Fast Five - Busting False Bipolar Disorder Beliefs

Think you've been hearing more about bipolar disorder the past few years? You're probably right; This specific disorder has been a part of more tv/movie storylines, news headlines, and in convo amongst your friends/community. Stigma surrounding bipolar disorder (like mental illness in general), makes it difficult for people to know what's true and what's not. With decreased stigma, people affected by mental illness hold less shame and can be more open about what they are experiencing and what they need. However, because research doesn't get shared as often or as quickly as shame & stigma, there are still some persistent myths out there that will be hard to eliminate.

How can you help? Recognize when you share/hear myths around you and redirect to factual information like these five facts instead:

1. People with bipolar disorder are happy one minute, sad the next. Buster: Everyone experiences changes in their mood; it's natural, normal, common, healthy. Bipolar disorder is largely characterized by extreme mood swings (depression and mania) and episodes that can last days, to weeks, to months. It can be confusing that some individuals with bipolar disorder don't experience depressive symptoms (only a manic episode is needed for a clinical diagnosis), many individuals experience both.

2. Only women have bipolar disorder. Buster: Both men and women can be diagnosed with bipolar disorder and it is equally prevalent in men & women. What differs, however, is the course of the illness--women are more likely to experience rapid cycling (moving through multiple episodes in less than one year) and also tend to have more depressive episodes and less manic episodes than men.

3. People with bipolar disorder are crazy. Buster: Having bipolar disorder doesn't mean crazy; it means your brain and body need some help, and when ignored/untreated, bipolar disorder can cause you great distress, sometimes confusion and can affect your relationships negatively.  

4. The only way to treat bipolar disorder is with medication. Buster: Medication can help greatly in the treatment and management of symptoms, and depending on the severity, are recommended. Oftentimes, this disorder is managed through medication AND psychotherapy to gain insight about triggers and symptoms, build skills to help manage more effectively, and decrease shame, guilt or confusion. Medications can help improve energy, judgment and ability to navigate day to day ups and downs.

5. Bipolar disorder means you have two different personalities. Buster: Bipolar disorder affects your mood, energy & emotions, not your personality. While mood and energy can change drastically depending on what you're experiencing, your personality remains fairly stable throughout adulthood. A personality disorder is very different than bipolar disorder. 

Hope these facts are helpful! Comment about what you're interested in reading about next! Til then - Dr. A