Review of the book «The bipolar spectrum» by Joel Paris

El espectro bipolar. ¿Diagnóstico o moda?
Joel Paris
Ned Ediciones, Barcelona, 2021

[Automatic translation from Spanish]:
Joel Paris is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University (Canada) and a renowned clinician and researcher, specialising in personality and mood disorders. He is a former editor-in-chief of the prestigious The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

In this book Paris addresses a highly topical issue: the enormous increase in the number of diagnoses associated with bipolar disorder, not only in the adult population, but also in children. This sort of mania of mania reaches unprecedented figures, up to 25% of the US population, if one considers the nebulous notions of clinical subthreshold and bipolar spectrum (García, González, & Pérez, 2014). This increase in the (supposed) prevalence of bipolarity is due, among other things, to the emergence of the concept of spectrum in contemporary psychopathology (thus, the autistic spectrum has been described, psychotic, obsessive or depressive) and, more specifically, to the (supposed) delimitation of the concept of bipolar spectrum, based on the idea of weak bipolarity.

It should be recalled that the concept of spectrum comes from the natural sciences and was developed to describe how the same phenomenon presents itself in different ways (Tous, 2008). Thus, for example, the acoustic spectrum or the electromagnetic spectrum are mentioned. The basic idea is that in a spectrum condition there are values that are not fixed, but can vary along a continuum.

The idea could appear very attractive at the outset, insofar as it would place people with mental disorders in a dimension of continuum, with respect to more standard situations, so to speak. Another thing would be to consider between which polarities this continuum is situated. It is not the same to speak of a continuous line between health and illness; between normality and abnormality or, as we prefer to point out, between emotional balance and excessive emotional suffering (Talarn, Saínz and Rigat, 2013).

In any case, it seems to us that the notion of spectrum has misled many professionals. […]

Antoni Talarn
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