Bipolar Parent In Denial

by Lynne
(Seattle, WA, USA)

My Dad is bipolar (I am as well) and over the past couple of years he seems to have gotten a lot worse. His moods swings are much more extreme and disruptive. He refuses treatment, claiming that bipolar is "who he is" and that being bipolar is not an illness. I have heard that untreated bipolar gets continually worse and worse, and I am really scared for him. Is this true? Is there anything I can do for him?

Ben's Answer:

This is always a very difficult situation with a loved one who is not taking care of themselves. The fact is, long-term evidence shows that in the long run, psychiatric medication does NOT improve the quality of life or functional level of a person with Bipolar Disorder (despite what the psychiatric industry insists), but short-term crises - like a severe manic episode - can be suppressed with medication and this often proves to be necessary - especially as there are rarely any realistic alternatives to respond to a psychiatric crisis.

But with or without medication, it is important to take responsibility and take measures to keep yourself emotional balanced. You can't force a person in denial to do this.

Yes, the usual understanding is that bipolar episodes can get worse over time without treatment. This is based on the idea that each time a manic episode occurs there is an impact on the brain which predisposes you to more mania. But the literature also shows that certain factors such as antidepressant medications can actually de-stabilize the brain and often create far worse, chronic mood cycling in a person who is predisposed to bipolar symptoms.

At the very least a person like your dad should be seeing a therapist. Any stress can trigger bipolar symptoms and having good methods of stress relief - therapy, exercise, yoga,meditation, proper diet, etc - is very important to the overall stability.

I find that those most resistant to treatment for their bipolar condition are usually opposed to medication (and not without good reason). But they usually don't think there are any other alternatives out there, so they don't even look.

You might want to share this info with him, and also suggest he look at the info for EmPower Plus at as a natural supplement that really works for many people.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT

Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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Mar 10, 2014
confusing emphasis on meds in the answer
by: Anonymous

I started reading this forum from the top, and saw -- and agreed with -- one five-star rating after another. But agreement is boring - ha! - so now I'm reading from the bottom. And here was a one-starrer.

Interesting letter. I see something in my own parents that makes me relate. As one friend said to me, "As people age, they get more and more like the way they already were." We laughed at how that sentence came out, but you probably get what it means.

I appreciate what you said in your response, but it surprised me that you wrote, "At the very least a person like your dad should be seeing a therapist." Least? I'd have thought that would be considered a best case scenario, if this Dad was willing to see a therapist. No? Is this just a language thing?

Your answer made me reread the letter, to find reference to the Dad having been on or refusing medications, but there wasn't any... So why were medications the main focus of your response, right from the beginning? I mean, I agree with much of what you said, but why did you say it in response to this letter?

And your last paragraph really baffled me. After all that talk about psychiatric meds being mostly unhelpful, and maybe even harmful, you do a 180 and shill for pills yourself. That's funny, except... was it supposed to be? What's your relationship with Truehope -- any?

Ben's response:
Thanks for your candid feedback. I don't think that any single approach always works for a person. Each individual needs to find what works for them. When I hear that someone is refusing "treatment" for bipolar I usually take that to mean they are refusing medication for bipolar because that is usually synonymous with treatment in the mainstream. Forcing a person to take medication usually backfires horribly. If I was worried about a parent who had bipolar symptoms and they refused to consider medication, I would try to get them to talk to a therapist or take a nutritional supplement that might help them feel more balanced and maybe this would be less offensive to their sense of self.

Medication is not evil. It's a question of what will work and what is a person willing to try.

Thanks for your question about TrueHope. I have no connection to TrueHope but have observed a number of my clients who have used it over the past 8 years or so, and that is the only reason that I have come to consider it a valid option for some people.

Oct 21, 2010
Where's Your Proof
by: BPRob

"The fact is, long-term evidence shows that in the long run, psychiatric medication does NOT improve the quality of life or functional level of a person with Bipolar Disorder"

Where's your proof? EVERYTHING I've read from scientific sources maintains the opposite. As a person with BP, I know that meds have pretty much saved my life.

Ben's Answer:

It's true that many people have gotten their lives under control by being on psych meds and many of my own clients would say exactly the same thing. But there is a mountain of evidence on the other side of this issue, that never see the light of day because there are huge money interests suppressing it. I highly recommend a book called "Anatomy of an Epidemic" by Robert Whitaker. It makes a very compelling case against the long term use of psych meds. I think every therapist and doctor should read it - but I don't think that most psychiatrists could read it without becoming very depressed themselves.

Much of the information in the book is based on statistics of the rise of mental illness, and the rates of disability for those who are taking psych meds, versus the disability rates for those who choose not to take medication.

But this is a personal choice. And I have always supported people in doing what they feel is the right choice for them, whether it's medication or not. No disrespect intended towards those that have had a positive experience with meds.

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