For too long, much misinformation has existed about bipolar disorder. The many misconceptions about bipolar disorder can be harmful for those living with the condition.  Whether you have been recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder or someone you know has, learning about the common misconceptions about bipolar disorder may help.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme fluctuations in mood, between mania and depression. Energy and sleep are also affected. Bipolar disorder differs from the normal ups and downs in everyday life that many people experience in that the mood swings occur more frequently and with greater intensity than what is developmentally appropriate and can last much longer. People with bipolar disorder often experience problems at home, school, work and in relationships in addition to other areas of life. 

Are There Common Misconceptions About Bipolar Disorder?

Arm yourself with knowledge by learning about a few of the common misconceptions about bipolar disorder.

Myth: Bipolar disorder is rare.

Fact: Bipolar disorder is not rare and affects millions of people. 

Nearly 2.1% of the population is estimated to experience bipolar disorder in their lifetime. Bipolar disorder affects women and men equally. It is not as common as some other mental health conditions, but it is burdensome in many ways. It is long-lasting and chronic and can significantly impair a person’s ability to live a normal life. 

Myth: If a person has mood swings, it indicates bipolar disorder.

Fact: Mood swings do not always indicate bipolar disorder and regular mood swings are not the same. 

People with bipolar disorder experience very distressing fluctuations in mood that differ greatly from normal fluctuations between times of happiness and sadness in those without the condition. Bipolar disorder mood swings can be persistent and frequent. Many people with bipolar disorder experience cycles of mania and depression that are linked with harmful behaviors, such as going days without sleeping or being at risk of self-harm. 

Myth: Mania is really just a good, happy feeling.

Fact: Mania can be a serious problem that can become detrimental and even terrifying.

It is true that when a person is manic, they may feel good initially, but without treatment, there are often negative aspects. When a person with bipolar disorder comes out of a depressive episode, the high of a manic episode may feel like a sort of relief but a person can also feel like they have no control or situations or people are against them. Manic episodes can make it difficult to function and may cause a person to lose control of their thoughts and actions.

Myth: People with bipolar disorder are always either happy or sad. 

Fact: People with bipolar disorder can experience a balanced mood as well.

Euthymia is a state of mood that is even and balanced and does not correlate with mania or depression. When a person is in euthymia, he or she may feel cheerful and happy and possibly even a resilience to stress. Euthymia can last for long periods of time. 

Conversely, people with bipolar disorder can also experience what is referred to as a “mixed episode,” which entails features of mania and depression at the same time. 

Myth: People with bipolar disorder are violent.

Fact: People who deal with bipolar disorder are not inherently violent. 

Some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder can include impulsivity and irritability – especially when one is in a manic state. These symptoms can make people feel more agitated or act aggressive, but this does not mean a person with bipolar disorder is violent. 

Myth: Medication is the only treatment for bipolar disorder.

Fact: There are many treatments available for bipolar disorder.

The most effective treatments for bipolar disorder focus on balancing the highs and lows in mood as well as energy. Several therapy techniques produce promising results for bipolar disorder treatment, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help encourage attention to automatic positive thoughts in addition to triggers for mania. 
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy to help improve emotion regulation.
  • Psychoeducational therapy to help understand triggers and how to manage the illness.
  • Family-focused therapy to help improve communication and the reduction of emotional conflict. 
  • Medication therapy to help balance extreme symptoms, such as mood stabilizers or antipsychotic medications. 

Atlanta Recovery Place offers treatment for clients struggling with bipolar disorder and co-occurring substance abuse disorders in a serene environment. If you or a loved one are ready to move beyond the symptoms of bipolar disorder and resolve any underlying issues, reach out to us today. Our trained and caring professionals are ready to help you better understand your diagnosis. 

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