Bipolar Myths

For those of you who follow my little bloggy thing on here you will most likely already know that I suffer from bipolar disorder. There are so many myths about bipolar disorder out there that so many people still believe such as:

1. Bipolar is a rare condition

It's really, really not. Mental health issues will affect one in four of us throughout our lifetimes and (purely going off American statistics) it will affect 5.7 million American adults a year! It's clearly something that has a high prevalence in our lives and so I think it is something that really needs talking about so we can reduce the stigma.

2. Bipolar is just another way of saying mood swings

I can't stress how much this isn't true! Yes mood swings are a part of bipolar disorder (after all it is a mood disorder so you'd kinda guess), however, the mood swings that occur within bipolar disorder are completely different to those suffered by someone who does not have the disorder. Bipolar mood swings are much longer (and can last weeks) and are a lot more severe. They can really interfere with a persons life, role at work, home life, or ability to be a good student.

3. People with bipolar disorder shift back and forth dramatically - it's like living with two different people!

NO! This Jekyll and Hyde idea of bipolar disorder could not be more wrong and the average bipolar patient will be depressed more of the time than they will be manic. Of course there is a different from patient to patient however, the majority are mainly in a depressed state. The two states are very different but the shifts do not come from an on/off switch, they don't happen instantly!

4. When they are in a manic phase they are so, so happy.

No. Again this changes from patient to patient but yes, the main chatergorical symptom of mania is elevated mood or eurphoria, however as periods of mania can go on for weeks at a time this can, understandably, get extremely emotionally and physically exhausting. Many patients are often frightened when they go into mania, as a main symptom is poor impulse control (for example, a patient may decide to shave their head when manic only to be devastated the next day). Another problem is that patients often can't sleep when they are manic. I personally certainly don't look forward to my manic phases and can look back when they have passed and see how disorganised my life had become at that time.

5. Bipolar cannot be diagnosed until the patient is over the age of 18

Not true. Although it is more difficult to analyse a child's mental state and behaviour as you are naturally more erratic through your younger years but if the doctor can spot and analyse signs then it can become clear and easily diagnosable and treated. Of course the disorder could have always been present and only spotted later, as is often the case.

6. Bipolar is just a state of mind that people need to snap out of

ARGHHH! If I had a pound for every time some ignorant person had said that to me, I'd be oh so rich. No. Telling someone with a mental health condition such as bipolar to just think positive to snap out of it is like telling a diabetic person to magically alter their blood sugar levels by thinking about it. People with mental health conditions can get better, but only with the right treatment.

7. People with bipolar disorder are dangerous and violent

NO! Studies show that bipolar people do not commit significantly more violent crimes than none sufferers. However, mentally ill people are twice as likely to be the VICTIMS of violence.

8. People with bipolar disorder should not have children

Well, that one always gets me raging! Because it is so clearly ridiculous and uneducated. If a person is properly treated and in control of their illness then they are just as good a parent as anyone else in the world. Also, they are more likely to recognise the symptoms early should their own children develop a mood disorder and be able to point them in the right direction for help.

9. Medication is the only way to treat bipolar

Complete rubbish. Although medication is a very important part in helping to manage and control a sufferers bipolar disorder, it is not the only way to go. There are many different therapies and treatments out there (for more information please ask you GP or this blog post will go on forever with me listing them).

10. People with bipolar disorder just aren't trying hard enough

ARGH! A person with bipolar disorder constantly worries and thinks why other people that have mood swings but just because they suffer from bipolar, they can't. They worry that they aren't normal and don't know how life will be in the long run as you don't know what your mood will be like next week, and so that only causes more panic. But I mean, this implies that bipolar disorder is a choice! That's ridiculous and you would never say that to someone with diabetes now would you? People really don't understand how serious bipolar disorder is, and although finding the right medication and combination therapy that is right for the individual patient can take time, it is worth it and you can live a normal life. 

Never give up, keep fighting.