There are so many myths and unreal stories surrounding bipolar disorder (BD) that I felt the need to clear some of them up for the newly (or not so newly) diagnosed. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is such a misunderstood brain disorder that even with tons of research and support from family and friends, it is still a very misunderstood mood disorder. Below, I want to clear up some of the common misconceptions one may have about BD.
Myth 1: When someone is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, there is no way to help them.
Although it may be difficult, bipolar disorder can be effectively managed and treated for many patients out there. There are studies that say more than 30% of people with bipolar disorder can expect a full and complete recovery while approximately 40% of sufferers can expect a significant recovery of their symptoms through effective treatment. Additionally, many of those suffering from bipolar disorder go into long periods of remission throughout their lives. To successfully manage and treat this disorder, you will need a good support system from family and friends, education on the illness itself, excellent communication with your healthcare providers and most importantly, adherence to your treatment plan set out by you and your physician.
Myth 2: Bipolar disorder is harder to diagnose than physical illnesses.
While there are no physical tests (blood work etc.) to determine whether one does have the disorder, there are standardized criteria to diagnose bipolar disorder. Tools such as medical or psychiatric history, observable behaviour, self-reported symptoms, family medical history and input from family and friends all help in determining whether bipolar disorder is the case, or not.
Myth 3: People with bipolar disorder are sick all the time and cannot work.
Those suffering from BD experience periods of highs and lows with moments of stability in between. Actually, those in-between moments can last for months or years with people experiencing no symptoms at all during these phases of remission when managing their illness. With a good support system and careful management of their symptoms, a majority of those with bipolar disorder can go to work and be productive.
Myth 4: Once you’re stable, you can stop taking your medications.
Unfortunately, (and I’ve learned this the hard way) once you feel good and think you no longer need your meds, trust me, you do! Medication can act in a preventative manner so you don’t have relapses of depressive or manic episodes. From my own research and experiences, I’ve come to accept that bipolar is just a part of my life and I’m not going to get off my meds anytime soon. I’ve experienced all the range of emotions that come with being off my meds and for me personally, it’s not worth it. Always talk to your doctor before making any changes or going off your meds as I’m not a doctor and I can’t advise you on your personal situation.
Myth 5: Drug and alcohol use can cause bipolar disorder.
This is a myth that I feel just got mixed up over the years. Although those suffering from bipolar disorder are much more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, they not the cause of bipolar disorder. Those affected by the disorder are more likely self-medicating with drugs and alcohol rather using them and then developing the disorder.
Myth 6: Mania is enjoyable, fun and/or productive.
While it may seem that way on the outside due to high productivity, tons of energy and a great mood – it can also feel very uncomfortable for the person experiencing it because mania can also come with restlessness, irritability and feeling out of control. Mania can also sometimes be accompanied by psychotic symptoms which can be pretty scary and have a lasting impact on family, finances and personal well-being such as when big risks are taken during the spur of the moment instances.
Myth 7: Medication is the only treatment for bipolar disorder.
This is a very common misconception that many people have. In fact, medication is only the first line of treatment along with a number of others that can be used to help treat bipolar disorder. There are psychological therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which I am also currently using, family-focused therapies, and Interpersonal and Social Rhythm therapies that can be utilized as well to reduce the risk of future episodes. A combination of both therapy and medication has been shown to be the most effective way of treating bipolar disorder but there are other ways such as education, sleep hygiene practices, symptom monitoring for early warning signs, meditation and having a solid support network that can help as well.
These are just a few of the myths that I wanted to bust because I believe it’s important to have the right information when learning about yours or a loved ones’ condition. Knowledge is truly power and the sooner we debunk myths that are untrue, the sooner we get to the root of the problem and learn how to treat it.
Thank you for reading and if you have any questions for me or just want to leave a comment, please do so below! I’d be happy to help in any way I can and we can go on our journey together.