Functionality as the Measure of Quality of Life in Bipolar

August 25, 2016 Natasha Tracy

Functionality is important in anyone’s life but I would argue functionality should not be the sole measure of quality of life in bipolar disorder. Quality of life is so much more than just whether one can make it through the day or how many pages a writer can produce. Quality of life in bipolar, and in everyone’s life, is complicated. Functionality matters in quality of life in bipolar but it’s not the only thing (Bipolar Disorder and Decreasing Functionality).

Psychiatrists Love to Measure Functionality in Bipolar

Psychiatrists don’t have enough stuff to measure and doctors like to measure things. They like to measure weight, height, blood pressure and so on. These are indicators of wellness or sickness and psychiatrists don’t have these objective indicators.

Functionality as a measure of quality of life in bipolar is somewhat measurable. For example, how many days of work did you miss in the last month? How much are you sleeping? How many days did you care for your children? And so on.

This assessed level of functionality then indicates quality of life in bipolar disorder and, by the transitive properties of mental illness, how well the bipolar medications are working.

Only, it sort of doesn’t.

My Functionality as a Bipolar

Functionality is important as a quality of life in bipolar indicator. But who should decide what factors measure my functionality? Me or my doctors? Read this.I can easily measure my own functionality. How many pages of my book have I edited? How many articles have I written? How many jobs have been left undone?

And while some things require subjective judgement, in general, I know how productive I am.

I discuss this productivity with my doctor. The trouble is, I start to feel like a machine that makes widgets. Ten widgets per hour is good, but 15 widgets an hour is better, so let’s, de facto, take the 15-widgets-per-hour medication cocktail. Yay.

Functionality in Bipolar Compared to Quality of Life

I will be the first one to say that functionality is critical to my survival. I have to work to make money to pay for my apartment, kitty food and so on; so if I don’t function, it’s seriously bad times.

But I can also say so many other things are important, too.

For example, what are the side effects of the current cocktail? If I take medication that only allows for 12 widgets an hour, but it means I can have an orgasm, isn’t that better than the 15-widget-per-hour medication where I can’t?

But this is not the calculation that doctors make. However, this is the calculation I think we all must make in order to actually maximize our wellness. Because we all value very different things and functionality is just one part of those things. Childcare, for example, is going to be very important for some, while the ability to create art is going to be very important for others. And doctors don’t know what is critical for any individual, unless, of course, we tell them.

So I say keep measuring functionality, in bipolar disorder as a quality of life indicator, but remember so many other things matter, too, and maximizing one’s wellness isn’t just about widgets per hour.

(I’m not the only one to have thought of this, by the way. If you are interested in quality of life indicators supported by research on patients, see this great quality of life tool by the amazing researchers at CREST.BD.)

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

Image by Flickr user Day Donaldson.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2016, August 25). Functionality as the Measure of Quality of Life in Bipolar, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

September, 5 2016 at 1:08 pm

I'm on disability because of my illnesses. My husband had to convince me to sign up. But we were bleeding money, almost in crisis on that level. My doc agreed, and we applied. We were approved on our 2nd try. I know we needed it but it stung. We were also broke because of medical bills. It has helped, yes. I just want to be BETTER. It's hard feeling the stigma, I used to manage like 40 people. Could I still do that? um, nope. I tried to, twice. Both tries were a big FAIL. And my doc tells me "Do not apply for a job, any kind". He knows that I feel so guilty but he just simply did not want to see another crises set me back. I hope that someday I will be well enough to work.

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