause has not been found.

Discovering a disorder does not have to mean a permanent disability gives opportunities for change and having a whole new life.

bipolar waking up

My review of Sean Blackwell’s book:

Bipolar or Waking Up

Now we know bipolar is not a genetic disorder…

The idea that mental illness was caused by bad genes was put forward by the Nazi party in 1936. Their propaganda, prior to World War II, altered opinions around the world and being such a simple concept it has stuck.

Science has not helped the situation by describing bipolar disorder as heritable, because it is influenced by the environment. It is now known that the Nazi idea was based on bad science. The heritable observations were entirely due to the environment, such as what was going on in the home that all family members were experiencing

All genetic studies to date:

1)      show no link to genetics

2)      environmental factors are the major cause of psychiatric problems

3)      fail to be repeatable

It turns out anyone can be diagnosed/labelled with bipolar disorder regardless of their genes. Genetics is not at all relevant to bipolar disorder. This has been proven by looking at all the published studies across the world.

On Friday 11th November 2011 Professor Richard Bentall presented a summary of evidence to date for the causes of psychotic illnesses. Major studies around the world have again and again shown that genetics are not significant.

Here is an example of how the myth been perpetuated: Four siblings were all diagnosed with schizophrenia and this was presented as evidence for a genetic link even after it was discovered that they had been repeatedly sexually abused by their father, with sexual abuse being known to be a major factor in developing psychosis regardless of a person’s genetic make-up.

Examination of 27,572 research papers has shown the following are all significant factors, sexual abuse, physical abuse, bullying, being of a very different skin color compared with the bulk of the population, being a homosexual, bisexual or trans-gender person in a place where people are not tolerant of such differences, diet, being from a poor family in a rich community, stigma of almost any kind, use of illegal drugs, use of legal drugs, living in a city. There will be other causes. This research did not show genetics to be a significant factor.

It has recently been found that the false teaching of genetics as a possible cause of mental disorder increases stigma and makes life more difficult for sufferers. This can be explained in the idea that, it is easier to live next door to a neighbor who seems to be struggling mentally due to stress, as most of us have experience of this, but it is difficult to relate to a neighbor who you believe has a faulty brain from birth. It will seem that they will always be different from you and you will not be able to help them.

There is no doubt at all that absolutely anyone can be diagnosed as having bipolar disorder regardless of race/genetics. Just look at the bipolar people we know – there is a complete spectrum.

Why Might Faceless People Provoke Anxiety and So Mess Up Our Mood?

Just over 10 years ago, I was writing metaphorically about masks (see my drawing and link below).

Lennon and McCartney were kind of saying about masks about 50 years ago…

“Lives in a dream
Waits at the window
Wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?”

Writer(s): Lennon John Winston, McCartney Paul James

Today the UK government responded to our petition to,

“Ban the use of face masks in schools”

Here are some words that are absent from the government response, “quality, particles, breathing, breathe, breath, oxygen, carbon-dioxide, lungs, blood, brain, heart, think, thinking, flow, harm, smile, mouth, nose, respiratory, cancer, depression, bacteria, fungi, yeast, mould/mold – none mentioned.

I mention ‘quality’ as a key word as in… consideration of the quality of masks for performance and chemical safety, such as “Are the masks to meet pre-2020 safety guidelines?” Are the masks matching British Safety Standards? Do all the masks have the BSI kitemark* as evidence for safety?

I mention ‘cancer’ as a key word as in… the metabolic theory of cancer that the Nobel Prize was awarded for = lower blood oxygen makes cancer more likely

A word that features strongly in the government response is “evidence” as in,

  1. “latest evidence”
  2. “available evidence”
  3. “best available scientific evidence”
  4. “the available scientific evidence”
  5. “a range of evidence”
  6. “the most recent scientific evidence”

There is no indication of what this evidence is or where it has come from.

Intelligence” is of course important but what is this “intelligence”?

  1. “educational intelligence into account”
  2. “polling data from parents and students and intelligence”
  3. “balanced with intelligence”

They say, “The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) droplets in certain circumstances,”

Being employed as a scientist for most of my life, I will state that in science the words ‘may’ and ‘can’ are very different from ‘will’ and ‘does’. This fact means we are being informed that that masks are very unlikely to stop anything smaller than what can be described as a droplet!

So yes, masks reduce spitting! Beyond that it is like using chain link fence hoping to stop insects flying through.

The above is my opinion as someone who worked in microbiology labs with nasty bacteria and nasty moulds, where masks were not worn and most people stayed healthy.

We hear, ‘Stop the Spread’… Consider the warm-air-hand-driers still in use in hospital toilets… If there were viruses worse than ‘flu would those hand-driers not be disabled by now? Pubs and Cafes have these too. What about schools- are there any warm-air-hand-driers in use in schools?

Before I sign off for today, what has this to do with the 3 moods of bipolar/tripolar anxiety, depression and mania?

I was told 24 years ago that my troubles were genetic and from my childhood. I have been on a journey of realising, that however true or untrue that is, the moods we are all experiencing now are more dependent on our interpretation of the data we are receiving from all of our senses. My senses are telling me that the world has changed and this has, and continues to, cause anxiety.

Click on link in picture for 2 of my posts from March 2001:

Note: Achieving a BSI Kitemark for a product (such as a mask) is voluntary. It is a quality mark unique to BSI and is recognized worldwide as a symbol of quality, safety and trust.

Does your mask have a Kitemark?


Natural Sugars or Healthy Fats – It all depends on your mood? #HCLF #HFLC or #LCHF

Yesterday I mentioned ‘High Carbohydrate Low Fat’ and will admit I used the letters HCLF partly because those letters attract attention. Well, I did receive a few emails and this comment posted here at

…if I am to have breakfast Roger what should I have? Fruit or bacon and eggs?

  1. Ten years ago I would have said, “Make the most amazing fruit-salad cutting up at least six different colourful fruits. Perhaps add something that makes it unique, like a few cherry tomatoes! Then share with family or even take some to share with a neighbour.”
  2. Five years ago I would have said, “Bacon and eggs great! It is sugar-free. It’ll lower your blood glucose, give you energy and help with weight loss.”
  3. A year ago I would have said, “Ditch the bacon! It’ll be full of toxins. Get the best organic eggs you can, lightly boil or poach these so the white is just hard-ish and the yolk runny.”
  4. Now? Today? I’m thinking that providing we are avoiding junk and minimizing toxins neither option is going to do much harm and each contains an amazing mix of nutrients.

What I believe matters more is the timing of our breakfast (breaking of overnight fasting). I think every nutritionist agrees with what Patrick Holford wrote years ago, “Don’t eat for at least an hour after getting up in the morning”. There can be lots of reasons for delaying breakfast. For me, the time before eating is when I get most done per minute.

  • Only about once a week do I have a meal at the time my relatives would call breakfast time, although still at least an hour after getting up.
  • Four or five days a week, I will; write my ‘morning pages’, wash, dress, do yoga-style exercises, have a few hot drinks, shake, do a tiny bit of aerobic stuff, view most of my incoming emails, type a blog-post or similar, put any clothes washing on, walk, hang the washing to dry – All before I prepare my brunch.
  • Usually one day and sometimes two days a week, such as when I am facilitating a group, I eat nothing before noon, 1pm or even 2pm. Keeping busy allows me to do this without causing big shifts in my mood.

Does any of that sound hypo-manic? In recovery, I used to closely monitor my mood – always in fear of ‘relapsing’ as I had been told I was only in ‘remission’. I’m not losing sight of risks of mental health troubles, just that I now know it is lifestyle, stress etc and not any genetic-fixed-uncontrollable disorder. I keep going and achieving while recognizing my changing moods. I know behavior rather than mood determines my long-term happiness.

How does this relate to the “fruit or eggs” choice?

By brunch or lunch-time, what I fancy eating has changed.

Yes, I can allow myself fruit. I often fancy eggs. Now though, I am just as likely to fancy raw organic sauerkraut wrapped in lettuce leaves. I often include all sorts of raw vegetables in my first meal of the day, which very few people would do if eating earlier.

Calories? It will be great when I can stop ever mentioning calories. For now, I’ll just say that do not restrict calories, just that I can eat a couple of big plates full of many different foods for brunch, be full-up for hours, with less than 600kcal. I’ll share more about what this means to me at a later date.

I’m hoping this long answer is taken well by my new reader and it will inspire others to learn as much as they can about what is becoming a popular route to better health and better moods, which may be referred to as intermittent fasting.

I am welcoming bookings to provide talks and facilitate discussions. Please ask.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

What does it all mean? I welcome your thoughts on any of the above or on this slide I created before my morning walk… 2 hours to go to brunch 🙂

HCLF or LFHC versus HFLC or LCHF - What does it mean - Roger Smith

Being Bipolar – 3 of 3 – Contrasting psychiatric views #Moncrieff

Being Bipolar (Channel 4 shown on 6th March 2015):

Sian, who has been diagnosed as bipolar II and psychotherapist, Philippa Perry, meet with an NHS psychiatrist, who waffles at some length about chemical imbalances, without being able to suggest which chemicals could be out of balance or why such an imbalance might exist.

After this, Philippa meets with psychiatrist, Dr Joanna Moncrieff, who shares her knowledge as an expert in psychiatric drug research. Joanna makes it clear that the psychiatric drugs are mainly sedating people and not treating any specific chemical imbalance.

I believe all three of the subjects of this documentary would be living better lives if they were getting help based on their real challenges rather than from a psychiatric system that talks of treating chemical imbalances and genetic disorders from birth. All three had things happen to them that influenced the way they feel and expressed their moods. All three need help with understanding and overcoming their troubles.

At the end Philippa shares, “I don’t know how useful the bipolar diagnosis is, because they are all so different. I feel it might be more helpful to approach everyone as individuals with unique issues, because although being labelled bipolar may help some people make sense of their moods it too often marks the end of self-exploration when really, in fact, it should be the beginning.”

It really is time to stop just Being Bipolar and for more of us to be Rethinking Bipolar and so reaching our fullest potential.

Being Bipolar – 2 of 3 – But not really manic depressives

Being Bipolar (Channel 4 Documentary shown on 6th March 2015):

Three people diagnosed as bipolar were filmed and their troubles considered by psychotherapist Philippa Perry.

Paul, who is a self-made millionaire, was filmed while high, Sian was mainly low and Ashley was rapidly going from high to low. Paul seemed happy enough in his manic state, while Sian and Ashley brought out their boxes of prescribed drugs and revealed how desperate they felt with no real prospects of recovery.

What struck me, was how without any special psychotherapy, it became clear that all was not as it first seemed.

Near the end, Paul has come down from his high and tells Philippa how his high was fueled by smoking ‘legal highs’ that he explains certainly were not just ordinary cigarettes! These were the drugs on which he got high. This was not a manic episode caused solely by his perfectionism or a random mood swing.

Sian’s greatest fear turns out to be from the misconception that bipolar can be passed on genetically to her children. When Philippa takes Sian to meet genetics researcher, Prof Ian Jones, it is explained, “It is not a genetic disorder in that there is a gene for bipolar” and that “Nine out of ten children of a bipolar parent are not being diagnosed as bipolar”. This is new knowledge for Sian, who is now able to consider bipolar in a very different way. From having said earlier that she could not think of any causes other than genetics, she now feels able to talk with to Philippa about wanting to investigate what it was in her life/her environment that had led to mood problems and diagnosis. Towards the end of the programme Sian talks about wanting “to be open to change” and goes to see a psychotherapist based on her discovery that bipolar is not all genetic and pre-determined. She comes to believe that, “It is the start of the end of it.” And when asked “Do you think this is going to be transformative?” She answers, “Yes”.

Ashley suffered from something like autism from an early age and was bullied badly at school. Being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs since he was 8 years old, it comes as no surprise to find him struggling so much. These drugs are known to alter the brain’s development. Philippa says, “It is difficult to find a therapist who is on the same wavelength as someone who is on the autistic spectrum.” Interestingly, after Philippa’s visit, Ashley forms a band with two local musicians who are able to cope with his struggles to stay focused. This seems to give hope that he will be able to fit in better than he was ever able to at school, perhaps simply by being with people who share similar interests.

Overall, the programme did well in showing how diverse bipolar can be. For me, though the most important outcome was how none of three people filmed would, years ago, have been regarded as manic depressives, while each could be so much healthier if they could get access to help beyond their prescribed or acquired drugs.

Lithium and Age: Talk to your doctor. He/she needs to know.

Older people cannot tolerate as much lithium. This is a fact that some doctors and psychiatrists seem to have forgotten. Lithium is killing people.

Lithium continues to be prescribed as sedative and many people continue to take lithium for decades. This is bad because lithium gradually damages every part of our bodies and the more we consume the more damage is done.

If you are taking lithium then you need a plan for taking less as you get older. Even if you feel you benefit from taking lithium you need to be aware that it does cause damage and there is no such thing as a safe level.

Recently I accompanied a friend to see a doctor who went on at length about how my friend’s kidneys were fine and how he was thinking about reducing the lithium dose anyway. After a bit more questioning, it became clear that my friend, who is over 60, should have had his lithium dose reduced much sooner in the light of deteriorating kidney function.

We left with an agreement that his dose could be reduced from 800 to 600mg/day, something which I had agreed, for me, with my doctor when I was just 42. There is a mistaken belief that high doses of lithium are more effective than low doses. The research does not bear this out. It takes very little lithium to have a sedating effect.

Having established that less lithium was needed and my friend would most likely live longer with a less toxic level in his blood, the psychiatrist initially said my friend would feel ‘no difference at all’. It seems he had not thought through the logic of this. For 10 years my friend had been on a high level of lithium with blood tests showing that damage was being done all because the high dose was supposed to make him feel better in some way. Now he was being told that in taking less he would feel no different!

The reality is that an instant 25% reduction will cause feelings and energy levels to change. If you imagine 800mg/day as being like having a foot pushed down on a car brake pedal then 600mg/day is going to be like easing off that pressure and so with the accelerator still in the same place (the accelerator being having a busy life and simply just the energy from eating) then the car is going to speed up somewhat. The psychiatrist’s response was, “If you are going to look for problems then you will have problems.” Was he now agreeing my friend’s troubles were not of a physical/genetic origin and his energy levels were more to do with life events and lifestyle?

This psychiatrist, most likely, has no personal experience of what it feels like to be coming off a sedative drug after a decade or more of taking it every day. If you have not been through this kind of withdrawal, maybe think about someone smoking 40 cigarettes a day and then being told, “From now on you can only have 30 cigarettes a day”. It would be amazing if there were no changes in mood at all, and if there were no changes at all then why was that person feeling the need for those extra 10 toxic cigarettes?

The psychiatrist suggested waiting until my friend had used all his existing tablets before making any reduction.

What I recommended was changing from 800 to 700mg/day by cutting one 400mg tablet in half and then a half into quarters. Then 1¾ tablets = 700mg. This is a 12.5% reduction. Slightly more than the 10% recommended by most experts in this field but at least not the drastic 25% from going straight from 800 to 600. The next step 700 to 600 can now be when the new prescription comes through, giving about two weeks to adjust after the first small step and going down to 600 no later than the psychiatrist suggested.

WARNING: Before moving on to why my friend so urgently needs less lithium, I need to stress that coming off lithium altogether after taking it for years is a dangerous process. Lithium is like having brakes on and stopping it suddenly will cause a huge change in speed/mood for anyone regardless of any troubles they had before first taking it.

How lithium came back into fashion

Lithium carbonate is a naturally occurring mineral that was used for all sorts of illnesses until it was proved to be too toxic. Lithium is toxic to all parts of the body. The toxic effects have been proved to be cumulative, that is, the dose level times the number of doses determines the risk of damage.

There was a period when lithium was not used at all and the stocks of lithium in pharmacies around the world just stayed where they were. It was considered too dangerous to use. Then it was proposed as a way of slowing people down, which of course almost any toxin would do. Perhaps not surprisingly there were deaths from toxicity very early on (ref 1+2). It was however accepted that some people had too much energy for their own good and the risks were worth it. Certainly relatives found it easier than living with people who did not sleep or could not stop talking.

Why less lithium is needed as we age

The research into this has focused on deterioration of kidney function which theoretically will happen quicker in anyone taking lithium supplements. A lot of research has been carried out and it has all found the same thing. Yes, those people on lithium are losing kidney function, while damaged kidneys become less able to remove all toxins and that includes lithium.

As we get older our kidneys increasingly struggle to eliminate lithium and blood concentrations become more toxic.

In this example, greater attention to annual monitoring could have allowed this man’s lithium dosage to be reduced a year earlier as his lithium in blood result went above 0.8mmol/l and his kidney function as estimated by GFR dropped below 70.

My opinion

A diet/lifestyle that causes someone to seem ‘manic’, and have to see doctors about not sleeping, etc, requires help other than lithium tablets.

Most people will experience a lot of sedation from just 400mg/day lithium and I know people who are very satisfied taking just 100mg/day. This is said to be below the ‘therapeutic limit’, but they find it therapeutic, while avoiding the risks of complete withdrawal.

If you are supporting someone prescribed lithium, please help them with thinking about how and when they will be able to reduce the dosage. Even if they like the idea of taking lithium a sensible target could be to be on half the dose within a decade.

Summing up

Talking about lithium tends to cause controversy as so many people believe lithium helps. In some ways it does, but overall I am sure the world would be a better place if ‘lithium therapy’ could once again be banned.

Those who read this blog regularly will know there is plenty of evidence that people who have extremes of mood need more help other than tablets, especially help with getting their diet right, to cope with stress. Effective help/support is far better than labelling and drugging.

For those on psychiatric drugs regular reviews and help with reduce drug dependence are essential to avoid lives being shortened by drug effects.

Roger Smith – – article updated 15th August 2014


  1. Robert Whitaker, 2011, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, Broadway Books

Page 183, “…in 1949, the FDA banned it [lithium] after it was found to cause cardiovascular problems.”, “John Cade fed it [lithium] to guinea pigs and found it made them docile.”,

  1. Dr Joanna Moncrieff, 2009, The Myth of the Chemical Cure: A Critique of Psychiatric Drug Treatment

Page 181 “However after looking at Cade’s [1949] clinical notes on this experiment, Johnson suggests that the results were more ambiguous. Toxic effects and ‘side-effects’ were more frequent and severe than the impression conveyed in the published paper. The notes record that one patient  died, two others had to discontinue lithium because of severe toxicity and one patient refused to take it, none of which was reported in the published article.”


Year A few research papers I feel are relevant
1977 Age as a factor affecting lithium therapy

D S HewickP NewburyS HopwoodG Naylor, and J Moody

Br J Clin Pharmacol. Apr 1977; 4(2): 201–205.

1993 Kidney damage in long-term lithium patients: A cross-sectional study of patients with 15 years or more on lithium

Bendz, M. Aurell, J. Balldin, A. A. Mathé, I. Sjödin

Author Affiliations

1Department of Psychiatry, University of Lund Lund

2Nephrology, University of Göteborg Göteborg

3Psychiatry and Neurochemistry, University of Göteborg Göteborg

4Department of Psychiatry, Karolinska Institute Stockholm

5Department of Psychiatry, University of Linköping Linköping, Sweden

Correspondence and offprint requests to:Dr M. Aurell, Njurkliniken Göteborg liniversitet, Sahlgrenska Sjukhuset, 41345 Goteborg, Sweden

2000 Differential pharmacokinetics of lithium in elderly patients

Drugs Aging. 2000 Mar;16(3):165-77.

Sproule BA1Hardy BGShulman KI.

2003 Risk factors for the development of lithium-induced polyuria

Br. J. Psychiatry (2003) 182 (4): 319-323

2008 Lithium-induced Nephrogenic Diabetes Insipidus: Renal Effects of Amiloride

Jennifer J. Bedford, Susan Weggery, Gaye Ellis, Fiona J. McDonald, Peter R. Joyce, John P. LeaderRobert J. Walker

Author Affiliations

Departments of *Medical and Surgical Sciences and Physiology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand; and Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand


Robert J. Walker, Department of Medical & Surgical Sciences, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin, New Zealand. Phone: (643) 474 0999, 8045; Fax: (643) 474 7641; E-mail:

2008 Monitoring of glomerular filtration rate in lithium-treated outpatients–an ambulatory laboratory database surveillance

Nephrol Dial Transplant (2008) 23 (2): 562-565

2012 The Effects of Lithium on Renal Function in Older Adults–A Systematic Review

J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol (2012) 25 (1): 51-61


Boer Walther, Goldschmeding Roel, Rookmaaker Maarten1  (scroll down to find article SUO018)

2013 Management of the renal adverse effects of lithium

Adv. Psychiatr. Treat. (2013) 19 (6): 457-466

2014 Increased risk of solid renal tumors in lithium-treated patients – Clinical Investigation

Kidney International (2014) 86, 184–190; doi:10.1038/ki.2014.2; published online 22 January 2014

Mohamad Zaidan1,2,3, Fabien Stucker4, Bénédicte Stengel5,6, Viorel Vasiliu7, Aurélie Hummel1,2, Paul Landais, Jean-Jacques Boffa4,9, Pierre Ronco4,9, Jean-Pierre Grünfeld1,2 and Aude Servais1,2

1Department of Nephrology-Transplantation, Necker Hospital, APHP, Paris Descartes University, Paris, France

2Paris Descartes University, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France

3INSERM U845, Centre de Recherche “Croissance et Signalisation”, Paris, France

4Department of Nephrology, Tenon Hospital, APHP, Paris, France

5INSERM U1018, Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Villejuif, France

6UMRS 1018, Univ Paris-Sud, Villejuif, France

7Department of Pathology, Necker Hospital, APHP, Paris Descartes University, Paris, France

8Department of Biostatistics, Necker Hospital, Paris, France

9UPMC Univ Paris 6, Paris, France

Correspondence: Aude Servais, Department of Nephrology-Transplantation, Necker Hospital, APHP, Paris Descartes University, 149 rue de Sèvres, Paris 75015, France.

Received 1 September 2013; Revised 14 November 2013; Accepted 12 December 2013
Advance online publication 22 January 2014


John Read summaries causes of psychosis

John Read starts by telling us of two events early in his career (the first includes some strong language) that perhaps helped him appreciate the need to better understand the causes of emotional distress. I remember that John has written about his experience in New York in “A Straight Talking Introduction to the Causes of Mental Health Problems” (Page 2).

John goes on to share, slide-by-slide, research that proves schizophrenia (and I believe therefore bipolar too) is caused by what happens to us and has nothing at all to do with genetics.

The first 7 minutes is just the introduction to the talk so it is best to start watching from 7 minutes into the video:

When we see the scans of damaged brains it is not surprising that recovery from trauma and from over-medication (anti-psychotics are known to destroy brain cells) takes time. Really though, when on a good diet, brains repair themselves. People who have been unwell for decades and largely written off by traditional health services can make remarkable recoveries when they are helped to get good nutrition.

As a food chemist, recovery through better nutrition now interests me more than anything else.

The smoking of psychiatry

The debate about whether psychological problems are caused by trauma/abuse OR by our chemistry OR by our genes has been going on for as long as I can remember.

Here Simon Hatcher reminds us that childhood abuse is a major reason in causing psychiatric problems. He likens this abuse to smoking that beyond doubt causes disease.

In a very different article Ken McLaughlin says “This social preoccupation with abuse, and the way people are encouraged to interpret their current problems through the prism of past sufferings, should be of greater concern than anything DSM-5 might come up with.” – This is from a longish article which left me feeling that Ken has not met as many people as I have who have never doubted that abuse in childhood was the main reason leading to psychiatric difficulties. If you have time his article is here…

Or read what Judith Haire has to say in response to Ken McLaughlin’s “Our brains aren’t moulded by abuse”

Different groups have different things to gain from convincing us that their preferred explanations are the most valid.

My own experience and what I have learned by listening to hundreds of people and reading widely is:

Genetics pretty much have nothing to do with causing us to come in front of psychiatrists. No one is immune and the trend is towards every family being affected by poor mental health. As discussed before at Rethinking Bipolar the claims of links between genes and emotional distress have never been backed up by any other group doing similar research anywhere in the world. There is however no single cause of mental distress and often there are multiple triggers.

Trauma/abuse sets millions of people up for struggling with their emotional health for decades after the event(s). Sometimes it is recognized as Post Traumatic Stress but usually it is not so clear-cut.

Our biochemistry is a huge factor in determining our mental health. Our mental health also affects our biochemistry. DSM-5 is essentially the drug company’s brochure and main marketing tool. The problems we have with our body’s chemistry rarely need the high-tech, complex solutions the drug companies would have us believe. Next time you are sitting with someone who is keen to talk about their emotional difficulties take a look at them. Chances are they will not be looking particularly physically fit. Trauma and abuse makes us more susceptible to less healthy life-styles and then life-style drives both our physical and emotional health – in the wrong direction.

I think all our authors and just about everyone involved with sorting out emotional health problems know that both trauma/abuse and chemistry are involved. The debate as to which is more significant will continue. What I am hoping can be accepted is that both are always involved in some way. Even in the cases cited by Ken McLaughlin where people say they were abused but will not or cannot talk about what happened, I feel sure things did happen that influence them towards the troubles they end up in.  The fact that some or even a great many people suffer extreme trauma/abuse and have never had to see a psychiatrist is perhaps a testament to healthy life-style, good relationships  etc being protective factors.

What I have consistently noticed is that those who feel they were traumatized/abused who then went on to make poor lifestyle choices and without the right support things got worse for them.

Poor lifestyle choices? I read an article this morning about some mental health issues causing sufferers to die 25 years earlier and the likelihood that this is largely as a result of psychiatric drugs and not just a direct result from poor mental health and poor lifestyle choices.

Summary: Trauma/abuse with insufficient support > poor lifestyle choices > poor chemistry > stress > diagnosis > a need to discuss earlier problems which may be to do with past events OR maybe what I help people with, which is in addressing current lifestyle to correct biochemistry without the need for DSM-5.


More people are being labelled as BAD! – Bipolar Affective Disorder

Bipolar Affective Disorder = BAD, was created as a new category of ‘mental illness’ in 1980 by its inclusion in the Psychiatrists’ Diagnostic Manual. Prior to 1980 almost no one had heard of bipolar disorder. A story was created saying that this ‘illness’ was simply the renaming of manic depression and gradually more and more people came to believe this story.

Manic Depression was a very rare diagnosis. Bipolar is not just common, it has become an epidemic.

From one person in 10,000 being affected, psychiatry now claims that about 1 in 4 people are now in the bipolar spectrum and the number affected is increasing. Strangely, we are also told it is genetic. The story just does not make sense. A genetic problem does not go from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 4 in one generation.

What is really going on?

Firstly, Bipolar is not an illness or even a disorder. It is a label given to people who have emotional difficulties. Anyone can have emotional difficulties. These tend to be caused by relationships (e.g. a relative dying), where we live (e.g. having your home repossessed), not knowing how to take care of ourselves (e.g. eating too much carbohydrate or not getting outdoors in daylight) and concerns about the future.

People react to emotional difficulties in different ways. For those who are unable to turn to friends and family a coping mechanism is visiting the GP. In the western world GP’s have been told that emotional difficulties are best treated with sedative drugs and readily prescribe these. Unfortunately, despite many unpleasant side-effects these drugs are addictive. Once started most people find they cannot cope without the drugs. Drugs tend to destabilize moods further, such that:

Emotional difficulties >>> a visit to the GP >>> prescription drugs >>> drug induced emotional difficulties >>> visit to psychiatrist has become the most common route into the ‘bipolar club’.

The last step of labeling used to be exclusively by psychiatrists. With getting on for a quarter of the population believing they need a ‘bipolar label’ the psychiatrists have not been keeping up with the demand they helped to create. An increasingly common route has become via the internet. People are looking at lists of warning signs of emotional difficulties that have been relabeled as ‘bipolar symptoms’ and recognize themselves. Well, really it is not so much themselves they recognize but their recent way of living and coping with emotional difficulties.

Having convinced themselves by reading and often completing an on-line ‘Am I Bipolar?’ quiz, they go to see the GP and present their ‘symptoms’ just as described on-line. This describing our life in terms of symptoms tends to convince GP’s who have been trained to believe bipolar is a brain disorder, that the patient has this disorder. The GP may or may not write, BIPOLAR, but tends to allow the patient to leave with the belief they have a mental illness and that they are bipolar.

The idea of ‘I am bipolar’ has spread around the world. This has further promoted bipolar as a disorder people are being born with and something that stays for life.

There are other ways the disorder is growing. For now though:

Explore the idea that bipolar is more of a label than a diagnosis

Emotional… correction of link

There was an incorrect link – I am reposting whole thing. Sorry if any readers went off to the wrong site.

Here is the page and video you may have watched just now…

People who study causes of mental distress know it is events/things that cause it.

Businesses who thrive on telling us that it is genetic illness have had louder voices. Maybe Blogs and Twitter are now allowing us to get the word out there.

Blogs and Twitter may not be good for the big drug companies but are definitely good for anyone who reads this page at wellnesswordworks and then avoids being diagnosed and medicated. Mostly it’s not more medication that people need.

Quality listening helps a lot more than most people realise.

Emotional distress causes psychosis –

I have just read this page and watched a short video on it…

People who study causes of mental distress know it is events/things that cause it.

Businesses who thrive on telling us that it is genetic illness have had louder voices. Maybe Blogs and Twitter are now allowing us to get the word out there.

Blogs and Twitter may not be good for the big drug companies but are definitely good for anyone who reads this page at wellnesswordworks and then avoids being diagnosed and medicated. Mostly it’s not more medication that people need.

Quality listening helps a lot more than most people realise.


People in the UK have largely the USA version of bipolar disorder (a diagnosis created in the USA in 1980). We have often heard;

“has always been around” – It is not true.


“is just the same as the old manic depression diagnosis”- Also not true. Why?


“people can be born with bipolar disorder” – Not true. More on genetics

Through Rethinking Bipolar, I am sharing as much as I can of my 16 years studying, writing and teaching about manic depression / bipolar disorder. He’s a few bullet points:

  • It does not have to be for life
  • It does not always have to be treated with drugs
  • It is not a separate illness
  • It is not distinguishable from other forms of emotional distress
  • When we take time to look we usually find physical causes that can be eliminated
  • Eliminating causes can allow a whole new life – you may still feel ‘a bit bipolar’ but now without the disorder part

Help with identifying causes of disorders usually enables recovery and long lasting well-being.

Please read more, watch videos and seek out alternative views. If not convinced that great recoveries are possible please come back here again in a few months as I am keen to share more of what I have learned.

Does the USA need to lead the way? The bipolar diagnosis was created in the USA. The rest of the world has followed. Adopting American style diets and lifestyles has weakened young people’s coping mechanisms leading to more emotional distress. I believe it needs people in the USA regain hope, rethink what is meant by ‘bipolar’ and make the choices necessary to lead the world in eliminating the disorder. I am hoping I can help, although rather isolated from where the highest rates of bipolar are in the USA.

Here are just some of those who have so far been involved, supported, contributed or shared some great ideas to help with Rethinking Bipolar:

Tom Whootton, San Fransisco, USA – author of ‘Bipolar IN Order’:

Sean Blackwell, Canada/Brazil – author of ‘Am I Bipolar or Just Waking Up?’:

Robert Whitaker, USA – author of ‘Mad in America’:

Dr Liz Miller, London, UK – author of: Mood Mapping

Jeremy Thomas who has supported Roger since exchanging our first books at a bipolar conference in 2005…

Becky Shaw co-author (with Roger) of the Advance Statement Workbook and many research articles about emotional disorders, recovery, well-being and developing resilience

Danny Walsh, Lincoln, UK – co-author with Roger of our 2012 Bipolar Disorder handbook

Others who are supporting Rethinking Bipolar include Marian Moore who provided an article and Simon who has been gradually eliminating my typing mistakes and helping it all make sense to those who do not have direct experience of the most extremes of moods and behavior.



Recovery starts with questioning

I was told; “Do not to think about getting better“, “You will need for drugs for life” and “Forget about going back to work

Did these psychiatrists really believe I was beyond hope?

Did they say these things to make me angry and determined to prove them wrong?

Being told that bipolar is an incurable genetic disorder (it is not of course) took a lot of hope away. Psychiatric drugs made me sleep more, put on weight and have less ambition. It was difficult to cope. Being addicted to a prescribed mood-altering-drug is like any addiction. It took many years to gradually and safely taper off these drugs that were wrecking my physical health.

By 2008, I had learned enough to be employed as a health research interviewing people who had made great recoveries from severe mental illnesses. Initially, I did not understand those who said they had ‘recovered’ from mood disorders. I believed I would be ‘in-recovery’ until I died. After reading many interview transcripts it became clear I had been wrong. These people had indeed recovered. They were adding phrases starting with, “Providing I…“.

They had learned that eating right, moving enough and so on were important for good health. These are things that ordinary, less emotional, people know naturally. Some of us have to learn after doing it all wrong.

I have now been out of hospital and back working for 20 years, yet have I stopped having pretty extreme moods? Are, even long, periods of good health just ‘remissions’?

Some people still say, “You WILL become ill again“, so I need to stay well to prove them wrong!

There is no other disorder like bipolar: The better we feel and the more we achieve, the more the ‘experts’ say we must be ill and try to force drugs on us to make us less well. Is there any other illness or disorder in the world where sufferers are told not to think about what it would be like to leave it all behind?

It is time for change.  Without change the numbers with the diagnosis will continue to grow. Diagnosis with no possibility of ‘undiagnosis’ cannot be right.

By recovering as fully as anyone can from the trauma of diagnosis, over-medication and maltreatment I was offered a discharge from all mental health support. I was deemed too well to need any kind of support. Yet there was no route for exploring the possibility that I could now be fully fit. No discussion that a lack of symptoms might mean the disorder had gone or perhaps… I did not have an incurable disorder in the first place?

Strangely, even people who hate their disorder fight against the idea of full recovery. It is a difficult concept after so many years of indoctrination about the incurable nature of bipolar disorder.

Is it hope, false hope or even a fantasy to believe a bipolar recovery can lead to eventually having no disorder at all or even have our diagnosis taken off our health records?  Should those who believe it-cannot-be-done be preaching to those who dream of one day being well again?

Some of us need to dream. Some of us need to act on those dreams.

If this page (created in 2011 (edited in 2019)) still makes sense and is still going then could this suggest bipolar recovery is real and lasting? A ‘bipolar person’ earning enough money to fund a project that keeps going and growing – whilst not taking any psychiatric drugs – surely that contradicts the ‘expert’ opinion. Or else, if creating web sites and sharing ideas about full recovery is an illness, then it is a strange illness!

Please work on recovery and change things for the next generation.

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