5 Common Myths About Bipolar Disorder
Meaningful Minds Psychologist Beverley, looks at the myths around Bipolar Disorder. There are numerous myths about this disorder which frequently result in a lack of understanding towards the person diagnosed, prevents the person from reaching out and accessing support services and maintains stigma. These results often have disastrous effects for the person diagnosed as well as their loved ones.
Below, we try to debunk five common myths people have about bipolar disorder.
1. Bipolar disorder is when you are happy one moment and sad the next
Everyone experiences high and low moods in reaction to our circumstances or feelings. Generally, this feeling will diminish as a person adjusts or as the feelings are dealt with. Yes, people with bipolar do experience normal feelings of sadness and happiness – not all highs and lows are due to the disorder. Experiencing something sad, irritating, exhilarating and reacting to this is something we all do. We all experience days when we feel low and days when we feel full of energy. Likewise, we all experience a range of feelings over the course of a day – our feelings change in response to what is happening around us. A person with bipolar disorder is no different. Although, when experiencing an active episode, people with bipolar disorder often experience mood swings which last for a longer period of time, often occur out of context and may lead to irrational thought processes and behaviours which can damage relationships and careers.
2. Mania is fun
Mania can be accompanied by feelings of happiness in the initial stages however as it progresses, this feeling starts to disappear. Many people who experience a manic episode feel a lot of discomfort. Often, they do not sleep, feel as though their mind is racing with various thoughts or ideas and are frequently distracted. If untreated, the person may feel out of control of their actions and thoughts. Once the manic episode has subsided, the person is likely to reflect upon the time and (most likely) reckless choices made. These choices may have placed the person in physical danger or enabled them to participate in risky activities, such as excessive, impulsive spending, unsafe sexual activities, aggressive behaviour and substance abuse.
3. Once feeling stable, medication can stop
Often, a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder will stop taking medication during periods of stability. The medication is a large part of treatment and may act as a preventative measure (i.e. a mood stabilizer) for future manic or depressive episodes thus it is not encouraged to just stop medication. Most often, people diagnosed with bipolar disorder will need to take medication for the duration of his/her life – this is in conjunction with a treatment plan consisting of psychotherapy (which includes psychoeducation) and lifestyle choices. It is essential for the person to consult with his/her psychiatrist before simply stopping his/her medication.
4. There is only one type of bipolar disorder
The most well-known type of bipolar disorder is when a person experiences depressive and manic episodes, with periods of stability in between. This is classified as bipolar I disorder. However, people may experience differences in terms of the duration of manic or depressive episodes and the intensity of the episodes. Therefore, there are several types of bipolar disorder, including bipolar II, cyclothymic disorder and substance or medication induced bipolar.
5. People with bipolar disorder are dangerous
This is simply untrue. There is no statistical evidence to prove that people with this mental illness are more likely to commit a crime. On the contrary, people who have bipolar disorder or any related disorder are often the targets of stigma and violence, whether physical or emotional, within their work environments and relationships.
If you or a loved one is struggling with bipolar disorder or the effects thereof, please do not hesitate to contact Meaningful Minds Psychologists for support or advice.