Interest in mental health and mental illness is steadily rising, unfortunately, harmful myths are spreading just as fast. These myths can be harmful especially to the patients and one way to reduce stigma is by educating ourselves. Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). It was formerly referred to as manic depression. Here are the most common myths about bipolar disorder.
A brief definition of terms
Mania: a phase of bipolar disorder characterized by sustained periods of abnormally elevated or irritable mood, intense energy, racing thoughts, and other extreme, exaggerated behaviours.
Hypomania: a less severe type of mania.
Depression: depressive episodes are characterized by feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, crying for no apparent reason, and depression.
Myths about bipolar disorder
Just another word for mood swings
It is nothing like the mood swings the average person has. Bipolar disorder involves extreme changes in activity, energy, and sleep over a long period. Unlike regular mood swings, it can keep a person from living a full and healthy life.
It is not. In the US alone, bipolar disorder affects 2 million adults. According to WHO (World Health Organization), about 45 million people globally suffered from it. It is estimated that 2.1% of the population will experience it in their lifetime. In low and moderate-income countries 76% and 85% of people do not receive treatment or care.
Affected persons are either manic or depressed
This is also accompanied by the myth that people with bipolar frequently switch between mania and depression. Mood episodes can happen a few times per year or not at all. Even when they happen, there is usually downtime between them. Mania and hypomania among people with bipolar disorder are less common than depression. It’s also possible to experience mixed episodes where you experience manic and depressive symptoms at the same time, but this is rare.
Affected people are dangerous
People with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators. In most instances when there is violence, drugs and alcohol are usually involved. Mental illness can bring with it problems in a person’s life but to suggest that all people with bipolar are violent and dangerous is a harmful, baseless generalization. It’s also important to note that people with bipolar are more likely to harm themselves than harm others.
There’s only one type of bipolar disorder
There are four basic types of bipolar disorder with the experience varying from one person to the next. There’s Bipolar I disorder, Bipolar II disorder, Cyclothymic disorder, and a final category that is a catch-all for those types that do not follow a particular pattern. Diagnosis is done by a doctor based on the specific symptoms exhibited.
Diet and workouts can cure it
Bipolar disorder has no cure yet. It’s a life-long condition managed through talk therapy, medicine, and healthy living. Maintaining regular patterns of sleeping, eating, and exercise also help. Diet and workouts will not cure it.
Mania is fun and productive
A person in a manic state may at first have fun, but this quickly shifts to terrifying as they lose control of their thoughts, actions, and even lose touch with reality. They may also do things that end up being detrimental to their well-being such as going on shopping sprees.
Bipolar does not affect children
Children as young as six can be affected with the risk increasing for those whose parents have bipolar disorder. For children, the shifts in mood are more rapid than in adults often occurring throughout the day.
Treatment takes away creativity for artistic people
This is one of the most common myths about bipolar disorder. It’s important to remember that left untreated bipolar disorder can lead to serious health problems and life consequences. Yes, medication helps control the symptoms, but some artists and creative people find that that helps them think more clearly and access more creativity. That being said, anyone concerned that their medication has a negative effect on their thinking, functioning and creativity should talk to their medical care provider about it.
Medication for bipolar disorder is the same
It will take some trial and error to find what works for each individual. Something that works for one person may not work for another.
Once symptoms subside treatment can be stopped
When symptoms subside while on medication, that means the medication is working. The problem is people assume that this means they can go off the medication which is wrong. Continuing with the medication is critical in keeping bipolar disorder as stable as possible. Adhering to the treatment plan leads to better outcomes overall. The person will be better able to participate in work, as well as social and community events.
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