World Bipolar Day: Combatting Stigmas

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban
Updated February 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

World Bipolar Day is celebrated every year on March 30th by the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD), the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), and the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD). This holiday was developed to bring world awareness to bipolar disorder and eliminate the social stigma surrounding this common mental illness. 

Rawpixel
Bipolar disorder can present challenges

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder affects about 4.4% of adults in the United States and, based on world population information, 40 million people worldwide. The condition's symptoms can cause substantial challenges in various aspects of life, including relationships, self-care, career, and education. However, this mental health condition is treatable.  

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 more manageable. According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, high satisfaction with a provider and treatment plan often gives clients a positive outlook on bipolar disorder and their ability to cope.

Diagnostic categories for bipolar disorder

According to the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), there are three primary subcategories within the category of bipolar disorder. These three subcategories include:

  • Bipolar I disorder: May consist of depression and hypomania and includes episodes of mania, a more severe form of hypomania
  • Bipolar II disorder: May consist of depression and hypomania episodes without mania
  • Cyclothymic disorder: May include rapid cycling of hypomanic and depressive episodes

To be diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, an individual must experience at least one manic episode that lasts at least one week for most days and causes impairment in one or more areas of function. To be diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, individuals must experience bipolar depression and hypomanic episodes that last at least four days. Often, depressive episodes last weeks to months. In cyclothymic disorder, these episodes may occur on the same day.

Stigmas

Part of the vision of world bipolar day (WBD) is to improve sensitivity around stigmas and misinformation. Misinformation surrounding bipolar disorder often leads to social stigmas. Understanding why these are myths can help you reduce stigma in your community this WBD.

Myth: People with bipolar disorder can't be successful

Fact: Bipolar disorder affects many successful people. Below are a few celebrities living with bipolar disorder you might recognize:

  • Ernest Hemingway: Nobel Prize-winning author, posthumously diagnosed with bipolar disorder
  • 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 
  • Mary Lambert: Influential singer and songwriter
  • Jimi Hendrix: Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award-winning guitarist 
  • Russell Brand: Three-time British Comedy Award-winner
Getty Images
Myth: Bipolar disorder is caused by substance use

Fact: The National Institute of Mental Health found that genes, rather than environmental factors, are one of the most common causes of 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, one study shows that if both of a child's parents have bipolar disorder, they are 50% to 75% more likely to develop it themselves. 

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.

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 shifts in concentration, energy, activity levels, the ability to carry out daily tasks, and mood. It can also cause sleep disturbances, such as insomnia. 

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

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 educate, promote acceptance and eliminate social stigma. To raise awareness during this day, world mental wellness leaders encourage people to get involved by combatting stigmas surrounding bipolar disorder. Below are a few ways to celebrate world bipolar day:

  • Attend an event: You can search for events near you or attend an online event, which can be found online or on platforms such as facebook. 
  • Spread awareness of bipolar disorder myths and facts: Challenge myths when they come up in an understanding and open manner and remind others that bipolar is a serious mental illness and not an adjective for moodiness.
  • Ask a loved one with bipolar disorder how you can support them: If you love someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ask them how you can support them throughout the year.
Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Bipolar disorder can present challenges

Counseling options

Learning more about bipolar disorder can help you support a loved one diagnosed with this mental illness or find support if you believe you may be experiencing symptoms. BP Magazine and other bipolar resources can provide you with information and details about the disorder. Many bipolar disorder advocacy organizations list professionals specializing in treatment for this diagnosis. If you struggle to find options in your area or can't afford to cost of a traditional therapist, you can also reach out to a provider online.

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 client safety. 

In addition, online therapy is often more affordable than in-person therapy, saving clients hundreds of dollars per month. Platforms like BetterHelp are a discreet option. You can match with a provider based on your preferences and reach out to them via in-app messaging anytime.

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 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.”

Takeaway

World Bipolar Day (WBD) is celebrated on March 30th. This international collaboration and recognized holiday provides an opportunity to increase awareness and acceptance of the condition. It is celebrated on Vincent van Gogh's birthday anniversary and aims to spark worldwide conversations about the stigmas surrounding this condition. 

If you're experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition or have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, consider contacting a licensed mental health professional for further guidance and support. 

Find support for bipolar disorder symptoms

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started