World Bipolar Day: Combatting Bipolar Disorder Stigmas

Updated January 31, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

World Bipolar Day is celebrated every year on March 30th. The vision of this holiday is to bring awareness to bipolar disorder and eliminate the social stigma surrounding this common mental illness. 

One way to honor World Bipolar Day is to learn more about what bipolar disorder is, the common misconceptions surrounding it, and how therapy can help. Keep reading to learn more. 

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder affects about 4.4% of adults in the United States and 40 million people worldwide. It can substantially impact the lives of those experiencing it and the people around them. 

Bipolar disorder may affect a person's ability to work, maintain relationships, and feel mentally healthy. However, proper treatment can make coping and managing symptoms easier. For example, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, a high level of satisfaction with a provider and treatment plan often gives individuals a positive outlook on bipolar disorder and their ability to cope with it.

Bipolar Disorder Diagnoses 

According to the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR), there are three primary conditions within the category of bipolar disorder. All are recognized and celebrated on World Bipolar Day. These three conditions include:

  • Bipolar I Disorder: May include depression, hypomania, and mania episodes

  • Bipolar II Disorder: May include depression and hypomania episodes

  • Cyclothymic Disorder: May include rapid cycling of manic and depressive episodes – generally more frequent and less severe than bipolar I or II

Only a qualified professional can provide an accurate diagnosis, and the experience of each type of bipolar disorder can vary from person to person.

Stigmas Surrounding Bipolar Disorder

Misinformation surrounding bipolar disorder often leads to social stigmas. Below, we'll explore and disprove some of the most popular myths surrounding this mental illness.

Myth: People With Bipolar Disorder Can’t Be Successful 

Fact: Bipolar disorder affects many successful people. Here are a few people who experience bipolar disorder you might recognize:

  • Ernest Hemingway: Nobel Prize-winning author 

  • Bebe Rexha: Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter

  • Mariah Carey: Five-time Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter 

  • Ted Turner: Founder of CNN, the first 24-hour news network

  • Jimi Hendrix: Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award-winning guitarist 

  • Russell Brand: Three-time British Comedy Award-winner

Some of the most successful celebrities in the world overcame the symptoms of bipolar disorder and achieved fame. This doesn't mean they didn't face adversity, but it does demonstrate that people experiencing bipolar disorder can succeed in life. 

Myth: Bipolar Disorder Is Caused By Drug Use

Fact: The National Institute of Mental Health says genes are the most likely cause of developing bipolar disorder. 

According to research, an individual is more likely to experience bipolar disorder if they have a close family with the condition. For example, this study shows that if both of a child's parents have bipolar disorder, they are 50-75% more likely to develop it themselves. 

Some research has also found differences in the brain structure of people who experience bipolar disorder compared to those who don't. Furthermore, research suggests that experiencing adversity, childhood trauma, and stressful life events could increase the likelihood of developing the disorder for people with an existing genetic risk.

Myth: People With Bipolar Disorder Are Just Moody

Fact: Bipolar disorder is different from moodiness or mood swings – it's a recognized mental illness that causes unusual shifts in concentration, energy, activity levels, the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, and mood. It can also cause severe sleep disturbances that persist even in remission. 

During a bipolar diagnosis, mental health professionals must look for groups of symptoms, not just mood fluctuations. The highs and lows experienced by those with bipolar disorder often occur out of context, presenting extreme symptoms that may last for extended periods. In addition, some bipolar episodes may be debilitating or require hospitalization. 

Myth: People With Bipolar Disorder Can't Change

Fact: Treatments for bipolar disorder – like medication and psychotherapy – can successfully stabilize or improve symptoms

For example, the National Institutes of Health reports that psychotherapy is helpful for individuals with bipolar disorder, allowing them to feel better faster and continue to stay well. In a University of Colorado study, nearly two-thirds of individuals who participated in intensive psychotherapy groups showed improved symptoms. 

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is available in-person and online with professionally trained therapists. Online treatment is as effective as in-person options, providing to lower costs and a more comprehensive range of professionals. 

In addition, research suggests that online therapy is an effective treatment method for individuals experiencing bipolar disorder. It may help improve functionality and quality of life while increasing adherence to treatment and patient safety.

Fight The Stigma On World Bipolar Day

According to the International Society for Bipolar Disorders, the vision for World Bipolar Day – every year on March 30th – is to promote acceptance and eliminate social stigma. They encourage people to get involved by combating stigmas surrounding bipolar disorder on World Bipolar Day. Here are a few ways you might do this: 

  • Attend  A World Bipolar Day Event: You can search for World Bipolar Day events near you or attend an online event. 

  • Spread Awareness Of Bipolar Myths And Facts: One of the best ways to combat a stigma is often to challenge the myths people believe in an understanding and open manner.

  • Ask A Loved One With Bipolar Disorder How You Can Support Them: We often think we know how to help someone we love, but our good intentions may have unintended consequences if we don't ask. If you'd like to support a loved one who experiences bipolar disorder, ask them how!

Takeaway

Learning more about bipolar disorder can help you support a loved one diagnosed with this mental illness. It can also help you understand if you're experiencing bipolar disorder and, if so, how to cope with symptoms. Online therapy is often a convenient option, as it allows you to meet with your provider from the comfort of your home. 

BetterHelp is the world's largest mental health network, offering discrete and affordable to licensed professionals. We'll match you with a provider based on your needs and preferences, and you can reach out to them via in-app messaging at any time. You can also have sessions on your schedule via in-app messaging, phone, or video, allowing you to meet with your therapist wherever and whenever you want.

Below, you'll find a counselor review from a patient with similar experiences. 

Counselor Review

”I am so happy Alicia and I were matched. She is warm and funny and intelligent. She established a nice rapport very quickly and I felt understood by her right from the beginning. I feel easy with her and feel she is my ally. A couple months into counseling I feel we are on a good trajectory together. I struggle with bipolar disorder rapid cycling, and having a person like Alicia, there to listen to my week’s events and then go deeper into my “self”, is as important to my stability as medication is. I am learning some new skills like DBT. Alicia is also quite insightful and has given me things to really consider several times already, often having this knack of hitting the nail on the head. Alicia is easy to recommend.”

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