We are constantly exposed to the topic of mental illness daily; on the news, in magazines, and on TV. Films today glamorize the struggles and problems of those who are mentally ill by displaying a false outlook on mental health and the necessities to achieve overall wellness. We obsess over entertainers like Robin Williams, who shocked fans and the world when he lost his life to depression. Amy Winehouse, who died at the age of 27 due to her manic depression, bipolarity, and alcoholism, was talked about for months in the news, displaying helicopters swarming her estate looking for more information on her death, claiming she couldn’t have died due to her deteriorating mental health. We see movies such as Silver Linings Playbook and Mr. Jones that add a more comedic essence to the lives of those who suffer from depression and bipolar disorder by glamorizing the true struggles of those who are not mentally stable. We make these characters in these films seem pleased and happy with their lives in order to undermine and avoid the horrors of living with mental illness. We are fed lies on screen that tell us that finding love or reconnecting with long lost friends will instantly fix mental illness, healing the wound and making life better again. We form this ideal picture in our heads of how we think those who suffer from mental illness react and cope with their day to day struggles. The media and our society tells us that mental illness, more specifically bipolar disorder, is something that is not real because it is difficult to pin point the actual cause of the illness. We believe these lies and make bipolar disorder a laughing matter, failing to recognize the signs and symptoms of the disorder.
“In a given year, bipolar disorder affects about 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population 18 and older.”- The National Institute of Mental Health
If we continue to believe these lies and fail to understand what bipolar disorder really is, we will not push for funding for education and treatment. When we as a society start talking about bipolar disorder and accept it as a REAL illness, we will begin to see a better world with less suicide and drug abuse.
“It is estimated that the suicide rate for individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder are approximately 15%. Between 25 and 50 percent attempt suicide at least once.” -Mental Illness Policy
7 Lies About Bipolar Disorder Society Needs to Stop Believing
1. Bipolar disorder is a rare condition
We seem to think that this disorder is very rare because we don’t know anyone who has been diagnosed with bipolarity. However, there are over 2 million Americans who go undiagnosed each year and refuse to seek the help of doctors because they think they are meant to live life with severe mood swings and anger problems. Bipolar disorder isn’t as rare as you think, and the numbers of those who are diagnosed with the illness continue to grow each year.
In a single year, bipolar disorder affects about 5.7 million American adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation estimates that at least three quarters of a million American children and teens may suffer from bipolar disorder, although many are not diagnosed due to the lack of education as to what bipolar disorder really is. A recent study conducted by researchers at Columbia University proves the diagnosis of bipolar disorder is up dramatically in children and teens. The number of visits to a doctor’s office that resulted in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder has increased by 40% over the last decade, reported researchers funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health. Over the same time period, the number of visits by adults resulting in a bipolar disorder diagnosis almost doubled.
2. It is impossible to help someone with bipolar disorder
Many people believe that bipolar disorder is just that- a disorder that will never go away or get better. If society believes that someone who has this illness can’t be helped, we are doing a disservice to those in our community. As much as it seems to be false, those who are bipolar did not choose to be sick or ‘crazy’ as many people would say. These people can be helped because they need moral support and love, just like anyone else going through a tough time. Bipolar disorder can be treated through the use of medication, psychotherapy, and other means depending on the individual.
Bipolar disorder can be effectively treated and managed by proper and careful examination. More than 40% of bipolar patients can expect full and complete recovery while another 50% can expect a very marked reduction in their symptoms. Individuals can go into remissions during various periods of their life. Successful management depends on many factors including education about the illness, good communication with professionals involved in your care, a good support system, and adhering to your treatment plan. With help, those who suffer from this disorder can become someone who will not let bipolar disorder define them.
3. Bipolar Disorder is a figment of one’s imagination
Bipolar disorder is a treatable brain disorder that is real and can cause a lot of suffering, especially if it is not well managed. Those who have this disorder cannot tell themselves to stop feeling this way without knowing how to properly stop the outburst from occurring. Individuals cannot just stop it from happening. Proper medical treatment and good support enables more than 75% of those with bipolar disorder to work and be successful. People with bipolar disorder appear to have physical changes in their brains that have been found due to various studies. The significance of these changes is still uncertain, but these scans that doctors and professionals have examined may eventually help pinpoint the causes. However, it is believed that an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain can greatly alter someones ability to control their emotions and mood swings. This is REAL, not a fake disorder.
“An imbalance in naturally occurring brain chemicals called neurotransmitters seems to play a significant role in bipolar disorder and other mood disorders.” -Mayo Clinic
4. There is only one type of bipolar disorder
Many people think that bipolar disorder is just a single illness and those who suffer from the disorder all react and feel the same way during an episode. However, there are many different types of bipolar disorder that display different signs and symptoms. People with bipolar disorder experience severe mood changes, however, exactly what the moods feel like, their intensity, and how long they last depends on the individual. As a result, several different types of bipolar disorder have been identified. They are known as Bipolar I (extreme manic episodes and depressive episodes), Bipolar II (hypomania, a milder form of mania, and severe depressive episodes), Cyclothymia (several hypomanic episodes and less severe episodes of depression), and Bipolar Disorder Otherwise Not Specified.
The different types of bipolar disorder differ from regular mood swings due to the intensity, length, and the interference with everyday life. The intensity of a mood swing in someone who suffers from bipolar disorder can range from severe to just an ordinary mood swing. A normal mood swing is usually gone in a couple of hours or even days, but those who have bipolar disorder usually suffer from mania or depression that can last up to a few weeks. The length of time and rapid cycling of these moods are what differentiate a healthy mood swing and one that is caused by bipolar disorder. These extreme changes in mood and feelings tend to disrupt everyday life and make it difficult to work and function. For example, mania can cause people to go days without sleeping, making it difficult to carry on everyday tasks.
5. Bipolar Disorder only affects certain groups of people
Bipolar disorder doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t choose a certain group of people to carry the burden of this illness, nor does the disorder affect a specific race or ethnicity. Whether you are white or black, short or tall, female or male, this disorder can strike at any time. Though many are diagnosed with the disorder as they are entering into young adulthood, this does not mean that cases are not found in kids or older adults. 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 that younger children have a harder time managing symptoms. An estimated 21 million Americans are suffering from some form of bipolar disorder, even if they have not been properly diagnosed, according to the International Bipolar Foundation. This disorder can affect anyone and everyone.
6. The symptoms of bipolar disorder are the same for everyone
We are all human being who have days of happiness and days where we don’t want to roll out of bed because we feel as if we are being suffocated by life. This is a normal feeling, and everyone will experience highs and lows in life. However, we all experience pain and hurt differently, and we also all deal with our struggles differently, depending on the person. Bipolar disorder is the same, as it is not felt or managed the same way by everyone because it varies from person to person.
Mood swings can last for weeks or even months, from a destructive high to a low that’s practically unbearable for some people who suffer from bipolarity. 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, and aggressive behavior. The low a person experiences due to bipolar disorder can range from tiredness, lethargy, crying, or even thoughts of suicide. The intensity and symptoms vary based on the individual, and this is what makes the diagnosis process very difficult. Although hard to grasp, people can also experience lows and highs co-occurring at the same time, known as mixed mania.
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7. There is a test that can determine if someone has bipolar disorder
We are humans. We like to be assured, without a doubt, if we are sick or are just suffering from the common cold that will go away in a few days. We don’t like to be told that the doctor cannot 100 percent say if we have a terrible strain of the Influenza or if we are just being over-dramatic and need to take over-the-counter medicines to feel better within a few hours. We don’t like being unsure about our health or mental stability. However, those who suffer from bipolar disorder live with uncertainty like this everyday. This is due to the fact that a scientific test that would give a clear answer as to if a person is suffering from bipolar disorder has yet to be developed.
Currently, there is not a physiological test that can provide a 100% accurate bipolar diagnosis. There is, however, a test that can determine if you have a genetic predisposition to the condition. This test evaluates saliva samples for mutations of a specific gene that is associated with bipolarity, but the test provides no certainty that a person has or will develop the condition. Doctors have found that by scanning the brain and looking for inconsistent patterns, they are able to usually tell if a patient could be suffering from this debilitating disorder. Psychological evaluation and careful treatment authorized by a professional are currently the only methods of diagnosing someone with bipolar disorder, with 90% certainty.
Why we should care
We are exposed to the topic of bipolar disorder when we look at entertainers and singers who suffered from the horrific illness. We see the illness in movies, read about it in magazines, and watch the suicide rate increase on the news due to the decline of overall wellness and mental health. We can’t hide from the destruction that this disorder causes anymore because the number of those who are diagnosed with the illness each year are increasing rapidly. The only way to help those in our community who are struggling and suffering from this debilitating disease is to continue to educate and help others understand what this disorder really is. These lies society keeps telling us will not help those who suffer from bipolarity, only hurt them and lead to an increase in diagnoses.
If you or someone you know if suffering from bipolar disorder, know that this is a real disorder that is treatable with medical help, attention, and support. Do not let anyone tell you that your disorder is not real because that is pure ignorance. Seek the help of those around you, and build a strong support system in order to overcome the everyday challenges of this illness. Though some days may seem hard, lean on your loved ones and know that you will be successful with hard work and determination.
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I did not come up with this content about bipolar disorder. I would like to thank the following resources from which I received my information from.