Bipolar Disorder can be defined as extreme fluctuation in an individual’s mood and ability to function. Symptoms can include extremely elevated mood, referred to as ‘mania’, or episodes of depression. Although there has been increasing awareness regarding symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and its treatments, common misconceptions regarding the disorder and those who experience it still persist. Such myths and misconceptions can contribute to stigma surrounding the disorder and negatively impact patients who experience it. Hence, it is vital to raise awareness regarding these misconceptions associated with Bipolar Disorder.
Myth: Bipolar Disorder is characterized by a fixed repetitive cycle of highs and lows.
Fact: Bipolar Disorder is characterized episodes of mania and depression that have no fixed cycle or pattern. The mood changes associated with Bipolar disorder can last several weeks or days, depending on individual cases. People with Bipolar Disorder can also go long periods of time without experiencing sever mood swings or symptoms. Such a period of balanced and even mood is called euthymia. Features of mania and depression may also occur together, in what is referred to as a ‘mixed episode.
Myth: Bipolar Disorder only occurs in adults
Fact: Bipolar disorder occurs in children and teenagers as well. However, diagnosing the disorder for these age groups can be difficult as being children and teenagers are often dismissed as being ‘temperamental and moody’. Bipolar Disorder is often misdiagnosed as ADHD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder in children.
Myth: Periods of Mania are always excitable and productive for people with Bipolar Disorder.
Fact: People may have varying experiences during Mania. While some may find it energetic and find it easier to be productive during this period, it is often also accompanied with symptoms like severe anxiety, irritability, insomnia and recklessness. Mania can also be accompanied with psychotic symptoms like hallucinations, which can extremely distressing and frightening for those experiencing it.
Myth: Bipolar Disorder is just mood swings, and people with Bipolar Disorder just cannot control their emotions.
Fact: The fluctuations in mood characterized by Bipolar Disorder are very different from normal mood swings. People with Bipolar Disorder experience extreme changes in energy, mood, activity, and sleep. Furthermore, these symptoms cannot be controlled by those experiencing them. Telling someone with Bipolar Disorder to simply ‘control their emotions’ can negatively impact them and worsen the stigma surrounding the disorder. It is vital that people with Bipolar Disorder feel validated and supported about their experiences in order to reduce stigma surrounding the disorder and prevent underdiagnosis and treatment of Bipolar Disorder.
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Robinson, M. “Please Stop Believing These 8 Harmful Bipolar Disorder Myths” healthline.com, 6 November 2019,