9 Common Myths About Bipolar Disorder

Patient Expert
View as:|
1 of 10

Lack of understanding can lead to bad decision-making, frustration, heartbreak, and disappointing outcomes. Following are nine myths that stand in the way of your recovery …

Everyone has their ups and downs, so mine aren’t that serious.

Yes, everyone has good days and bad days, but when these ups and downs seriously interfere with your ability to work and relate to others, it is advisable to seek out a professional.

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder.

Half true. Bipolar disorder certainly affects mood, but it also affects cognition and how we react to stress, not to mention our sleep and personality. In addition, bipolar may be part of a package that includes anxiety or addiction or other disorders.

Bipolar is characterized by mood swings ranging from severely depressed to wildly manic.

Not necessarily. Most people with bipolar disorder are depressed far more often than they are manic. Often, the manias are so subtle that they are overlooked. People with bipolar can also enter long periods of remission.

Mania is like being on top of the world—if you could only put it in a bottle and sell it.

You wouldn’t want to with most manias. The truth is mania is so terrifying that bipolar patients go to extraordinary lengths to avoid the recurrence of another episode.

Medications are all you need to combat bipolar disorder.

False. Medication is but one small part of your long-term recovery. We also need to develop good lifestyle routines, effective coping skills, a support network, and more. In short, we become active, rather than passive, participants in our recovery.

Lower quality of life and sluggish cognition are fair trade-offs for reducing mood symptoms and remaining stable.

False, big time. In the initial phase of treatment, meds overkill may be justified to bring your illness under control. But your long-term recovery demands an entirely different strategy. It is your responsibility to make sure your doctor is with the program.

Bipolar is who I am.

False. You are who you are. Father, mother, pet-lover, musician, on and on. Bipolar may be one percent of who you are. It is too easy to forget the 99 percent.

My goal is to return to normal.

Wrong. "Normal" strongly implies meeting other people's expectations. Yes, learning to fit in is a good idea, but we also need to cultivate what makes us unique and wonderful and better than normal.

Once you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you can forget about leading a rewarding life.

False. Living with bipolar disorder is a challenge, and you may have to change your expectations, but you should never give up on yourself and what you want out of life.