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Chef David Chang Shares How His Bipolar Disorder Causes ‘Affective Dysregulation’

What happened: In his upcoming memoir, “Eat a Peach,” noted chef and Momofuku restaurant-chain founder, David Chang, revealed his bipolar disorder diagnosis. Beginning in his high school days, Chang, the son of Korean American immigrants, felt despondent all the time, experienced debilitating anxiety, and didn’t feel like he “fit in” with his peers. He struggled at first with the idea of treatment based on his family’s cultural values.

I was embarrassed. I didn’t feel justified in seeing a therapist or taking pills. For one thing, I didn’t know any other Asian people who saw therapists. — David Chang, “Eat a Peach”

Chang shared he struggled through periods of both significant mania and depression, which led to self-medicating and suicidal thoughts before he found a therapist and treatment that worked. While many people get stressed or frustrated when things don’t go quite right, Chang shared one of his bipolar disorder symptoms is affective dysregulation.

The Frontlines: Affective dysregulation is characterized by “excessive reactivity to negative” events, which distinguishes itself as anger and aggression. Chang shared sometimes the smallest incident will trigger angry outbursts, larger than the situation might warrant. Big emotional swings can also be a hallmark symptom of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and may be one reason the two conditions are sometimes confused.

  • Those with diagnoses such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders and other mood disorders may be more likely to experience affective dysregulation
  • While there isn’t much research on the term specifically, between 0.8 and 6.6% of children and adolescents present with affective dysregulation
  • It’s not uncommon for this symptom to lead to misdiagnosis — one study found that 40% of those who should have been diagnosed with BPD were misdiagnosed with bipolar II instead

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A Mighty Voice: Our contributor, Mindy M., shared how she uses the metaphor of a storm to cope with the whirlwind emotions associated with her bipolar disorder. “I’m in the eye of a mixed-mood storm right now. It’s whipping around me, and I get caught in it often. But I have to believe it’s going to end and take care of myself until it does. I might have bipolar, but I won’t let it have me.” You can submit your first-person story, too.

From Our Community:

I ___________ when I’m anxious.

Other things to know: The following articles can help people with bipolar disorder cope with their illness:

How to take action: Visit Mental Health America for resources specifically for Asian communities here. You can also preorder a copy of Chang’s “Eat a Peach,” which will be released Sept. 8.

Header image via David Chang/Instagram

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