Lately, we’ve noticed many articles floating around the Web about the fact that bipolar disorder is not associated with increased incidents of violent crime. Most, if not all, of these articles are in response to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry (September, 2010) entitled “Bipolar Disorder and Violent Crime.” In this study, researchers arrived at the following conclusion:
Although current guidelines for the management of individuals with bipolar disorder do not recommend routine risk assessment for violence, this assertion may need review in patients with comorbid substance abuse.
In other words, if any connection is to be made between bipolar disorder and violent crime, it’s not the bipolar disorder causing the problem. An increased risk of violence is constrained almost entirely to instances in which alcohol or substance abuse is also at work.
We don’t find the conclusion surprising, but it is disturbing to see so many articles cite the study as proof that bipolar disorder doesn’t make people more violent. It’s almost as if we’re expected to be surprised. The stigmatization of bipolar disorder is apparently so strong that we need a study to counter what the media has led most people to believe.
Nearly on a weekly basis, we notice stories about violent crimes that single out people who have or are suspected of having bipolar disorder. This is the same media that would never, ever consider singling out criminals by race or ethnicity.