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Bipolar Disorder and the Stigma on Men's Mental Health

By: John Poehler

It is interesting to note that the prevalence and type of bipolar disorder related to men’s health is gender specific.

The DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) provides some startling statistics:

  • The incidence of bipolar disorder is the same in both men and women

  • Men experience rapid cycling three times as much as women

  • Men are more likely to be misdiagnosed with schizophrenia

  • Bipolar disorder reduces the statistical lifespan of a person by 9.2 years

  • Suicide is completed by one in five individuals with bipolar disorder

  • Bipolar disorder is the 6th leading cause of disability

As stated above, men tend to rapid cycle mores often than women. Rapid cycling is defined as having four or more episodes of depression and mania in one year.

The medical model of treatment consists of both medication and talk therapy. More studies have been done on this combination of treatment than anything else.

Some doctors will not prescribe medication to their patients unless they are going to therapy as well.

Many men find it difficult to take medication and participate in therapy. This is a huge roadblock since the primary mode of treatment starts with medication and therapy.

I was diagnosed back in 1999. At first, I felt like getting on medication and going to someone to talk about my feels signified weakness. Almost like my character was less than others. I quickly learned this is not the case.

The important thing is to find a therapist that you connect with. Someone who does not make you feel less of a person for talking with them.

I quickly got over the stigma of taking pills when I forgot my medication one weekend. I did not have time to fill my medication before going on a weekend trip. So, for two days I had none of my medication in my system. I went into a manic episode. I got over any issues I had after that.

There is a stigma that you have some character flaw if you are a man, take medication and go to talk therapy.

I know for a fact there would be more medication compliance if this stigma was not there.

The best thing to do is get on with your life.  Live it and follow your doctor’s instructions.

You are not less of a person because you want to treat your mental illness.

Just because others feel like shaming you for wanting to treat your bipolar disorder, does not mean you have to buy in to their negativity.

A way I have learned to deal with stigma is to reframe my thoughts.

The dictionary defines reframe as, “to look at, present, or think of (beliefs, ideas, relationships, ect.) in a new or different way”.

Think of your newfound treatment as a necessity to living your life.  It is imperative to follow your doctor’s orders always.

Stigma is something that does not apply to you.

That is how I reframed my thoughts. I changed my thought to be as proactive as possible with my treatment.  

I follow the medical model and utilize positive coping skills on a daily basis. It is important to do whatever is in your power to reduce the incidence of episodes in your life.

The fallout from bipolar disorder episodes can be quite detrimental not only to yourself, but to those around you.

One last thing. Let your desire to be healthy overpower the judgements of others.  For some, this is easier said than done.  I had a hard time with this concept, but it is no longer a problem.

Just because someone else feels uncomfortable about mental illness, does not mean you have to be.

I am not saying go out and shout from the rooftops that you have bipolar disorder. Having a mental illness is serious. It is also a very personal decision who you tell and do not tell.

Going forward, watch the thoughts that enter your head. If it is something negative, try looking from a different perspective. Again, think about reframing.  

Remember, bipolar disorder is an illness and not a choice.


Excellent John!! Keep up the good work

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