I wanted to share with you a comment I received on my blog:
“There is a difference between a symptom and a behavior. A symptom is what is experienced by a person as a result of an illness. A behavior is an ACTION that person takes in response to that experience. Hypersexuality, for example, does not mean being unfaithful. Hypersexuality is a symptom. It is the experience of a suddenly or dramatically increased sex drive. There are many choices as to what to do in response to a sudden increase in libido. The vast majority of those choices are not harmful to self or others, illegal, irresponsible, or regrettable.
So I don’t dispute for one minute that in general, there is a set of symptoms that is typical for a person with bipolar disorder. Most of us here agree that bipolar disorder doesn’t go away. That means if I have bipolar disorder, I will have symptoms — EXPERIENCES of the illness for the rest of my life.
My responsibility to myself is to think about how I want to conduct myself, what kind of life I want. Responsibility means I keep tabs on what I DO. Yep, I know that typical set of symptoms. What I DON’T do is ACT just the same as every other person who has those same symptoms. And therein lies the difference which some people tend to disregard when talking about the whole big bunch of us.
I could feel like doing all manner of destructive things. I could tell you the reason why I feel like doing destructive things is because of symptoms of bipolar disorder. And I could be right! At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what destructive thing I felt like doing, nor does it matter why.
It matters which CHOICE I made.”
So, he is basically talking about the difference between a symptom and a behavior. He’s defining a symptom as what is experienced by a person as a result of an illness. Then he defines a behavior as an action that the person takes in response to that experience. He uses the example of hypersexuality (increased sex drive), which is one of the symptoms of bipolar disorder. So hypersexuality is something that a person in a manic episode might experience, because it’s a symptom.
In his words, “Most of us here agree that bipolar disorder doesn’t go away. That means if I have bipolar disorder, I will have symptoms – EXPERIENCES of the illness for the rest of my life.” I like the way he put that, because it is realistic. It’s not realistic to assume that you won’t have symptoms if you have bipolar disorder, because if you have the disorder, no matter how long you’ve been stable, you WILL have symptoms from time to time.
So then he goes into CHOICES. This has to do with what he said in the beginning of his post:
“A behavior is an ACTION that person takes in response to that experience.” So you have a symptom, then an experience, then a CHOICE, then an ACTION (behavior). Now, some people stop there, and make poor choices, or impulsive decisions, which cause wrong actions.
So what is the key, does he say? RESPONSIBILITY. He says, “Responsibility means I keep tabs on what I DO.” He uses the example of wanting to do destructive things, and he concludes, “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what destructive thing I felt like doing, nor does it matter why. It matters which CHOICE I made.” And that would be great if everyone could do it that way. Unfortunately, when someone with bipolar disorder is in an episode, their thinking is impaired, and they won’t necessarily be able to make good choices, or exhibit good behavior.
When they are in an episode, your loved one may throw responsibility out the window and be unable to control their impulses as a result of their “symptoms.” At that point, everything this man said is “out the window,” since the person is “experiencing” a bipolar episode.
At best, though, in my opinion, I agree with what he said.
Well, I have to go!