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It’s Time To Bust These 12 Myths About Bipolar Disorder

Posted: April 28, 2020

These myths about bipolar disorder are common even today. Let’s learn what bipolar disorder is, and how it can be treated.

Actor Shama Sikander, who became popular through the TV show Yeh Meri Life Hai, revealed in a 2016 interview with the Times of India that she suffered from Bipolar Disorder. The situation had become so untenable for her that she had also attempted suicide. She had mood swings, she was bored with life and nothing appealed her anymore. Her ex told her to consult a doctor but she felt like giving up on her life. Gradually however, she started on medication and also took up meditation which she felt contributed towards her recovery. She had to give two years towards the whole process and says that it greatly aided her recovery.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, bipolar disorder is a kind of brain disorders that cause changes in a person’s mood, energy and ability to function. People suffering from bipolar disorders have extreme mood swings and an intense state of emotions. Their mood changes from normal mood to extremely low (or depressive) to extremely high (or manic) moods. This disorder can be cured with proper treatment and medications.

Bipolar Disorder in women

While women and men both can suffer from bipolar disorder, in women, bipolar disorder can increase during pregnancy, menstruation and menopause due to hormonal changes. Other problems like depression, substance abuse, thyroid, obesity and eating disorders can happen along with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder results in extreme and sudden mood swings and can significantly hinder our daily lives. When the person is in the Mania stage, s/he can be hyperactive and when in depressive stage then one is prone to have suicidal thoughts. It is noted that women suffering from bipolar disorder are three times more likely than men to experience rapid cycling between moods. Women may have more depressive episodes and more mixed episodes than men. 

Lack of awareness and information can cause myths and stigma to evolve in the society regarding many mental health issues. This is true for bipolar disorder as well.

In this article, I attempt to shed light on some of the myths about bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder means manic behaviour

People believe that if a person has bipolar disorder then the person will be extremely high and active, suffering only from mania. This stereotype fits well with our image of how a ‘crazy’ person should behave, as typified in many of our films and serials. However, bipolar disorders have episodes of mania as well as depression. The person will swing between extremely high manic emotions to extremely low depressive emotions, which make this disorder even harder to deal with.

Bipolar disorder is rare

It is believed that psychological disorders are very rare but that is not the case. Around 2 million adults in America are affected by bipolar disorder.  A paper published by Indian Council of Medical Research in Lancet Psychiatry states that one in seven people in India suffer from mental disorders of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. The figures in India specifically for bipolar disorder are very sketchy because of poor diagnosis and reporting. However, one could safely assume that millions of Indians are patients of Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar India has more information specific to the Indian context.

Patients suffering are just ‘being moody’

Since bipolar disorder is related with extreme mood swings, people tend to believe that the person is just being moody. This is not the case because these mood swings are rapid and extreme. If the person is manic on one day, then after some days s/he can be extremely low. Intermittently, they could have more even moods too. Like with other psychological disorders, they have phases and people tend to think that the patient is only acting or pretending or wants attention when the truth is that they are suffering from a disorder

Bipolar disorder is only about mood swings

This disorder doesn’t only affect the moods and emotions of the person, rather it affects their entire lifestyle. It affects the sleep patterns, work and home life.

Mood swings happen in a regular pattern

The mood swings don’t happen in a sequential pattern, that is, ‘one day mania, next day depressed, third day normal’. It can vary a lot from one person to another. Sometimes the person can suffer from mania and depression together that is, feel hopeless but energised. A person sometimes can show symptoms of bipolar disorder only a few times a year.

All bipolar disorders are alike

Bipolar disorders can be divided into types based on their severity or predominance of certain phases; for e.g. Bipolar disorder I is a type where the manic phase happens for a week usually followed by a depressive phase for two weeks, or sometimes, both coincide together. In Bipolar disorder II, the person goes through a severe depressive phase but the manic phase is not that severe. In Cyclothymic disorder, both the manic and depressive swings are mild.

Genetics doesn’t matter as much

Mental health disorders happen through the interplay of nature and nurture, that is, genetics and environment. Genetics plays an important role in determining whether one suffers from Bipolar disorder. If the family history shows instance of this disorder, then people are at greater risk, although bipolar disorders can also happen to people without any family history of this disorder. Conversely, those with a family history may never develop the disorder, it is not a given, especially if they have a safe and healthy environment. 

Suffering from one disorder means you can’t suffer from others

If you have Bipolar disorder then it doesn’t mean you cannot have other mental illnesses. People with bipolar disorders are prone to anxiety, eating disorders, attention deficit hyperactive disorders and substance abuse.

Moreover, alcohol and substance abuse can accelerate this disorder. Many sufferers tend to resort to alcohol and drug consumption in an attempt to escape the effects of the disorder. This contributes towards severity of bipolar disorders and can cause more harm.

Stress has nothing to do with it

A suffering from immense stress and pressure contributes towards acceleration of this disorder. Stress is in fact a catalyst as it makes the person feel more pressured and can contribute towards depressive symptoms. 

Only adults get Bipolar Disorder

Everyone including kids can suffer from bipolar disorder. Young children suffering from this disorder can show symptoms alongside ADHD.  Treatment of teenagers with Bipolar disorder is similar to that for adults, with the use of both psychotherapy and medicines.

There is a single diagnostic test for Bipolar disorder

Psychological disorders, unlike many physical diseases, don’t have one test or one medicine. Every human mind is different and the disorders they suffer from is not the same, as the specific manifestation, intensity and nature vary.  Hence it is very important to have a thorough check-up by the psychiatrist. 

There is no way to treat Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder, like many other mental health conditions, is curable through a combination of medication like antidepressants, physical exercise and psychotherapy like cognitive behavioural therapy. These ensure that the disorder is cured and one is able to live a happy life without relapsing back into the vicious mood swing spiral.

Let’s play our part in eliminating these myths about bipolar disorder. Such misconceptions are a major reason for late diagnoses or even misdiagnoses; it’s time we adopt a more fact-based attitude towards bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions, treating them just as we would any physical health issue.

Image via Unsplash

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Radhika Srivastava is an 19 year old writer from Varanasi, India. She believes that writing

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