A Rose by Any Other Name

‘A rose by any other name, still smells as sweet’, is a phrase familiar to us all and recently through emails from readers of my articles I have been thinking about this theme.

A number of readers have contacted me with queries about what do they have?  Is it bipolar disorder; is it borderline personality disorder, or schizophrenia?

And this got me thinking how we get stuck on labels at times instead of just dealing with our life’s situation and symptoms.

In fact at my local doctors’ today, as I went to get a script that I had run out of and urgently needed, the idea was really driven home to me. The doctor had to ring up our government health people to get authority to prescribe it, she gave all my details to the government clerk, Medicare number, full name and address and then they have to give the name of the disorder they are prescribing the drug for.

Because of the peculiarities of our government prescription scheme, only certain drugs can be prescribed for some disorders and attract government subsidy.  If the disorder given to them is the wrong one, you can still have them but you have to pay full price as a private script.

My other drugs, Epilim (Valproate), and Luvox are listed as approved drugs for bipolar disorder but Seroquel, my antipsychotic, although frequently prescribed for bipolar disorder as an augmenting medication is only approved for use for schizophrenia.  So normally I have to pay for it as a private script and pay full price.

However the doctor today, who is not my regular one, gave my disorder as schizophrenia when she rang for the authorization to prescribe.   Of course I wasn’t unhappy when I picked up the script to find that I had been given the subsidized price, not the full price, simply because they had used the schizophrenia label instead of my normal bipolar disorder.

Now I remember when my family doctor first mentioned bipolar disorder to me and the horror and denial that I went through to find my label wasn’t depression – it was worse!

Now after a few years of treatment and a much more stable life, I look back and smile at my reaction to the bipolar label.   And to suddenly have a doctor for some reason label me schizophrenic didn’t faze me at all.

Am I schizophrenic – am I bipolar? Or does it really matter? 

As Emil Kraepelin discovered in his seminal work on psychiatric disorders, many of the mood disorders and other psychiatric illnesses share symptoms.  You have to look at the totality of the person and their illness to find the pattern that best describes their disorder and then treat that individual’s symptoms to help their recovery.

If you are new to the bipolar community – don’t be overly worried about labels or tags, we are all coping together with our lives and what the world or others label us does not matter.  That we are individuals who are important does!

Graham Brown

4 February 2006


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