Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that alters your brain chemistry, resulting in extreme and unstable moods. These extreme fluctuations, and the slow cycling between them are that set bipolar disorder apart from mood swings make it difficult for the body to adjust to what you’re feeling, resulting in an inability to live holistically with unmanaged bipolar disorder. Taking charge of your health and cultivating a healing relationship with your mind is empowering, but it may feel scary or confusing to do so with so much misinformation littering the helpful finds.
Whether you are looking to destigmatize your own experience with bipolar, understand a loved one’s diagnosis or make sense of the impact bipolar disorder has had on your life, let’s begin by separating the fact from the myth with us below.
1.) Myth: There’s one kind of bipolar disorder.
Fact: There are currently four specific types of bipolar disorder.
According to the DSM-5, the symptoms of bipolar most commonly occur in four ways.
Bipolar I is a manic-dominant episodic mood disorder, while bipolar II is marked by experiences of both hypomanic and depressive episodes. Cyclothymia is characterized by symptoms similar to bipolar disorder and is classified as a milder subtype of erratic cyclical periods of mania and depression. Lastly, bipolar not otherwise specified (NOS) has the hallmark bipolar symptoms of unpredictable and extreme mood shifts but doesn’t quite fit any typing.
2.) Myth: Bipolar is just a fancy term for mood swings.
Fact: Bipolar Disorder is a chronic disorder of mood episodes.
Mood swings are a cycle of human experience. People move through the world responding to the things they see and feel. Those responses create moods, and those moods may change quickly but typically last minutes or hours. When you live with bipolar disorder, mood episodes that last for days or more often weeks are a draining part of your lived experience. It is not something that happens to you occasionally or cycles past quickly, but something that you live alongside constantly.
3.) Myth: Treating your bipolar disorder will kill your creativity.
Fact: Your art is not a product of your struggle.
While mania may make you feel like you’ve had a stroke of genius, there is no sustainability to manic episodes. Receiving treatment that makes you feel empowered can hone your artistic instincts, but it doesn’t change who you are or what you’re capable of. You can strip back the unparalleled ferocity of disordered moods to cultivate controlled chaos that allows you to use your creativity in ways that feel best for you.
4.) Myth: Bipolar disorder is curable.
Fact: Bipolar disorder is treatable.
There is no cure for a disordered brain response to the hormones that influence your mood. Diagnosis is a phenomenal first step to controlling the power your mood episodes have over your daily life, however. Alongside possible treatments from a physician for symptoms of bipolar affecting your health, treatments for mind, body and spirit can help to align and balance your response to mood episodes. Even still, you may still experience symptoms of bipolar and there is nothing wrong with you if that’s the case.
5.) Myth: Bipolar disorder is rare.
Fact: Bipolar affects millions of people.
Over 2.5% of the world’s population are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and there are undoubtedly many who remain undiagnosed. There are a number of factors that increase the likelihood of developing it, notably having a family history of mood disorders. You are not alone in experiencing the difficult and often confusing symptoms of bipolar disorder, and connecting with others who can relate to your experiences may be a cathartic part of your healing.
Living with any mood disorder can be fraught with confusion and frustration. Particularly when you are living (or learning to live) with bipolar disorder, fighting the uphill battle against myths and misunderstanding feels like a lot. It is a lot, but you don’t have to do it alone.
Community is key for feeling supported as you navigate the struggles (and strengths) of your unique bipolar experience. Whether you are struggling with co-occuring conditions like substance use or just looking to be understood, developing supportive relationships is key to flourishing with bipolar.
Your experience is unique, tailored to who you are and what you need as a holistic person. The treatment you seek for your bipolar disorder should be too. Being honest about the experiences you have with bipolar, the struggles you face and the healing you’re hoping for are all within reach when you begin to untangle the myth from fact. Your bipolar disorder is not your identity. There is hope, and Villa Kali Ma is here to help you heal.