In yesterday's post, I wrote that during a person's diagnosis for bipolar disorder, I feel he/she should take tests for temperament, and also personality (which I didn't mention). Within psychological circles, there's a lot of discussion about the differences between temperament and personality, which I'll try to explain briefly--just so I can make my point.
The easiest way to explain it is that temperament is a set of traits you're born with. It appears early in childhood, and while it's not measurable, observed over time it suggests a certain pre-disposition toward a "particular configuration of habits." According to Dr. David Keirsey, co-author of Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types, there are four temperament types: Guardians, Idealists, Artisans, and Rationals.
Your personality is formed by your temperament and character, which may be influenced by your environment, socialization, education, birth order, siblings, interpersonal pressures etc. The most popular test for this is the Myers Briggs Personality Tests, and they define 16 personality types.
Finally, my point is this: In every book I've read about bipolar mood disorder, psychiatrists talk about the bipolar personality. And in books on depression, they talk about the "depressed" personality. And none of their descriptions have ever resonated with me. Of course, I always feel they're trying to find some way of "blaming" me for my illness.
But, what if they gave bipolar people (BIPs) temperament and personality tests? And what if they found that the majority of BIPs are highly sensitive? Or that according to the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, BIPs tend to be Idealists? Or according to the Myers Briggs Personality Tests, most BIPs tend to be INFPs or ISFPs and "live in an intently personal fashion, they strive to adhere to their own high personal moral standards, and they are deeply empathetic?"
I have no idea whether BIPs have any similar temperament and/or personality traits, but it would be interesting to find out. It would also be important to know how well we deal with stress. Was our adjustment from adolescence to adulthood more difficult than most? There are numerous other questions that would have value.
Why? Because, if we share certain temperament and personality traits, and if we have similar problems dealing with stress, or if we tend to have difficulties dealing with change, then it should be relatively easy to develop a skills-based program to help us, rather than having every single one of us try to seek help on our own.
And rather than "blaming" us for being different, we could be taught certain coping skills, or we could be praised for our sensitivity, or encouraged to pursue occupations that would take advantage of our unique perceptions and sensibilities.
It's just a thought...