World Bipolar Day

By Alexandra Schwier|Updated March 23, 2022

Bipolar disorder is a common mental illness that’s often misunderstood. Many people are living with this mental illness today, and have found joy, stability, and a healthy lifestyle after being diagnosed with the disorder. For the holiday, help combat stigmas surrounding this disorder by learning more about what the disorder is, reading about some common stigmas surrounding this mental illness, and discussing how you can respectfully celebrate World Bipolar Day on March 30th.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Before we dive into how to celebrate World Bipolar Day, it’s important to start off with an understanding of what bipolar disorder is. Here are a few things you should know: 

Bipolar Disorder Can Affect Anyone and Everyone

According to the WHO, bipolar disorder is one of the top 10 causes of disability globally. This affects not only the person experiencing this disorder, but also has real impacts for society as a whole. For example, WHO notes the economic impacts, like the cost for social services, and other costs related to lost wages, for those who experience the disorder. With more than 45 million people worldwide experiencing bipolar disorder, this effects millions of people everywhere, both economically and personally.

Bipolar Disorder Can Affect Quality Of Life

For those with the disorder, the impacts of this mental illness on their lives can be substantial. Bipolar disorder can affect a person’s ability to work, maintain relationships, and feel mentally well. However, with proper treatment— recovery is possible. For example, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, a high level of satisfaction with a treatment and treatment provider gives individuals a positive outlook about their illness and their ability to cope with it.

The Three Bipolar Disorder Diagnoses 

According to the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), there are three conditions within the category of the disorder. All are recognized and celebrated on World Bipolar Day. These three conditions are bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder. Bipolar I may include manic episodes without depressive episodes. Bipolar II includes the appearance of both manic and depressive episodes and is often seen as more severe than Bipolar I. Cyclothymic disorder is a rapid cycling of manic and depressive episodes that are generally more frequent but less severe than bipolar I and II. 

Stigmas Surrounding Bipolar Disorder

Unfortunately, quite a lot of misinformation surrounds the disorder. Let’s go into World Bipolar Day armed with the knowledge and facts to disprove these myths and spread facts instead! 

Myth: People With Bipolar Disorder Can’t Be Successful 

What do one of the best authors of all time, a current pop superstar, and the inventor of the 24-hour news cycle all have in common? They are all individuals diagnosed with the disorder. Bipolar disorder didn’t stop Ernest Hemingway, Bebe Rexha, Mariah Carey, or Ted Turner from being some of the most successful people we know. While that doesn’t mean that they didn’t overcome huge adversity to become successful, it does mean you shouldn’t limit someone based on their mental illness or diagnosis. 

Truth: Bipolar Disorder Affects Many Successful Americans

The disorder affects many more Americans than you may think, and you may be surprised by how many people you know who celebrate World Bipolar Day. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 4.5% of U.S. adults will experience the disorder at some time in their lives. Nearly 3% experienced the disorder in the last year. However, a diagnosis of the disorder doesn’t limit one’s potential. Ernest Hemingway won a Nobel Prize in Literature, Time Magazine named Ted Turner “Man of the Year” in 1991, and Mariah Carey has won 5 Grammy Awards.

Myth: Bipolar Disorder Is Caused By Drug Use

Research shows that substance use does not cause the disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health says genes are more likely the culprit. Individuals are far more likely to develop the disorder if they have a close family member with the disorder. In fact, this study shows that if both a child’s parents have bipolar disorder they are 50-75% more likely to develop the disorder themselves. Some research has even found differences in the brain structure of people who have the disorder compared to those that don’t. Furthermore, research suggests that experiencing adversity, trauma, and stressful life events could increase the likelihood of developing the disorder for people who already have a genetic risk of developing it.  

Truth: Online Therapy Is A Helpful Tool For People Experiencing Bipolar Disorder

The National Institutes of Health reports that psychotherapy is a useful tool for helping individuals with bipolar disorder feel better faster and continue to stay well. In fact, in a University of Colorado study, nearly two-thirds of individuals who participated in intensive psychotherapy groups improved symptoms afterwards. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is available in-person and online with professionally trained therapists. BetterHelp is the largest therapy platform online and offers convenient, discrete, and affordable access to therapists for individuals living with the disorder and other mental illnesses. BetterHelp’s professional therapy is available via in-app messaging, phone sessions, and video sessions so you can meet with a therapist wherever and whenever suits you best.   

”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.”


How To Squash The Stigma Surrounding Bipolar Disorder

There are many ways you can get involved with combating stigmas surrounding Bipolar Disorder on World Bipolar Day. Here are a few options: 

Attend A World Bipolar Day Event

Search for World Bipolar Day events near you or attend an online event if you can’t find any events in your area.  For example, the Centre for Youth Bipolar Disorder is hosting a free educational event for World Bipolar Day on March 30! Margaret Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister’s mother, will be the guest speaker and discuss, among other things, her experience living with bipolar disorder.  

Ask A Loved One With Bipolar Disorder How You Can Help Support Them

Oftentimes we think we know how to help someone but if we don’t ask first, our good intentions may have unintended consequences. If you would like to know how to best support a loved one who lives with bipolar disorder— ask them! They may have some great ideas for how you can support those with lived experience with bipolar disorder on World Bipolar Day or resources for you to check into to find out more about the disorder.

Spread Awareness Of Bipolar Myths and Truths

Now that you're armed with facts about bipolar disorder— don’t be afraid to share them. The best way to combat a stigma is by challenging the myths people believe. Just make sure you talk to people in an open and understanding manner, so you are inviting dialogue instead of shutting down discussion.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is World Bipolar Day significant?

Bipolar disorders affect about 45 million people worldwide. Many people are living with this mental illness, and have found joy, stability, and a healthy lifestyle after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Additionally, there are multiple types of bipolar disorder, and it is important to become educated about each one, as well as the signs and symptoms. Without proper treatment, bipolar disorder can affect a person’s ability to work, maintain relationships, and feel mentally well. 

How does World Bipolar Day Effect Society?

Many people around the globae are impacted economically and personally by bipolar disorder. The economic impacts of the disorder include social services costs, and costs related to lost wages for those living with this mental illness, among others. With 45 million people worldwide experiencing bipolar disorder, the chances of knowing someone who lives with bipolar disorder is fairly high. In addition, since the disorder is common, many resources have gone into developing treatment options. World Bipolar Day acknowledges these individuals.

What does a bipolar episode look like?

A bipolar episode looks different for every individual. However, there are a few key features you may notice when someone is experiencing a manic or depressive episode. During a manic episode, an individual with bipolar disorder may have lofty or impossible-to-reach goals, barely sleep, and partake in risky or dangerous behavior. During a depressive episode, a person with bipolar disorder may socially isolate themselves, sleep all day, or feel unmotivated to do much of anything.

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