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Myths and Truths about Bipolar Disorder

Updated on February 12, 2015

The Truth about Bipolar Disorder

I am going to get extremely personal and tell you a little something about myself that I rarely discuss with other people. I have Bipolar Disorder also known as manic depression. I thought I was a "normal" person that sometimes got upset or sad and than went right back to being overly happy or hyper. It wasn't until I was in my late teens did I start having more episodes of sadness that would last anywhere from a couple of hours to several days and than bounce back to being overly happy or hyper. I was having difficulty focusing in school, maintaining healthy relationships and holding down a job. My family finally advised me to see my family doctor to get to the bottom of this issue, at first I was diagnosed with depression. It wasn't until my moods started getting more frequent as well as my behavior becoming more erratic did I realize that something else was wrong. After several doctor visits and several medications later, I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder or manic depression is a complex disorder that most likely comes from a combination of genetic and non-genetic factors. The moods that are associated with this are clinical depression or mania (extreme elation and high energy) with periods of normal mood and energy mixed in. The severity of the mood changes range anywhere from mild to extreme, and they can also happen gradually or it can happen suddenly. Along with manic or depressive episodes, individuals suffering form bipolar disorder may also have disturbances in their way of thinking. They also may suffer from perception distortion and impairment in social functioning.

Now that you know a little bit about me and what exactly bipolar disorder is, I will tell you that there are a lot of myths out there about this disorder that simply aren't true. As a person who deals with this disorder only a daily basis, I also deal with a lot of people who are completely ignorant on the topic but yet are the first to through assumptions around about this disorder. I am here to reveal the truth, no I am not a licensed professional, I am simply someone who wants to spread awareness and set the record straight.

Myth #1 - Bipolar disorder is when you are happy one moment and sad the next.

Everyone no matter who you are has mood changes depending on what’s happening in their lives or what’s going on around them. But bipolar disorder is very different than just experiencing regular mood changes.

When individuals experience symptoms of bipolar disorder there moods are more extreme. People with bipolar disorder can experience moods that range anywhere from severe highs and severe lows, and how they’re feeling doesn't necessarily make sense in what’s going on around them. The moods people experience when they have bipolar disorder can be really disruptive and can make it really hard to function in day to day life like school and work.

Myth #2 - There is only one type of Bipolar Disorder

In my personal opinion, this is the one myth of bipolar disorder that isn't actually true and couldn't be more wrong. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience severe mood changes, meaning their mood is likely to go through extreme highs (mania) and lows (depression). However, exactly what the moods feel like, their intensity, and how long they last is different for everyone. There are actually several types: Bipolar 1, Bipolar 2, and Cyclothymic bipolar disorder, and Bipolar Disorder Otherwise Not Specified.

Myth #3 - Bipolar Disorder is the same this as Depression

This is absolutely false, bipolar disorder is absolutely not the same thing as depression even though it can mimic clinical depression. There have been plenty of studies that have shown up to 25 percent of people are misdiagnosed with depression even though that are suffering with bipolar.

Myth #4 - Bipolar Disorder only affects mood

The most common symptoms of bipolar disorder are mood-related, it does in fact affect other things. For example, individuals with bipolar disorder experience extreme highs and lows, they can also experience difficulties with overall cognitive functions. It also affects sleep patterns causing insomnia or oversleeping and making bad lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking, and poor diet.

Myth #5 - Medication fixes bipolar disorder

Medication is a large part of a successful treatment plan for bipolar disorder, so people are always advised to work with a doctor to manage symptoms.

The management of bipolar disorder is found to be successful in the longer term when medication isn't the only form of treatment. Other strategies may include treatment involving a therapist, and there are a bunch of coping mechanisms or self-help strategies that have been known to help.

Myth #6 - Mania is fun

When a person with bipolar experiences an extremely high mood it’s known as a manic episode. People can sometimes feel really happy, have a lot of energy, think quickly and get lots of things done. However, people can also become out of control, feel very anxious, very frustrated and angry. They can become really reckless without noticing it, engage in dangerous behavior or activities and take huge risks. Mania may cause psychotic thoughts, so it’s important to watch out for someone if you think they may be experiencing a high. Encourage them to visit their doctor immediately if you think they might be doing something unsafe or that they are putting themselves at serious risk.

Like I said before, I am not a professional but these are some of things I have experienced first hand as someone who suffers with bipolar disorder. All I want to do is bring awareness and break the stigma that is attached to this mental illness. People with bipolar need love and support; not judgement or prejudice. Please keep these things in mind next time you encounter someone with bipolar and realize they have enough to struggle with, they don't need ignorance on top of that.


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    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Bipolar is a difficult illness to live with. My boss has bipolar, along with ADHD. Two of my children have it as well, one just has bipolar, the other has schizo-affective disorder, or a mix of bipolar and schizophrenia. Both of my daughters went through a period of extreme highs and lows before their diagnoses. Once on medication, however, they have been more stable and are able to lead semi-normal lives. It has been a real learning experience!