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The more you know: Debunking myths about bipolar disorder

Posted on 08-17-15 in Mental Health

The more you know: Debunking myths about bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a severe mental illness characterized by intense highs and depressing lows. It used to be referred to as manic-depressive disorder and is defined by severe shifts in moods and energy levels that can often interfere with people’s day-to-day lives. Many mental health disorders often carry stereotypes and stigmas that prevent many from seeking the help they deserve and bipolar disorder is no exception to this.

Here are some misconceptions and facts about bipolar disorder:

1. Bipolar disorder is a rare condition.

Fact: According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 5.7 million American adults are affected by bipolar disorder. This makes up roughly 2.6 percent of the American adult population. According to research funded by the National Institutes of Health, as of 2007, the number of pediatric doctor’s visits resulting in a child’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder has increased 40 times over since 1997.

2. People with bipolar disorder shift between mania and depression constantly.

Fact: Dr. Gary Sachs, M.D., director of the Bipolar Clinic and Research Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, says, “The average bipolar patient will be depressed more often [than manic].” While some patients with bipolar disorder will shift between extremes in mood more often than others, it’s not a typical occurrence.

3. Bipolar disorder just means frequent mood swings.

Fact: Many people will experience mood swings at some point in their lives, but for those with bipolar disorder, emotions are processed and expressed differently. The episodes that bipolar patients undergo are much more severe. These dramatic shifts in mood can severely hinder a bipolar person’s ability to function in everyday life. During manic episodes, patients will be very energetic, impulsive, grandiose and even delusional. In some cases, patients will experience severe audio and visual hallucinations while in a manic episode.

4. During a manic phase, bipolar people are in a great mood.

Fact: Thomas E. Smith, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, states “a significant number of people become edgy and irritable as the mania progresses.” Some patients may enter a manic phase in a happy mood, but that does not mean that they always stay that way during an episode. The CEO of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance in Chicago, Sue Bergeson notes that many patients are “actually frightened when they go into mania.” Bergeson goes on to state that when patients are shifting into mania, they are “losing control of [their] actions and thoughts.” When in this state, some will even be unable to sleep because they are so overwhelmed.

5. Medication is the only treatment for bipolar disorder.

Fact: Proper medication is a very important part of treating bipolar disorder, but it is not the only solution. Patients have found an abundance of benefits from taking part in therapy and practicing healthy lifestyle habits like eating healthy, going to bed at a reasonable hour and exercising regularly. Just like other long-term, chronic illnesses, treatment of bipolar disorder requires commitment and a consistent effort to keep symptoms in check.

Roughly 18.6 million Americans suffer from mental illnesses, many not receiving treatment until symptoms spiral out of control. Treatment centers can help patients manage mental illnesses and co-occurring issues like addiction by getting to the root of the problem and finding a solution.

Sovereign Health Group offers a wide range of inpatient and outpatient treatment programs across the country for patients who are struggling with mental health disorders, drug addiction and dual diagnosis conditions. If you know someone who is struggling with bipolar disorder and is in need of mental health treatment, please do not hesitate to call. You may reach us at 888-530-4614. Our admissions helpline is open 24/7 and our treatment specialist will assist you in finding the most effective treatment option.

Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer