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10 of the Biggest Misconceptions About Bipolar Disorder

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10 of the Biggest Misconceptions We Have About Bipolar Disorder yanlev/Fotolia

Bipolar disorder can be responsible for depression and mania. Its intense mood swings can make it difficult to function. Thanks to increased awareness, more people have a basic understanding of the condition. Yet misconceptions still persist.

Here are 10 the biggest misconceptions about bipolar disorder.

Misconception #1: Bipolar disorder isn’t a real illness.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic illness which can require a lifetime of treatment and even hospitalization. Luckily, it can be controlled.

Misconception #2: Bipolar disorder is rare.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “bipolar disorder affects about 5.7 million American adults,” WebMD reported.

Misconception #3: Bipolar disorder doesn’t appear until age 18.

Children as young as six years of age can have bipolar disorder. The problem is that children can experience several periods of depression before their first manic episode. That makes it harder to diagnose, said HowStuffWorks.com.

“The Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation estimates that at least three quarters of a million American children and teens may suffer from bipolar disorder, although many are not diagnosed,” wrote WebMD.

Misconception #4: Mood is the only thing affected by bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder also causes problems with overall cognitive functions. One day a patient may have a razor-sharp focus. The next, their thoughts are muddled and sluggish, explained HowStuffWorks.com.

Misconception #5: Bipolar disorder and mood swings are the same.

Someone with bipolar disorder has mood swings much more severe than, for instance, someone who is upset about not losing weight.

Misconception #6: People with bipolar disorder always go back and forth from depression to mania.

This is a myth. The average bipolar patient is depressed more often than manic.

Misconception #7: When in a manic episode of bipolar disorder, people are very happy.

That does happen, but usually life is slipping out of their control. They become overly anxious, excited. Then they can lose sleep and become irritable. They may make unsafe decisions about sex shopping, gambling, alcohol or drugs. At its worst, mania can bring about psychotic thoughts and actions.

Misconception #8: After a severe episode, people with bipolar disorder can easily bounce back.

Not true — at all. Would you expect someone with numerous broken bones to immediately get back work? No. The same is true for those who’ve suffered a severe episode due to bipolar disorder.

Misconception #9: Medication is the only treatment.

Medication is indeed very important in the treatment of bipolar disorder. However, to ensure long-term success, it should be accompanied with regular exercise, plenty of sleep and a healthy diet.

Misconception #10: You can stop taking medication once you feel better.

Like other chronic illnesses, bipolar disorder requires ongoing treatment. Without it, your symptoms may only get worse.

The more you know about bipolar disorder, the more you can help to stop the spread of these misconceptions, and be of help to those who live with this condition.


Bledsoe, PhD, Andrea. "Common Misconceptions About Bipolar Disorder." EverydayHealth.com. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

Doheny, Kathleen. "8 Bipolar Myths: Symptoms, Mania, Diagnosis, Statistics, and More." WebMD. WebMD. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

Scheve, Tom. "10 Bipolar Disorder Myths." HowStuffWorks. 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

Tartakovsky, M.S., Margarita. "5 Persistent Myths About Bipolar Disorder." World of Psychology. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

Reviewed January 29, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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