At the Integrative Center for Wellness, we specialize in treating misunderstood mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder. And in our line of work, addressing the myths about the disease are often just as important as the treatments we prescribe.

While all mental health issues have some stigma attached to them, bipolar disorder in particular is wildly mischaracterized among the general public. One need look no further than a previously accepted name of the disease – manic depression – to spot an issue with the way the illness is often perceived. As its past name implies, bipolar disorder is typically marked by very strong shifts between depression and manic episodes, making it easy to mischaracterize sufferers as dramatic, crazy, and so forth.

With several different kinds of bipolar disorder affecting about 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population 18 and older, busting the myths surrounding bipolar disorder is becoming increasingly important. We hope that as we look to 2017, you will help us do so. Here are some truths and facts that dispel the misunderstandings:

Myth: Bipolar disorder is a mood swing disorder.

Fact: The shifts in mood associated with bipolar disorder have nothing to do with an average mood swing. They are more severe; last for longer periods of time; and they are often capable of interfering with one’s day to day life. And since these mood swings require treatment – rather than willpower – to be conquered, confusing the two increases the risk that a patient will not get the help that they need.

Myth: Bipolar disorder is marked by rapid mood swings.

Fact: Bipolar patients are actually more likely to spend the majority of their time battling depression. But bipolar disorder is not the same as depression – and as a result, common treatments and medications for depression do not fully address bipolar disorder.

Myth: A manic bipolar episode is always a state of happiness.

Fact: While mania is associated with euphoria, a manic episode is also likely to be marked by fear or irritability. And no matter what state a patient experiences, the manic episode results in the patient making decisions they would not make in their non-manic state. This lack of control also contributes to the idea that bipolar disorder patients are “crazy”. Experts note that a manic phase of bipolar disorder ultimately requires prompt treatment to protect patients from the progress of the episode; without treatment, mania leads to a lack of sleep, hyperactivity, and disorganized or even illicit behavior.

Myth: There is no real way to treat and manage bipolar disorder.

Fact: Medication, talk therapy, and actively engaging in healthy lifestyle choices (a balanced diet, regular exercise, healthy sleep, etc.), in combination, are a proven effective treatment for managing bipolar disorder. The key to success is to develop a healthy relationship with an expert you trust to advise you through your treatment and journey to recovery. A patient will need to be comfortable sounding the alarm if they feel they may be on the verge of a manic episode. A patient will also need to accept that bipolar disorder, like any illness, cannot be willed away with willpower or a happy attitude. Being comfortable and complying with an approved treatment plan, therefore, is a must.

While there are other myths to consider about the illness, disproving these four misconceptions can help pave the way to a healthier life for those suffering from bipolar disorder. Understanding that bipolar disorder will not prevent sufferers from living a normal life or achieving one’s goals will help end the fear associated with this disorder.

Education will open the door to greater advocacy and more robust understanding and treatment for those suffering from bipolar.  Please share this information to ensure that people with the condition are not misjudged or misdiagnosed:  – they simply require medical care, in the same way patients are treated for diabetes, cardiac conditions, and other treatable illnesses .

If you know that there is a history of bipolar disorder in your family, it may help to speak with a professional with expertise in the disorder to discuss the genetic considerations that present in many families. Only with a thorough patient history and discussion can a diagnosis of bipolar disorder be made.

To learn more about bipolar disorder, visit this section of our website.

To schedule an appointment, contact us today.