Five Myths About Bipolar Disorder

In light of Robin Williams passing I decided to focus on this topic. Somebody said to me, “He had everything, why would he want to kill himself”. Depression does not discriminate, whether you’re rich or poor, or have all the family and friends support in the world, sadly depression affects everyone the same. Robin suffered from Bipolar Disorder and because of this his world was chaotic.  I wanted to focus on the myths surrounding Bipolar Disorder to help those without it understand the complexity of the disease. 

Myth 1: Anyone with mood swings has bipolar 

How many times do you hear people say, “she or he is Bipolar”? People think that if someone is up or down that it automatically indicates one is suffering from bipolar disorder. For me it makes me retract and think to myself “if they only understood this disease”. Due to the complexity of the disease even researchers and medical professionals haven’t been able to fully understand the nature of it. Those individuals not suffering from bipolar do not understand that there are multiple aspects to bipolar. Particularly that there are different types and subtypes which include: Bipolar 1, Bipolar 2, Cyclothymia, Rapid Cycling Bipolar and Mixed Mania. As you can see it’s hard for medical professionals’ to diagnosis this disorder without getting to know the patient. 

Myth 2: Bipolar Disorder only affects certain groups of people 

It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, black or white, old or young, it can strike groups evenly. Symptoms do seem to appear in young adulthood, but this is not always the case. It’s also a myth that this disease can’t be diagnosed until the age of 18. Due to the fact that this disease is becoming more understood, children are being diagnosed more frequently. And findings are showing younger children have a more difficult time managing symptoms. An estimated 21 million Americans are suffering from some form of Bipolar. 

Myth 3: The symptoms of bipolar are the same for everyone

Mood swings are up and down all the time. Folks without Bipolar disorder can sometimes feel low or high, this is not uncommon. For people with bipolar these feelings are common. Mood swings can last for weeks or even months, from a destructive high to a low that’s practically unbearable. Being manic does not always indicate a happy high; individuals may feel anxiety or rage during this phase and not necessarily pure happiness. Bipolar symptoms of mania may also include racing thoughts, risk taking, impulsive spending, sexual indiscretion, aggressive behavior. The low a person with Bipolar feels can range from tiredness, lethargy, crying to thoughts of suicide. For me personally the low can’t get any lower and I feel like I’m looking up at the world in so much pain. Although hard to grasp, folks can experience lows and highs co-occurring at the same time, this is known as mixed mania. This is where medication management plays a crucial factor in treatment.

Myth 4: Bipolar doesn’t affect people’s thinking.

The symptoms of bipolar can have a dramatic impact on the way a person thinks. Many people with bipolar experience sleep problems. Manic individuals may not being able sleep for days at a time, whereas some depressed people might sleep too much. Mania can cause quick thinking and trouble concentrating. When I’m manic people describe me as “witty” and a “jokester”. Poor lifestyle decisions are not uncommon as well. This include: alcohol and drug abuse, chain smoking, unhealthy eating, etc.

Myth 5: Medication is the only management tool to tackling symptoms and psychotherapy doesn’t work.

There are many ways to help yourself and ways you can make yourself healthier. For me personally psychotherapy is just as important as medication management. Finding ways to cope behaviorally with my bipolar proves to be very effective. Recognizing symptoms coming on such as mood swings, depression and mania is essential to tackling these head on. Support of friends and family is just as necessary as well. Another way to assist is learning as much as you can about your symptoms and condition. Learning warning signs of mania and depression, or even attending a support group can benefit you tremendously.

While these are not the only myths individuals hear, helping those close to you in your life understand bipolar disorder can be very beneficial. I can’t tell you how many horrible things people have said about Robin Williams and his inability to deal with life. Suicide is seen as a selfish act, but for those of us suffering from a severe depression sometimes unfortunately it seems like the only way out. Educating your family, peers, friends, etc. can prove beneficial, and make reaching out not as difficult.

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