What comes to your mind when you hear bipolar disorder – a person feeling extremely happy one moment and sad or depressed the other? Or someone unstable or constantly in a state of emotional turmoil?
Most of us understand that bipolar disorder involves manic episodes, depression, and intense mood swings. What we often fail to see is that there is so much more to the condition than just these. Our understanding of bipolar disorder is often shrouded by myths perpetuated through pop culture, social stigmas, and mainstream beliefs. These myths have become so ingrained in our narrative that people use them as facts and start making opinions and judgments based on them.
As per the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 4.4% of the American population will be diagnosed with bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. This clearly means that the condition is way more common than we think. Therefore, it is important to understand and boost our awareness of bipolar disorder in our everyday lives.
World Bipolar Day is marked every year on March 30 to aid awareness around bipolar disorder. It is the time to challenge age-old stigma and myths about the condition and highlight the facts.
Started in 2014 as a collaborative event between the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD), the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD) – World Bipolar Day is a worldwide event to raise awareness, promote education, and guarantee the rights of people living with bipolar disorder and their loved ones.
This World Bipolar Day, let us vow to spread awareness and education around bipolar disorder and reduce the stigma associated with the condition. On that note, let us debunk the most widespread myths attached to bipolar disorder.
Debunking the myths around bipolar disorder
#Myth 1: People with bipolar disorder symptoms around the clock.
Fact: People with bipolar disorder have extreme bouts of emotions, but they do not occur on a constant basis. These emotional shifts are termed episodes. These episodes can range from rarely occurring to occurring multiple times to having no episodes in a year. Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, these episodes can be managed with effective treatments and proper professional help.
#Myth 2: People with bipolar disorder can snap out of their episodes.
Fact: A lot of people falsely believe that episodes related to bipolar disorder are controllable and a person can control the highs and lows they experience with their willpower. It is important to understand that people with bipolar disorder usually have no control over their emotions. They cannot simply choose to snap out of the depression or manic episode as per their choice.
In some instances, people can have some awareness about being near or in an episode, but this depends highly on the severity of the symptoms. Therefore, the mood swings attached to bipolar disorder cannot be controlled by reasoning, willpower, or self-control.
#Myth 3: Bipolar disorder is all about having mood swings.
Fact: The mainstream notion is that people with bipolar disorder are happy in one moment and depressed in the other. However, the reality of the situation is far more nuanced. In order to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a person must have had major depressive or manic episodes lasting for multiple weeks. Therefore, it is quite uncommon for a person to have both these episodes in the same week, let alone on the very same day.
#Myth 4: People with bipolar disorder are violent.
Fact: Representation in movies and television shows can perpetuate the myth of violence being linked with bipolar disorder in almost all cases. However, it is important to understand that people with bipolar disorders are not inherently violent in nature. In many cases of bipolar disorder, symptoms of aggressiveness and irritability can contribute to violent behavior. However, it is wrong to attribute a person’s mental health disorder to violence. Violence in people with bipolar disorder can have multiple reasons, including:
- current environment,
- childhood trauma, or
- comorbid substance use disorder.
#Myth 5:There is nothing one can do to help their loved ones with bipolar disorder.
Fact: Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, community support and proper resources can go a long way in helping the concerned individual. Gaining understanding and education about the condition can go a long way in understanding how to help your loved one.
World Bipolar Day aims to promote awareness and information about bipolar disorder to empower people to support and help those dealing with the condition.
You can help someone with bipolar disorder by:
- listening to them nonjudgmentally,
- providing proper treatment options and resources,
- encouraging self-help strategies, and
- avoiding stereotyping the condition or believing in age-old myths.
People living with bipolar disorder deserve to live in an empathetic and supportive world. Myths and misconceptions can hamper this empathetic environment and restrict people from asking for help, leading to dangerous outcomes. World Bipolar Day serves as a catalyst for action. It is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness, reduce stigma, show support, and empower those living with the condition.
Now that you know about World Bipolar Day, let us take you to another significant event. Self-Harm Awareness Month is marked every year in March to support those dealing with self-harm. To learn more about it, click here.
To continue learning about mental health daily, subscribe to Your Mental Health Pal.