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Debunking The Common Myths About Bipolar Disorder

Research shows that almost 4.4% of the American population has experienced bipolar disorder. Although most people know this mental health condition by name, it remains largely misunderstood and stigmatized. This unfortunate problem leaves many people feeling misunderstood and mistreated. It also perpetuates an ongoing difficulty regarding seeking appropriate treatment and care.

If you suspect you or someone you love is struggling with this condition, it's important to educate yourself on what to expect. Knowledge can help you understand what you need to do next.

Additionally, learning the myths about bipolar disorder is one of the first steps toward proactive change. Let's get to it.

Myth: If You Have A Lot Of Mood Swings, You Have Bipolar Disorder

Have you ever heard someone say he's acting bipolar! Usually, this declaration is a result of someone feeling frustrated with another person's mood.

But mood swings don't necessarily indicate bipolar disorder, and bipolar disorder isn't just a sum of mood swings. We all experience a wide spectrum of emotions throughout the day. These fluctuations are normal- they are a telling sign that we are human!

People with bipolar disorder experience severe emotional changes, but it tends to happen over the span of weeks or months, not just hours. At this point, it isn't just mood swings. It can be an alternative cycle of depressed, hypomanic, and manic episodes.

Myth: Being Manic Means Being Really Hyper and Happy

A true manic episode can be exhausting and frightening for individuals. While there is a surge of momentum, it isn't inherently positive or happy. Instead, it can feel frenzied- after feeling depressed for several weeks or months, the individual may try to "soak in" any ounce of energy they find to get things done.

Mania can also lead to severely destructive consequences. For example, a person might empty their checking account and go on a massive shopping spree. They may binge on drugs or alcohol. They may cheat on their partner or spontaneously decide to start a new business.

Mania tends to be fast, impulsive, and all-encompassing. There is a frantic, compulsive need to get things done and live largely. As a result, the individual usually sacrifices sleep and proper self-care for a fast rush of productivity. They often feel unstoppable and invincible, as if they're on top of the whole world.

Unfortunately, mania is the crux of crashing and burning. The pace is simply unsustainable. But rather than reflect and slow down, people might find themselves consumed with sadness or despair. This cycle can send someone right back into a depressive episode.

Myth: Substance Use Causes Bipolar Disorder

Some substances can trigger behaviors that resemble common mental illness symptoms. Therefore, some people are quick to assume that drug use causes bipolar disorder.

Substance use may exacerbate preexisting mental health conditions. For example, if some struggles with depression, drinking or using drugs may cause them to feel more depressed.

More importantly, it's important to understand that many people start using drugs to cope with their mental health symptoms. The substances act as a form of self-medication- they can numb, conceal, or smooth over some of those uncomfortable feelings.

Over time, this habit becomes more and more pronounced. For this reason, it's often hard to tell which problem emerged first.

Finally, co-occurring disorders are highly prevalent. That means someone may struggle with both a substance use disorder and a mental illness. When this is the case, it's essential that they receive comprehensive care for both conditions. If they only receive treatment for one condition without addressing the other, they risk relapsing.

Myth: People With Bipolar Disorder Just Need Medication

Many people with bipolar disorder benefit from a treatment plan that includes psychiatric medication. Medication can help stabilize the parts of the brain associated with energy, mood, and impulse control. Millions of Americans take antipsychotics, such as Zyprexa and Seroquel, to treat their condition.

That said, medication isn't the only solution. It's just one tool, and most people need various methods of support. In treating bipolar disorder, experts recommend a multi-faceted approach, which may include medication along with:

  • psychoeducation about mental illness

  • individual therapy

  • holistic lifestyle interventions (improved sleep hygiene, healthy diet, regular exercise)

  • support groups

  • family therapy

The best treatment depends on individual needs, preferences, and outcomes. There is no one-size-fits-all method in supporting bipolar disorder.

Final Thoughts On The Common Myths About Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can be a scary and frustrating experience for individuals and their loved ones. You may not know the right thing to do. Likewise, you may feel scared about the bipolar disorder trajectory.

Treatment is available, and recovery is possible. At The Mental Health House, we support individuals struggling with mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder. We are here for you and your family. Contact us today to learn more about our dynamic approach.

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